Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review: The first cheaper foldable phone

By Yvonne

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 brings clamshell foldables down in price and up in value to make it the first foldable most consumers can afford to try.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review

With specs comparable to flagship smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the most advanced clamshell folding phone you will find. The Z Flip 3's small battery and lack of a Telephoto Camera Lens are some drawbacks. However, if you need a smartphone that can fold up and fit into more pockets and bags, but still delivers the same quality as flagship smartphones, then the Z Flip 3 may be a great choice.

The pros

  • +

    Excellent price

  • +

    Excellent specifications

  • +

    Displays and design that are refined


  • -

    Telephoto lenses not available

  • -

    Middling battery

  • -

    The outer display is still insufficiently useful

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 has to be the most popular clamshell folding phone on the market. However, it is in a very limited niche. Only a handful of phones, such as the Z Flip or Motorola Razr, have been in this category. Motorola's previous contender, the Motorola Razr, is out-of-date and stalled at launch.

This phone will be competing with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 which was launched alongside the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 in August 2022. If you are looking for the most recent model, it's well worth taking a look at this page.

The Z Flip 3 is a refinement of the Z Flip 2, as we will see in our Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Review. It also excels at all other modern phone functions.

The flagship was able to keep up with the rest of its predecessors in performance terms (Snapdragon888 chipset and 8GB RAM; 128GB and 256GB respectively); and it opens up to a 6.7 inch plastic OLED screen that displays a spectrum of colors between OLED and LCD. It also has a 120Hz refresh rate and delivers crisp, vivid images at a medium level.

Although the Z Flip 3's 3,300mAh battery is a bit small (mostly it lasts less than one day), the biggest problem with the device's camera setup is that of its predecessors the Z Flip 1 and 5G versions. Samsung has omitted a number to maintain its Flip series in line with the Z Fold.

The rear has 12MP main camera f/1.8 and 12MP ultra-wide camera f/2.2. There is also a selfie cam 10MP f/2.4. Although it's acceptable, the camera is not as good as phones such the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus, with 3x optical zoom and a 10MP f/2.4 selfie camera.

However, those other flagship phones can't be folded up and slipped into a small pocket, and that's a novelty that's never been more affordable that it is here: with a starting price of $999 / £949 / AU$1,499, consumers can get a clamshell foldable for the price of a top-tier conventional flagship phone.

However, not everyone will need that novelty. The Z Flip 3 can be a starting point for a newer model that packs zoom cameras and a larger outer display that allows you to send emails or texts.

The phone, as it is, can be a delight to use for those who are prepared to spend more. It's undoubtedly one of the most pocketable and premium Samsung smartphones, but you can get all the non-folding functions for much less.

A Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 half folded, outside

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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 price, release date

  • Now
  • Starts at $999 / £949 / AU$1,499
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 specs

Display6.7-inch 1080x2640
Dimensions86.4x72.2x15.9-17.1mm folded/166x72.2x6.9mm unfolded
Weight: 183g
Screen refresh120Hz
Screen brightness: 1200 nits
Water Resistance:IPX8
Selfie camera: 10MP resolution
Main camera:12MP resolution
Ultrawide: 12MP resolution
Battery: 3,300mAh
Memory: 8GB
Storage:128GB and 256GB Available

Officially unveiled by Samsung Unpacked, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 went on sale in the US on August 27, 2021. Australians had to wait for September 10th, 2021.

It comes in two storage sizes: 128GB, which costs $999 / £949 / AU$1,499, and 256GB, which will set you back $1,049 / £999 / AU$1,599

For comparison, the original Galaxy Flip cost $1,380 / £1,300 / AU$1,800, and the 5G model was even more at $1,449 / £1,399 / AU$2,599, so the Flip 3 was much cheaper at launch; around the price of flagships, like Apple's iPhone 13 Pro. The Z Flip 5G and Z Flip 3 have become much more affordable since their launch.

The Z Flip 3 is also a whole lot cheaper than its larger sibling, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, a true foldable phone that starts at $1,799 / £1,599 / AU$2,499. The Z Fold 3 offers twice the display and S Pen support. However, it's not meant to be portable.

Related Reading: Google Pixel 5a review: a solid mid-range camera phone

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: design

  • IPX8 Rating for Water - But Not Dust - Resistance
  • Compact design

Apart from an expanded outer display and rear camera arrangement, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 isn't much different than its predecessors. The clamshell is still foldable and has two halves that rotate around the large Samsung-branded hinge. It's still very tall, narrow, and has a display of 6.7 inches.

