Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Review: A Refined Novelty

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the company’s most ambitious, productivity-centric smartphone yet. This third-generation model feels more refined thanks to improvements such as an IPX8 rating and S Pen support. It has all the makings of a proper flagship on paper but can it be an option for everyday use or is it still a novelty item? For a lot of people with deep pockets (both figuratively and literally), the big question still remains – does it make sense buying the Galaxy Z Fold 3 over something like the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra or an iPhone 12 Pro Max?

By the time this review is published, I would have spent a little more than a week with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, and while this is certainly not a very long time for such a device, it’s enough for me to come to an understanding about who should actually buy this phone. Let’s begin as there’s a lot to unpack.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a tall phone but it’s narrow when folded, making it easy to handle


Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 pricing and variants

First, a quick price check. The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 starts at Rs. 1,49,999 in India with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. There’s a second variant with the same amount of RAM but twice the storage (512GB) priced at Rs. 1,57,999. It has been launched in three colours internationally, however at the time of this review, Samsung only has the Phantom Black option available for Indian customers. This is an expensive phone and there’s no two ways about it. However, if you picked it up during the pre-booking phase, chances are you would have gotten some discounts and additional benefits such as Samsung Care+ with it.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 design and ergonomics

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 looks very similar to its predecessor, except for a minor design change to the rear camera module. This phone is a little bit slimmer than its predecessor when unfolded and the overall weight is a bit lower at 271g (vs 282g), but it’s still just as chunky in its folded state and the two halves don’t sit flush against each other, leaving a gap when the phone is closed.

Samsung boasts that it is now using a stronger aluminium material for the chassis compared to the previous model. I like the fact that the frame and glass back panel have a matte finish, which contrasts well with the glossy hinge and outer display. One thing that I still have to get used to is just how slippery the entire body feels. Opening the Galaxy Fold 3 takes a bit of an effort due to the strong resistance of the hinge, and the slippery finish of the frame doesn’t make this any easier.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is built very well and is now IPX8 rated for water resistance


In the folded state, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is easy enough to hold but feels quite bulky in a pocket. It’s nearly as tall as an iPhone 12 Pro Max, but narrower, which makes it more comfortable to grasp. However, you will need two hands to unfold it. If we look at the phone as two halves, then the upper one has the stereo speakers on the top and bottom, plus a microphone and a dual-SIM card tray on the right, while the lower panel has the rest of the microphones and the USB Type-C port (USB 3.1 Gen1).

The outer display or ‘cover screen’ on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is more or less the same as it was on the Galaxy Z Fold 2, except that it now supports an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate. It’s a 6.2-inch AMOLED panel with an HD+ resolution (2,268×832) and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus. This display is bright and vibrant, and is useful for simple tasks such as scrolling through your Twitter feed or playing casual games, but it’s not ideal for typing on unless you’re a skilled swipe-typer because of how narrow it is. There’s a hole-punch camera on the top, which can be masked by using smartly designed wallpapers.

The main attraction is of course the folding 7.6-inch AMOLED display which has a higher resolution of 2,208×1,768, along with HDR10 playback and a 120Hz refresh rate. More importantly, Samsung claims it has used a much stronger ultra-thin glass (UTG) over the AMOLED display which should offer more durability.

The under-display camera in the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is clearly noticeable with lighter backgrounds


So far, with my super-careful usage, I haven’t noticed any dents or other issues with the folding screen, but in my opinion it still feels more fragile than even this phone’s own outer display. Applying light pressure with my fingernail left a little mark on the screen, which explains why Samsung had to develop a special S Pen just for the Galaxy Z Fold 3. The bottom line is – don’t go poking at or even tapping on the folding display with anything sharp.

A brand new feature of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is its under-display camera. It’s a little surprising to see Samsung use such nascent technology in its most expensive smartphone, but here we are. The idea is to give the user an uninterrupted view of their content, and when it works, the effect is amazing. However, if your attention is focused, it’s easy to tell where the camera is due to the low pixel density in the circular area over it. It’s very obvious under light backgrounds, and the camera is completely visible when the screen is off.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 comes in a barebones package. In the box, you get only a SIM eject tool and a USB Type-C cable. You’ll have to use your own charger.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 specifications and software

Samsung hasn’t skimped on the specifications of the Galaxy Z Fold 3. You get a top-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 SoC plus ample RAM and storage. The phone supports a total of 16 5G bands in India. For authentication, you can use face recognition with either of the selfie cameras (internal and external) or the fingerprint sensor that’s integrated into the power button. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a slightly smaller 4,400mAh battery than the previous model, but with the same 25W fast charging capability. You don’t need to buy a Samsung-branded charger as most USB-PD chargers up to or higher than 25W should be able to fast charge the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

The IPX8 rating means you can continue to read your comic books on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 even in the rain


One of the big additions is an IPX8 rating for water resistance, which means this phone should be a lot more resilient for everyday use compared to the previous model or any other foldable for that matter. Keep in mind that the ‘X’ in the rating means it hasn’t been certified to be dust-proof so that’s something you’re still going to have to be careful about.

