Foldables for the masses, that’s the direction where we’re headed. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but at $999/€1049 for the base version, the Galaxy Z Flip3 5G is the most affordable smartphone with a bendy display.
In addition to a lower price tag, the Flip3 comes with some meaningful improvements over the previous generation. Since we’re on the topic of generations, the Flip3 is the third installment in the lineup, with the original Flip and the chipset refresh that was the Flip 5G almost making the 3 in the new model’s name make sense.
Anyway, in no particular order, the upgrades include an IPX8 rating for water resistance (the ‘X’ means it’s not rated to be dust-tight), a high-refresh rate on that glorious main Dynamic AMOLED 2X display (the Flip and Flip 5G were 60Hz), and a larger, more useful cover display. There’s also the mandatory chipset upgrade that sees the Snapdragon 888 inside the new Flip.
We’re going to have to take the good with the bad, however, since there are areas where the new generation has stood still, and they are pretty important. It’s mostly the cameras that give us pause. The rear setup is headlined by a small-ish 1/2.55″ sensor that’s a descendant of the one that came in the Galaxy S7 a good while back, the ultrawide has no autofocus, there’s no telephoto of any sort. The selfie camera on the inside isn’t overly impressive either, with a relatively dim lens and no AF either.
The 15W charging capability harks back to even more distant days, though one could argue you don’t need much more with the smallish 3,300mAh battery – some consolation. The new model starts at 128GB of storage, as opposed to the 256GB-only approach of the previous generation – that probably helped with the price tag.
It may sound like more of a conclusion than an intro, but we just had to go over the key specs, and we’ve hardly made up our minds yet, writing these lines. Here are the numbers at a glance, before we get going.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G specs at a glance:
- Body: 166.0×72.2×6.9mm, 183g; Plastic front, glass back (Gorilla Glass Victus), aluminum frame; IPX8 water resistant (up to 1.5m for 30 mins).
- Display: 6.70″ Foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+, 1200 nits (peak), 1080x2640px resolution, 22:9 aspect ratio, 426ppi; Cover display:, Super AMOLED, 1.9 inches, 260 x 512 pixels.
- Chipset: Qualcomm SM8350 Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm): Octa-core (1×2.84 GHz Kryo 680 & 3×2.42 GHz Kryo 680 & 4×1.80 GHz Kryo 680); Adreno 660.
- Memory: 128GB 8GB RAM, 256GB 8GB RAM; UFS 3.1.
- OS/Software: Android 11, One UI 3.1.
- Rear camera: Wide (main): 12 MP, f/1.8, 27mm, 1/2.55″, 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS; Ultra wide angle: 12 MP, f/2.2, 123˚, 1.12µm.
- Front camera: 10 MP, f/2.4, 26mm (wide), 1.22µm.
- Video capture: Rear camera: 4K@30/60fps, 1080p@60/240fps, 720p@960fps, HDR10+; Front camera: 4K@30fps.
- Battery: 3300mAh; Fast charging 15W, Fast wireless charging 10W, Reverse wireless charging 4.5W.
- Misc: Fingerprint reader (side-mounted); NFC; Samsung Pay (Visa, MasterCard certified).
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G unboxing
There’s not a lot to unpack here. The Galaxy Z Flip3 arrives in a two-tone gray box that’s half-height – so you know not to expect to find much inside. An oversized ‘Z’ alludes to the phone’s name and its foldable nature.
The Z Flip3 5G rests on top, face-up in its unfolded state. Underneath, there’s a paper sleeve that holds a USB-C cable and SIM ejection pin, and that’s it.
Pre-order bundles in some regions will include a 25W adapter, or a wireless charger, or Samsung store credit of various amounts, or buy-back discounts – in some places more than one of these at the same time to help sweeten the deal. In the very box, however, you only get the bare minimum.
Samsung‘s foldable surge this year means more people will likely be considering a phone whose display bends in half. It’s no wonder – the company’s advancements in the field mean that foldables can now be made both more robust and more affordable. The Galaxy Z Flip3 5G is the least expensive of the breed to date, but with a list price at launch of $1000/€1050 for a base version, it’s hardly a bargain, even if pre-order bundles or discounts do improve the numbers. What are your options?
