Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3: will the best yet be good enough?
Strong specs and a number of new features impress, but cost remains rather high for most consumers
After much fanfare - and a few leaks here and there, but that seems to be unavoidable nowadays - Samsung unveiled its latest and greatest foldable smartphone for 2021, the Galaxy Z Fold3. The company did not change much in the overall design of its flagship foldable compared to Z Fold2 (it was already considered to be the best among the few available devices of this type at the time of writing), opting to focus on numerous key improvements instead. It was a wise choice. The Z Fold3 now seems to be as perfect a foldable smartphone as current tech allows and, crucially, not just a novelty anymore: it can be used in more productive ways while retaining that undeniable cool factor.
The new Z Fold is built around a, well, foldable screen of the same diagonal and high resolution as that of its predecessor - the second screen, though, the one on the cover of the device, now refreshes at 120 Hz just like the main one. The frame of the new foldable is made of "Armor Aluminum", which Samsung claims is much stronger this time around - at the same time, the weight of the Fold3 is somehow reduced. The Koreans have also used Corning's toughest glass (the Victus found in Galaxy Note 20) and made sure that the Fold3 is water-resistant (IPX8 - the first foldable to offer that). The main screen is also better protected and smoother to the touch. These are all worthy improvements in their own right, making day-to-day use of this new Z Fold easier than ever before.
Samsung went further with the internals of the new Z Fold, though. It's powered by the most powerful processor the company uses in its flagship smartphones, the Snapdragon 888, paired with 12 GB of memory (storage is offered in 256/512GB options). It's Samsung's first smartphone incorporating an under-display camera, mainly for videocalls, barely visible so the main screen can remain notch- and punch hole-free. Fold3's battery is slightly smaller than Fold2's, but the former has better wireless connectivity. It offers access to 5G networks, of course, and is also based on Android 11 and Samsung's One UI user interface (it may come with v3.5 out of the box).
The camera array of the new Z Fold - three 12-Megapixel sensors paired with wide-angle, ultra wide-angle and telephoto lenses - is largely the same as the one found in its predecessor, as is the cover camera. This time around, though, Samsung aims to do more, much more, with the S-Pen which is fully supported by the Fold3: not only is the company releasing two different editions of these accessories (one specifically designed for Fold3 and a more capable Pro one for any compatible device) but has also made many additions and adjustments to Fold3's software, so that the S-Pen(s) are used more naturally for a wider range of applications. Samsung will not be releasing a Galaxy Note model in 2021, which means that for consumers in need of a new Note-like device (one with a screen larger than S21 Ultra's that is), the Z Fold3 is now the next best thing.
Speaking of applications, Samsung promises some improvements in the way the extra real estate of the foldable screen is utilized, as well as a much wider selection of apps that can take advantage of it since the launch of Fold2 last year. The Koreans note that, as of August 2021, almost half of the Top 100 most-used Android apps are optimized for use with foldable screens. New additions to this list include YouTube, Disney Plus, Spotify, Hulu, WhatsApp, Google Chrome, Gmail and Microsoft Teams among others.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 will be available in three colors - Phantom Black, Phantom Silver and Phantom Green - beginning August 27th for €1899/€1999 (256GB/512GB of storage). Even though the new Fold is a bit more affordable than its predecessor - a step in the right direction - these prices still obviously put Samsung's new foldable smartphone at the very top of the ultra-premium category. It's encouraging to see the company offer all these improvements and hardware upgrades while reducing its price, though, no matter how slightly. As for hands-on impressions and a verdict regarding Samsung's finest new foldable, stay tuned!