However, there are some aesthetic improvements. Although the phone does not fold flush when closed, it leaves less space between the sides. The protective bumper that surrounds the inner flex screen is still present, however it looks thinner and more like a guardrail than the pontoon-like layer at the edge.

Also, the rear cover has been updated from one-colored on the Z Flip 3 to two-toned on the Z Flip 3. The bottom two-thirds of the Z Flip 3 have a single color, the top three are all-black and house the outer display. It also houses the rear camera, which is vertically aligned next to the two rear ones. Although some colors are better than others, it's still a handsome design.

Corning Glass claims that Gorilla Glass Victus covers the back of the phone, while its screen is made from flexible, glasstic plastic. Samsung's foldable phone has been awarded an IPX8 water rating. This means that the phone can be immersed in water up to 1.5m for 30 minutes. The phone is not designed for dust resistance (hence IPX8 rather than the common IP68 with the "6" denoting dust resistance).

A Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 from the side, in someone's hand

The phone's layout is the same as its predecessor, with the exception of the larger outer display. The lock button is located on the right with the fingerprint sensor, and the volume rocker is above that. They are a little too high to be comfortable when unfolded. However, the latter can only be reached with one hand (to unlock the device). But raising or decreasing the volume can almost never been done by one person.

The arrangement is not arbitrary. When folded up the buttons are in the middle on the top of the phone.

The SIM slot is located on the left-hand side, near the top. Unfortunately, there is no microSD slot so it's not possible to add storage. On the top, there is only a microphone. At the bottom, you will find a USB-C slot with speakers on either side and a mic to the left.

A Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 from the side, in someone's hand

Related Reading: iPhone 13 Review

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: What's it like folding?

Although the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 folds up best, it's still not as good as the older Motorola Razr 2020. Both phones have different approach to form factors: The Razr offers more functionality, while Z Flip 3 lets you unfold the phone at any angle (until it is flat), and has more functionality in semi-unfolded stage.

The Z Flip 3 can be difficult to unfold one-handed, as was the case for previous Z Flip phones. However, this resistance allows you to open the device in any direction you like and it will remain locked. This is both functional and fun.

Only a handful of use cases would necessitate part-folding Z Flip 3 at this time. Flex Mode is a feature that allows apps to split the screen. However, some users find that having this option enhances their experience beyond what regular phones can do. You can make video chatting much more enjoyable if you have the ability to prop your phone up.

A Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 outside, with the screen on

The Z Flip 3 folds down very well, which is a great advantage when carrying the device around. It won't fit into all pockets, but iFixit discovered that older clamshells can be folded closed to make the phone thicker. This makes it easy for you to slip it into a bag or pocket without worrying about it getting scratched.

External display is still the least appealing feature of the foldable. It's too small for anything beyond previewing selfies and seeing notifications. It looks almost the same whether you tap it once or twice. This might make it appear that touch functionality has been rearranged, but it is certainly easier to use than before.

The Motorola Razr's 2.6-inch exterior screen is still more functional and interacts with more apps than the Z Flip 3's.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: display

  • 6.7-inch foldable 1080x2640 screen
  • Secondary display, 1.9 inches

Displays on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 have seen some improvements, but not enough to make them look better. This is fine. However, we still need to see parity between plastic and glass displays before we can be blown away with clamshell foldables.

It's less noticeable than previous clamshell-foldable displays. You can still feel the seam when you run your finger along the display's center, at 6.7 inches (2640x1080), but it's not very bothersome. Although the screen is bright enough to be seen outdoors, it has similar visuals as other flagship Full HD Plus displays. It's also comparable in brightness to OLED-equipped phones.

Although the Z Flip 3's inner plastic display does not seem to produce a poorer picture than glass phones, side-by-side comparisons may show that it has a sharper picture than OLED screens. It has a 120Hz refresh rate, which allows for more smooth browsing and gaming.

The Z Flip 3's exterior screen is almost four times larger than the original Z Flip's 1.11-inch. The Z Flip 3 has a larger display that shows less text and offers the largest photo preview in the world. There are also mini-app widgets to control audio, set timers and other functions.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: cameras

  • 12MP main camera and 12MP super-wide camera
  • No Telephoto Lens

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is equipped with enough cameras for casual photography. It does not have telephoto capabilities, but it manages everything well. Samsung's photo software is a huge plus, creating vivid images that are detailed and vibrant.

It appears that the two rear-facing cameras - the 12MP f/1.8 Dual Pixel main and ultra-wide cameras, as well as the 12MP (f/2.2) wide-angle camera - have not been modified from those on the Z Flip. They capture images that are comparable to photos taken on other Samsung flagships.

