Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G Review - The folding phone


Less is more with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G ($999.99), a powerful flagship phone that trades battery life for portability and style. Now in its third generation, Samsung's flexible-screen phone is now mature enough for mainstream buyers. The biggest question is whether you're willing to pay a steep price for a phone that subtly discourages you from using it. The Editors' Choice–winning Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra ($1,199.99) remains the best Android flagship if you want a phone you can use intensively all day, but the Flip3 is worth considering if you want to enjoy the world around you and spend less time staring at the screen.

Making the Pivot

The Galaxy Z Fold3 and the Galaxy Z Flip3 make up the third generation of Samsung's folding phones. (There was no Flip2; it was called the Flip 5G.) The redesign is more radical with the Flip than the Fold. The major change is a much larger exterior display, taking up the bottom half of the closed phone. At 1.9 inches and 512 by 260 pixels, it's big enough to deliver notifications, let you control your music playback, and show alarms and timers. Like a smart watch, this display provides just enough functionality and information to discourage you from fully opening your phone unless you really need to.

Front display styles

You can style the front-display clock 11 different ways.

This is the first Flip that costs what it should cost, at $999.99. That's the same price as Samsung's slab-style Galaxy S21+, but where the S21+ is something of an awkward middle child (more expensive and harder to handle than the $799.99 Galaxy S21, but without the Galaxy S21 Ultra's camera or S Pen support), the Galaxy Z Flip3 occupies its own specific niche. And if the external display saves you the $249.99 cost of a Galaxy Watch4, it becomes a real bargain—though of course a phone in your pocket can't provide a smart watch's health and fitness functions.

The more I handled the Galaxy Z Flip3, the less I thought of it as a flip phone. There's too much resistance in the hinge and you need to thumb it open. So much of the visceral concept of "flip phone" is about the one-handed experience of flipping it open and closed. This is really an origami phone, something that folds up small and then blooms larger.

Person holding an unfolded Flip3 to their face

Held to your head, it doesn't feel like an old-style flip phone, but you can still make it cradle your face. (Molly Flores)

Samsung markets the Galaxy Z Flip3, in part, as a sexy fashion phone for influencers. I am not a fashion influencer, but I can appreciate the phone's sleek, unique look. When it's closed, the two cream-and-black panes of my model remind me of Naoto Fukasawa's black-and-white Infobar phone from 2003, a piece of electronics design I still adore. More than any glass slab can, the body here really feels like a meticulously designed object. But I'm more interested in how this phone fits into pockets that others stick out of, especially back pockets, and how it makes you look at your phone less.

Open it up and you'll find a 22:9, 2,640-by-1,080 6.7-inch 60Hz screen with plenty of real estate, though a touch less than on a slab-style 6.7-inch phone because it's so tall and narrow.

Closed, the phone measures 2.83 by 3.38 by 0.67 inches (HWD). That's just barely at the edge of comfortable one-handed width, for me—I'd rather it were 2.7 inches wide—but it still works as a one-handed device and fits easily into any pocket. It opens up to a lanky 6.53 inches long and weighs 6.45 ounces, which isn't feather-light but isn't bad at all.

Front display

The front display is much bigger than on the previous Flip model. (Molly Flores)

You can still see the crease in the screen, but I don't find it bothersome. It all but disappears if you're looking at the phone straight on and the display background is anything other than solid white.

The front-facing camera peeks through a hole punch at the top. The physical fingerprint sensor shares the power button on the side.

Samsung made the Galaxy Z Flip3 waterproof, unlike previous Flips. It's rated IPX8, which means it's protected against water but not dust or sand, because Samsung says dust can still get into the hinge. The company also says the "ultra-thin glass" screen is more durable than previous models. We do not try to break phones; the display on my test unit has remained unscuffed through a week of normal use. If you're concerned about breakage, a $12.99/month Samsung Care+ subscription gets you up to three free repairs per year.

Flip3 unfolded, showing a long, narrow screen

The screen is unusually tall and narrow, but it works fine. (Molly Flores)

Fine, Flexible Performance

Like all of Samsung's recent flagships, the Galaxy Z Flip3 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor. It has 8GB of RAM and either 128GB or 256GB of internal storage. It ships with Android 11, and Samsung promises upgrades as far as Android 14, although not on any particular time frame.

On the application-based benchmarks PCMark and Basemark Web, the Galaxy Z Flip3 tests similarly to the Galaxy Z Fold3 and the Galaxy S21 Ultra. But Geekbench, specifically, reports lower single-core and machine-learning scores than on the Galaxy Z Fold3. That may have to do with processor throttling to save battery. I didn't feel the real-world performance was any worse than on comparable phones, in part because the Flip3 has so much less to do than the Fold3: It isn't trying to multitask three windows or transition apps between screens or anything of that sort.

You can customize the front face with 11 different clock styles and use any of seven different widgets to see notifications, control media, check your calendar, or set timers on the front. I stuck with the clock, music player (because my earbuds don't have a fast-forward button), and calendar.

A hand holding a folding phone showing a video on the top half and video comments on the bottom half

YouTube in Flex Mode (Molly Flores)

There's also Flex Mode, Samsung's term for having the phone half-open in an L-shape. In that form, you can force application UIs onto the top half of the phone if you like; a few apps, like the camera and YouTube, have custom UIs that put content on top and controls on the bottom. So far, I've found that Flex Mode is a very convenient way to use the phone as a cute music player on my desk.

To my mind, the Galaxy Z Flip3 is more of a media phone than a gaming phone. Its 22:9 aspect ratio is relatively well suited to video, with narrow black bars on the side that keep the video content out of the way of the hole punch. Te dual speakers are technically quieter than on the Z Fold, at 99.8dB max, but I got much more effective sound while holding the Flip3 than I did on the Fold3 because I was less likely to cover the speakers with my fingers.

The radio performed identically to our Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy S21 models. It has all of the 5G frequency bands used by US carriers, including millimeter-wave and the upcoming C-band; the advanced EVS voice codec for clear calling; Wi-Fi 6; and Bluetooth 5.1. Tested on T-Mobile's mid-band 5G network, it achieved speeds up to 740Mbps down and 113Mbps up; on Verizon's millimeter-wave network, that increased to 2.6Gbps down and 126Mbps up. The Galaxy Z Flip3 does not have Wi-Fi 6E, which the Galaxy Z Fold3 does.

The US model of the Flip3 is a single-SIM phone; the internal eSIM function exists but has been disabled. Samsung says there's a possibility the eSIM could be enabled in the future, but it doesn't want to promise anything.


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