Let’s assume you’re hell-bent on getting a foldable. Motorola has the Razr 5G, which has a few things going for it. First is nostalgia – if you’ve ever had a Razr V3 in the mid-noughties, Motorola’s 2020 reincarnation will probably strike a chord with you. The latest Razr’s outer display is larger and a lot more useful too, and the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor makes more sense than the Flip3’s implementation of a side-mounted one. The Moto is a midranger at heart, however, and has an SD765 chipset and only a single rear camera, plus ‘water-repellent design’ isn’t quite an IP rating. There’s also the matter that Motorola isn’t overly keen on selling you one – not with a retail price of $1400/€1500.
The Flip3 is a significant upgrade over the Flip and Flip 5G, but if you can find a deal on one of the older ones, that might make sense if just any foldable will do. You’d be missing out on a much improved main display (a 120Hz refresh rate and 50% more brightness), and you best not get those older Flips wet, plus an old chipset is an old chipset, though you could stand to gain extra battery life in the process. Ultimately, we’d try and snatch a Flip3 with one of the pre-order deals over an older device, but we don’t know the prices in your particular situation.
The numbers are fairly clear when it comes to the Z Fold3 – it’s roughly twice as expensive as the Flip, though carrier subsidies could skew things one way or another. The Fold is arguably twice the phone that the Flip is, though, even if an entirely different beast – essentially a tablet when unfolded, it has nicer cameras, S-Pen support and extra software tricks up its sleeve.
Motorola Razr 5G • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5G • Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 5G
Now, if you are the more sensible type and foldability isn’t a top priority, but you are instead into the Flip3 for its perceived compactness, there are multiple alternatives that will generally save you some money, while also offering more features and/or performance. Starting with the Galaxy S21, you’d be getting a more versatile camera system with zoom capability on the back and AF-ing selfie camera, all of them delivering better image quality. Battery life is also better on the bar phone as is charging speed. Oh, and the S21 can be had for up to $300/€300 less than a Flip3 (though, again, pre-order deals on the Flip can affect these numbers). Ultimately S21 – more pragmatic, Flip3 – way cooler.
That holds true against the next one, the Asus Zenfone 8. It starts at around €400/$400 less than a Flip, and even after all the early-bird discounts on the Galaxy, the Asus will still be notably cheaper. The Zenfone is also more compact, has better cameras all around, lasts longer and sort of charges faster. Has a headphone jack too, but what it doesn’t have is a hinge.
Going even smaller, the iPhone 12 mini is also substantially cheaper than the Flip3 – when was the last time an iPhone had ‘price’ in the Pros list. Similarly equipped in the camera department, the mini is also about as bad at endurance as the Galaxy. This bout is going to be decided on size and OS preferences.
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G • Asus Zenfone 8 • Apple iPhone 12 mini
The Galaxy Z Flip3 is being marketed as a fashion statement, and while the looks and relative novelty of the form factor remain its main selling points, it’s not entirely devoid of practicality. When folded, it will fit in places normal phones won’t (though, admittedly it may not be the best for tight-fitting jeans), and when unfolded, it’ll greet you with one of the best displays around, foldable or otherwise. It’s also water resistant and comes with improved materials all around.
No, the Flip3 doesn’t have competitive battery life, it charges slowly, and its cameras are anything but state of the art. It’s also more expensive than a myriad of phones that will do most things better. But they won’t fold in half.
The Galaxy Z Flip3 5G was never meant to be a value proposition in the grand scheme of things. In its more niche foldable scheme, however, Samsung made sure to put an appealing price sticker on it, and if you act quick with the pre-order, the figures are looking even better. The phone is hardly perfect, but the trade-offs almost make sense, and even if they don’t entirely, it’s hard to argue with the Flip’s sheer coolness factor. If you value coolness more than practicality in a phone, then it most certainly deserves our recommendation.
- Most affordable foldable smartphone yet.
- Striking foldable design, improved materials, satisfying flip-phone action.
- IPX8 rating for water resistance.
- Wonderful (main) display all around – bright, color-accurate, HRR.
- Larger cover display is now more useful.
- Limited battery life, relatively slow charging.
- Camera versatility and image quality not befitting the price.
- Square photos/videos and poor framing if taking selfies with the phone closed.