A folded Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3, in someone's hand

The front-facing 10MP f/2.4 camera takes good selfies. However, these shots have less detail than those taken by front-facing cameras on rival flagships such as the iPhone 13. This phone is still very selfie-friendly. The front-facing camera at 10MP f/2.4 takes decent photos, although they have less detail than those taken by rival flagships like the iPhone 13.

You can take selfies with the Z Flip 3 when it is folded closed. The superior rear main or ultra-wide camera allows you to capture shots which are displayed on the outer screen. To open the camera mode, double-tap to activate the lock button. It's easy to use the touch interface: swipe up for main or ultra wide lenses and swipe left or right to toggle between video and photo.

This is a simple trick that's great for parties and easy to use when taking selfies. This mode takes square pictures, which is strange considering the largescreen formatted outer display. Other dimensions of photos are not possible.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 specs, Performance and Software

  • Snapdragon 8888 chipset
  • 8GB RAM

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a flagship handset with 2021 specifications and works as well as other top-tier phones. The Snapdragon 888 chipet is used in all the top Android smartphones released in 2021. It has 8GB RAM and 128GB and 256GB storage.

The storage can't be expanded via microSD. This means that you are limited to the 128GB capacity. While it might seem odd to have a 128GB model (the Flip and Flip 5G had a single, 256GB configuration), this allows for the device to be sold at a more affordable price. Although it is not ideal, there are other options, such as cloud storage, that offer more space.

The overall performance of the phone is excellent. It performed well whether browsing the internet, playing games or watching videos. Although the average Geekbench 5 score of 2801 was quite impressive at the time it was reviewed, the device is not up to the same standard as the iPhone 12 Pro (4072) and Asus Rog 5 (3732) respectively.

The average is a reflection of a large range of individual scores. While we did not notice any performance differences in real-world tasks, such as watching videos or playing video, most flagship phones show much less variation in benchmarks.

The Z Flip 3 was able to run Android 11 straight out of the box. This gave it the most perks available from Google's then-latest OS. In early 2022, Android 12 was added to the Flip.

One of the big features in Android 12 is Material You, which redesigns your interface based on a user-chosen color palette - and the Z Flip 3 has its own version of that, enabling owners of a Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 or Watch 4 Classic to sync their watch face with their outer display, giving the latter matching colors, fonts, and even little images. Although it is a minor feature that some people might not like, it allows for more customization on the outer display. This furthers Samsung's concept of an 'ecosystem".

A Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 in someone's hand, with the screen on

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: battery life

  • 3,300mAh battery
  • Mediocre life

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 has one major problem: its 3300mAh battery. It is not the largest among flagship smartphones and drains quickly over a single day. Don't expect the battery to last for more than a day. As part of the company’s move toward sustainability, less waste and cost-savings, there is no charging cable in the box.

By keeping the screen on and the phone turned on, the battery drains faster than other phones. On one occasion, it held steady until the number of 10%. Then, it dropped dramatically. However, ordinary tasks should not drain the phone faster than others. For example, watching half an hour of Netflix drained the battery by 33%. This is quite common.

The most powerful wall charger we had on hand was a 60W Asus brick. It recharged the battery to 46% and 80% within 30 minutes, respectively. It's not bad but it isn't great compared with phones that use high-wattage recharging. The OnePlus 9 (a worthy rival at the time) recharged twice as quickly (76% in 30 mins in our tests).

A Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 in someone's hand, with the screen on

It's a good deal if...

The best flagship folding device is the one that's most economical
The Z Flip 3 may not be the most affordable of foldable phones, but it's the least expensive. The Z Flip 3 is a great option if you're looking to test out foldable tech while saving as much as possible.

A pocketable phone is what you want
One of the greatest benefits to Z Flip 3 is its ability to pack flagship capabilities in a compact package. And at an even better price.

You want a selfie machine
The Z Flip 3 is the best phone for taking great selfies. If you love taking selfies or video calls, this is the phone for you.

It's not worth the risk if it...

A flagship phone should have a telephoto lens
Z Flip 3 does not have a Telephoto Lens. We can confirm that the zoom limit is too blurry. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is a smartphone that allows you to capture distant objects.

Your foldable needs more screen
The term "foldable" may sound familiar. However, the Z Flip 3 has twice as much screen real estate than a normal phone. If you need double the display area (and S Pen support), get the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold.

Want a clamshell foldingable that is even more affordable?
You like the flip phone format, but you want it to be even more affordable? An older Z Flip or Z Flip 5G model, as well as a Motorola Razr, can be purchased for less than what the Z Flip 3 price at launch.

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