Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Review: Third time’s the charm

Smartphones and the features they’re equipped with are improving with each iteration. Every generation change brings better cameras, faster processors, and impressive screens for smartphones. However, we are yet to see a disruptive change in the vein of the introduction of the iPhone all those years ago. Sure, a few companies have experimented with new, foldable form factors. However, due to the lack of mature hardware and prohibitively expensive price tags, these devices are yet to go mainstream. Samsung is planning to change that perception with its Galaxy Z Flip 3. Let’s find out if it is worth its Rs 84,999 price tag.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 turns heads everywhere you take it. Image: Tech2/Chandrakant Isi

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 turns heads everywhere you take it. Image: Tech2/Chandrakant Isi

Design

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a fine balance of incredible engineering and impressive style. Its unique hinge and flexible display won’t go unnoticed wherever you go. Usually, when I switch to a review unit, a few friends ask me about the device, and that’s that. However, with the Flip 3, almost every person I met was astonished by its futuristic looks.

Such fascination towards this handset is understandable, since the last time anyone saw a popular phone bend was the iPhone 6, and that wasn’t meant to happen. In addition to extreme engineering, the handset is also a triumph in ergonomics. Its compact form factor is a breath of fresh air in a sea of large and unwieldy smartphones.

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Flip it open, and the Z Flip 3 is as slim as any conventional flagship phone. Owing to the use of aluminium alloy and perfectly-tuned hinge resistance, the Flip 3 feels incredibly sturdy. What’s more impressive is that Samsung has made the device water-resistant.

Display

The flexible display on the Z Flip is the star of the show. Developed in-house by Samsung, it is a 6.7-inch Full HD OLED panel with a resolution of 2640 x 1080 pixels. The company has tuned the screen for a 120 Hz refresh rate. With a peak brightness of 1,200 nits, the display has HDR10+ support. It has a punch-hole design to accommodate a selfie camera. The crease is noticeable whenever you swipe in the middle, but it is barely a distraction.

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The Flip 3 comes with a secondary cover display. It is a pill-shaped 1.9-inch panel with a resolution of 260 x 512 pixels. The panel has a neat mirror finish that creates a dual-tone look. Samsung has done a great job of making this screen useful. You can check messages, call notifications, and control music from this screen. It can also be used as a camera viewfinder to shoot when the device is folded. There are also several ways to customise the cover display.

Experience

The Z Flip 3 is a futuristic device that brings back the charm of yesteryear’s clamshell mobiles. Flipping the device open and answering a call takes you back to the 2000s. Samsung has been thoughtful with software customisation, too. Based on Android 11, the highlight of Samsung’s OneUI skin is the Flex Mode.

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Flex Mode kicks in when the device is partially opened like a laptop. For example, if you open the camera in Flex Mode, the live frame moves to the top half of the screen, and camera settings slide down to the bottom half. It is a neat feature, but currently, only a handful of apps support this mode. Samsung claims its software team is working towards making more apps compatible over time.

If you don’t mind diving down into settings, you can head over to Advanced Features – Labs – and activate Multi windows for more apps. However, doing this merely adds brightness, volume, and screenshot controls for more apps. Since this feature hasn’t graduated from Labs yet, expect to put up with a few bugs.

Performance

While the Flip 3 is more about the style, Samsung hasn’t compromised on performance. The South Korean brand has gone with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chipset. It goes without saying that the phone handles any game you throw at it, at the highest settings. However, this sleek phone lacks effective thermal management. As a result, the Flip 3 doesn’t deliver sustained performance. It won’t be noticeable under normal usage; however, if you are planning to play COD: Mobile for hours, the thermal throttling is going to make its presence felt.

The Flip 3 is 5G-compatible, but for obvious reasons, we couldn’t test that. That said, the phone had no issues with 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Moving on to other features, the side-mounted fingerprint scanner is quick, and the onboard stereo speakers deliver surprisingly good sound.

Camera

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 comes with a dual-camera setup. It comprises a 12 MP standard and a 12 MP 123-degree wide lens. Owing to its unique form factor the Flip 3 opens up many possibilities in photography. For starters, in the partially open position, the bottom half of the phone works like a tiny tripod. It is perfect for capturing time-lapse videos. Similarly, you can also place it on a car’s dashboard.

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Moving onto the image quality, both the standard and wide-angle lens produces great results in daylight. The wide camera has noticeable barrel distortion at the edges, but that’s not really a deal-breaker. In low-light conditions, the primary camera holds up quite well. It is worth noting that you have to hold the phone steady for two to three seconds to get good results. While it captures a good amount of detail, the dynamic range is where it truly shines. The wide camera struggles in low-light with visible noise in almost every shot.

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Samsung’s latest phone also offers an interesting twist on selfies. While the 10 MP camera that sits in the punch-hole is quite good. However, if that doesn’t cut it for you, the phone’s external display enables you to frame a selfie shot using the primary 12 MP camera.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 can record 4K videos at up to 60 fps. The results are great with plenty of detail. Moreover, thanks to Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), the videos turn out quite smooth.

Battery

If there’s one department where the Flip 3 drops the ball, it has to be the battery life. The Flip 3 is a compact device, so it is no surprise that it holds a small 3,300 mAh battery. Having used this device for two weeks, I can tell that it does not last over 12 hours on a single charge. While this may not be a problem in the current WFH scenario, once the offices start opening up, you’ll probably have to carry a power bank.

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Samsung could have alleviated the situation with fast-charging tech. So that you can quickly top up the device during the downtime. However, the brand has settled for 15 W charging, which is slower than peak-hour Mumbai traffic.

Verdict

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 sports a futuristic look without compromising on elegance. It is unique enough to trigger a sense of astonishment among people, yet never looks out of place. Sure, it is held down by its underwhelming battery life. Additionally, most people won’t find it practical. However, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 – with its unique clamshell design – is like the Jaguar E-Type of the smartphone world. It has its share of quirks and may not be for everyone, but is undeniably awesome.

Pros

Stunning design
Excellent build quality
Water-resistance
High-quality OLED screen that folds
Tuned for 120 Hz refresh rate
Charming secondary screen
Onboard stereo speakers

Cons

Small battery
Fast charging capped at 15 W
Doesn’t ship with a charger

Rating: 4/5
Design and build
5/5
Display
4.5/5
Performance
4/5
Camera
4/5
Battery
2.5/5
Software
4/5
Value for Money
3.5/5