As I mentioned earlier, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 also supports Samsung’s S Pen ‘Fold Edition’ and the new S Pen Pro, but other S Pens from older Galaxy Note phones won’t work. Unfortunately, Samsung doesn’t include one with the phone; it’s an optional accessory. That also means there’s no silo in the phone’s body to stash the stylus when not in use. Samsung didn’t send either of the compatible S Pens for this review so I won’t be able to say much about how well this works.

The whole premise of Samsung’s Fold series is to be able to multitask more efficiently and to have a more enjoyable content consumption experience. This has only improved since the first model, and the Galaxy Fold 3 has some new software tricks that are worth talking about.

My review unit was running One UI 3.1.1 based on Android 11. Any app that you open on the cover screen will transition to the main display in its exact same state, be it games, media, social apps etc, the moment you unfold the phone. However, in order to continue using an app from the folding display on the outer display, you’ll need to manually enable an option, otherwise the app will simply close when you fold the phone.

Another useful feature worth enabling is ‘Cover screen mirroring’. You’ll find this under the Home screen settings, and it essentially mirrors the app and widget layout of one screen to the other. For the static row of icons at the bottom, only the first five on the main screen will be mirrored to the outer screen.

Samsung’s software lets you have a pinned ‘taskbar’ (left), open three apps at once (middle), and open additional apps as floating windows (right)


For multitasking, you can open up to three apps simultaneously, and the window for each one will automatically conform to the space you drag it into. The three-dotted menu lets you quickly shuffle the positions of the apps, or you can manually resize the windows. You can also have up to five more apps running as floating windows on top of these three. You can even run unsupported apps such as games in split view. I was able to play Call of Duty: Mobile, browse Twitter, and watch a YouTube video at the same time, without any issues. I’m not sure who would want to multitask like this, but you can do it if you want.

Samsung’s own apps are already optimised for multi-window use but the company has also collaborated with others including Spotify for better experiences on the Galaxy Z Fold 3. If you open Spotify on the cover screen and continue to use it on the main screen, the Now Playing widget and controls will stick to a fixed place to the left, while you search for music on the right side of the app. Samsung’s own Web browser now lets you drag and drop any link from a webpage into a new window for a split-screen view.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3’s Flex Mode lets you force a split view in unsupported apps (top), re-configure your camera controls (bottom left) and use any of the rear cameras for a selfie (bottom right)


The Labs menu in the Settings offers additional functionality such as the ability to pin the floating carousel as a permanent ‘taskbar’ or force Flex Mode in apps that aren’t supported. The latter feature works best with apps such as the Gallery, YouTube, and Camera app. This pushes part of the content to one side of the large inner panel and the rest to the other side when you partially fold the display in order to avoid the spine. Forcing this feature in unsupported apps simply pushes all content to the top half, while giving your controls for the notification shade, screenshot, display brightness, and volume at the bottom, which is not particularly useful.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 supports Dex too, allowing you to project the contents of your phone in a desktop-like layout to your laptop or a compatible TV, either wired or wirelessly. I tested this on my Panasonic 49GX750D and it worked quite well. Once connected, you can use the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s main or cover screen as a trackpad.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 performance and battery life

A week with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is pretty short but performance was top-notch throughout. Apps transitioned well from one screen to the other, the displays were bright with good colour saturation, and everything felt fluid and snappy. When it came to typing, I nearly always had to unfold the phone and use the main screen since it’s more comfortable. The keyboard automatically splits into two sections for better reachability for your thumbs. A swipe-down gesture from the bottom of either display shrinks its contents for even better reach. The crease in the folding screen is still very much there, but when viewing content in full-screen and head-on, it’s barely noticeable.

The main display is simply gorgeous for consuming content. Videos generally have thick black bars on the top and bottom because of its dimensions, but most apps will let you fill the full screen at the cost of cropping the frame. The stereo speakers sound really good and get quite loud too. Other than videos, the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s main display is great for reading books on, be it novels or comic books.

Games look amazing on the main display, no matter what you play. Productivity apps such as Microsoft Office and Google Sheets are much nicer to use when you have so much screen real estate. Of course, there are a bunch of Android apps that don’t adapt to the large screen as well as they should, such as Slack, and some that don’t work well at all, like Instagram.

Games look spectacular on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3’s main display


You’ll have to close the phone if you need to answer an incoming call, or use the loudspeaker. For video calls, the outer selfie camera definitely offers a sharper and clearer picture, but the under-display camera embedded into the main display is not too bad as long as there’s sufficient light around you.

Battery life was a bit of a mixed bag in my experience, and will depend…