The Z Flip 3 is the cheapest foldable phone you can currently buy, which makes it the perfect entry into the world of fold if you’re interested in joining the bleeding edge of tech.
The world’s most affordable phone is here, and there is a long list of reasons to get one if you’re into this type of thing. Samsung’s latest lineup of foldables, the Flip 3 and Fold 3 replaces its Note range of devices, in theory. And it makes sense — this is the new era of productivity powerhouses.
That’s especially true for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 — which we already reviewed here — and it improves on its predecessor to the best of its ability. The Flip 3 does the same and allows for a phone format that we appreciated more than we expected during our time with the device.
Note that this serves as a longer-term review, as we had the new cream-coloured Flip 3 in hand for almost 6 weeks.
Don’t listen to ‘em
Samsung’s marketing around this device is fairly misguided. It’s targeting the younger content-creation generation, punting the funky colours and the small form factor as reasons teens would love this device. We’re here to tell you that’s not the case. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is one of the most useful smartphones we’ve ever tested, and that’s all thanks to the foldable format.
It allows for so many unique applications using its 6.7in 1080 x 2640 AMOLED screen that folds. Yes, there is a crease. Yes, you will see it. If it bothers you, look elsewhere for a non-foldable. We can report that we found no issue with the crease, and just like hole-punch selfie-cams, got used to it quicker than we expected.
The display is also 120Hz and comes in at a slightly narrower 22:9 aspect ratio — which feels off at first, but it offers a refreshing experience if you’re used to the archaic ‘phablet’ format.
Unlike its predecessor, the Z Flip 3 features a 1.9in external display — which is perfect when checking notifications at a glance, and using simple widgets like the music app, a clock/timer or just the time. That means you don’t have to go through the ‘folding it open’ motion just to check the vitals. It’s a nice addition as it even doubles as a viewfinder when using the main cam as a selfie-cam — we used this feature way more than we thought we would.
With a blisteringly fast Snapdragon 888 processor, 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of storage, it easily handles everything you’ll care to throw at it. From breezing through AAA games like Call of Duty Mobile, to streaming and more, you can throw just about anything at this one.
It lacks in a few key areas that would’ve made it a ‘creator’ device: that’s the camera and the battery life. They’re both the same found on the original Z Flip which are, you guessed it, not great.
Utility over fashion
Just this time, it still looks good. Generally speaking, when something is designed with practicality in mind, it doesn’t look particularly good. But if something’s designed with fashionability in mind, but it comes out being hella practical, that’s a triumph. Especially in the tech industry.
And we reckon that’s what happened here. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is very clearly built with utility in mind, while the Fold 3 is as well, to an extent. But looking at the marketing strategy for the Flip, it’s not developed for the practical user. But it should be.
Based on our long-term review, we found the Flip 3 so useful that we locked our primary device away in a drawer after a few days. It became unequivocally favourable at an early stage in testing. Even if you just base it on the portability. It fits in the pockets of my skinny jeans, guys. And I can sit down without removing it. And it fits in my tiny handbag.
Now that that’s out of the way… The Flip 3 brings with it the ‘tiny laptop’ format, that allows you to prop it up like a… you guessed it. Some apps will even adapt to the format, like YouTube, and display the video on the upper half with comments on the lower. This is particularly useful when you’re watching a video but need your hands free for other stuff.
We found an unexpected application during load shedding, where it was extremely useful propping up the phone, flash enabled, on any surface to help you see while making coffee with the water you pre-boiled.
Okay, that one’s fairly specific to the South African dilemma. But it still counts.
We can’t list the utilities of this new format without mentioning the ‘GameBoy’ mode. It’s such a pleasure playing old GameBoy games on this device using an emulator.
Flip falls flat
As expected, there are some areas where the Flip doesn’t perform as well as you’d expect a device in this price bracket. And the major one is the camera.
Being a journo, you need to have a device on-hand that allows you to do your job on the go. One major factor is the camera — taking good quality pics on a whim is the norm. And the Flip 3’s dual 12MP wide and ultra-wide main cameras consistently struggled to impress.
Shots were great in the perfect environment, albeit a bit oversaturated. It kinda reminded us of pre-HMS Huawei phones’ cameras in terms of reproduction. It’s equipped with a fairly dismal 2x optical zoom. So zooming is out of the question in all circumstances. And photographing after dark? Or in low light? Rather not.
You can certainly find a long list of flagships with better camera results than those served up by the Z Flip 3, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad per se. It can be better, and Samsung should address this with the incoming generation, especially if they’re set on marketing this device to young people who love to create.
While powerful in terms of processing, we found the Flip 3 does tend to become very hot when running anything remotely demanding, or charging, on occasion. That’s probably because of the thin profile — which means there isn’t much space for cooling tech. But it doesn’t really affect performance so it shouldn’t be an issue.
The Z Flip 3’s 3,300mAh battery will last you a day. It’s fairly small, and it won’t last a day if you’re constantly on your phone. But you can rest easy in the knowledge that you’ll get a full day’s use out of the Z Flip 3 with moderate usage.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Verdict
This is the cheapest foldable phone you can currently buy, which makes it the perfect entry into the world of fold if you’re interested in joining the bleeding edge of tech.
It’s not for everyone, and we encountered two standout reactions when people saw our device: absolute awe and interest, or the ‘doesn’t the crease bother you’ followed by a scoff. If you’re in the first category, and you can afford it, go for it. The Flip 3 offers a true new format for something we’ve grown to know as a glass sandwich.
Samsung’s actually attempting to change that, and the Flip shows that their major focus on innovation is paying off.
The Z Flip 3 currently retails for R22,000 (you may find it for less on certain etailers) and comes in Cream, Phantom Black, Green or Lavender.