For all the multitasking prowess and sheer productivity potential Samsung’s new Galaxy Z Fold 3 offers, there’s something about the just-announced Galaxy Z Flip 3 that’s got me even more excited. Maybe it’s the look: one of the colors is a fantastic cream hue that reminds me of vintage ‘70s gadgets. More likely, it’s the larger outer display that’s so much more practical and useful than the teeny, tiny cover display on the original Flip. There’s an it factor about this phone that I can’t put my finger on. Honestly, there’s just a feeling of fun to the Flip 3 — right down to the stylish cases Samsung is making for it.
A lower price is certainly part of the appeal: the Galaxy Z Flip 3 starts at $999, bringing Samsung’s foldables down below the $1,000 mark (without discounts) for the first time. That’ll get you 128GB storage and 8GB of RAM. Like the much pricier Fold 3, the Flip 3 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888, has robust 5G support, and is IPX8 water resistant — so it can survive a swim. Like last year, Samsung is including a pair of wide and ultrawide rear cameras around back. Both are 12-megapixel sensors, with the standard camera offering an f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization, and the ability to record HDR10+ video. Digital zoom tops out at 10x, so you’re not getting the extended “space zoom” capabilities of the S21 series.
The primary 6.7-inch, 22:9 display has been upgraded from 60Hz and now has a smoother 120Hz adaptive refresh rate that adjusts automatically to optimize battery life. There’s still a selfie camera cutout at the top of the screen; Samsung switched to an under-display camera on the Fold 3, but kept things simpler here.
On both phones, the company has made durability improvements to the protective film that covers the ultra-thin glass. In the case of the Flip 3, Samsung says it’s 30 percent stronger. That could lead to fewer blemishes and indentations on the screen protector. But hopefully it’ll also mean fewer phones that break unexpectedly from perfectly normal, daily use — a frustration experienced by some owners of the original Flip and Fold 2.
A smoother primary display is certainly a welcome improvement, but the most critical upgrade to the Z Flip 3 is that outer cover screen. It’s now four times larger than the small oval that was of such little use on the original Z Flip. This time you’ve got more room. More room for widgets (music, calendar, timer, weather, etc.) and more room for checking notifications: Samsung says the cover screen can show several lines of text. Clearly Samsung has taken some lessons from Motorola’s Razr foldable here.
In fact, the cover screen is now big enough that you can use it as a viewfinder when taking selfies. Samsung says it can be used for video recording and vlogs, but to me that would be pushing it. You can also access Android’s quick settings or use Samsung Pay from the cover display.
Expanding the size of that outer screen makes the whole concept of the Z Flip 3 so much more appealing to me. It feels like Samsung has made enough refinements that you’ll be able to pull the folded phone out of your pocket, respond to a notification or text without having to open it, and tuck it back away. It lends the phone’s purpose more legitimacy.
Other upgrades to the Z Flip 3 that aren’t so obvious at first glance include new stereo speakers that support Dolby Atmos audio. And Samsung says the Flip 3’s “Flex Mode” — activated when the phone is partially folded — will put media like videos or album art at the top half and automatically relocate controls to the bottom.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is being offered in seven colors: cream, green, purple, black, gray, white, and pink; the latter three are exclusively available from Samsung’s website. Preorders start today, and the phone will be available in stores on August 27th.
Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge