While other companies have faltered, stuttered or stopped altogether, Samsung has persevered with its ambitions to be the market leader in terms of foldable smartphones. This brings us to the recently launched Galaxy Z Fold3, so is third time a charm?
The very first Fold suffered manufacturing issues and while the second iteration addressed these, it did not feel like the multitasking maven that Samsung said it would be.
Haven’t spent some time with the Galaxy Z Fold3, it feels like more of the same, with Samsung continuing to innovate, refining the design and capabilities of the foldable device, but not dedicating as much time to making it great at multitasking.
Here’s our thoughts on the Galaxy Z Fold3 and why it is a truly impressive piece of engineering, but simply not a good enough device for productivity yet.
Let’s begin as we often do on our phone reviews with design. To the untrained eye, not much has changed between the Fold2 and Fold3. That said, Samsung has done a lot of work on the display itself, specifically the foldable one, which yields crisper visuals and does feel better from a tactile perspective.
Where the previous iteration’s screen felt a little too delicate to handle the inputs of a stylus, the Fold3’s is a bit more robust.
As such, we’re quite pleased to see that Samsung has added S Pen support, but we have a couple gripes about this that we’ll touch on later.
Shifting back to design and hinge is solid on the Fold3 too, provided a satisfying snap when opening and closing. While the unfolded orientation certainly grabs onlooker’s attention, we cannot say the device in general is very handsome.
As such, the Fold3 will still struggle to shake off comparisons of looking like two Galaxy S phones sandwiched together when it closed mode.
One thing we do like is the matte finish, which thankfully is not a magnet for fingerprints and smudges as we had feared.
In general then, the improvements across the board are subtle, but the design still remains divisive, which is something the Fold3’s predecessors suffered from too.
Now let’s address the two elephants in the box – charger and case. The fact is there are none included with the purchase, boggles the mind considering the Galaxy Z Fold3 retails for R37 999 (RRP).
The official company line is that people who buy one of these flagship phones likely have a charger already, which may be the case, but there is still the important matter of wattage to consider, which for the Fold3 needs to be a 25W option and it’s always best to stick with a Samsung made one in order to preserve the integrity of the battery.
As such, when buying a Fold3, a charger is likely an additional purchase you will have to consider.
Added to this is the aforementioned case. There is no generic plastic clear protective case for the Fold3 included in the box either, and given the sizeable outlay such a device requires, this is yet another thing you need to consider buying as well.
While Samsung says this is all in the bid to reduce ewaste and be more sustainable, quite frankly we do not bite, especially as the Galaxy A series features both chargers and cases in the box.
Okay, rant done, so we can now focus on one of the accessories that Samsung purpose-built for this device – the S Pen Fold Edition.
Having stylus support is something that we cried out for on the Fold2 given the amount of screen real estate on offer. It would also have improved the multitasking experience and made the device feel like it can handle productivity, as is the case with the Note series and its stylus.
While the stylus works as intended, pairing with ease and offering plenty of scribing options, the fact that it is not recessed into the body of the Fold3 like the more recent Note phones seems like a serious missed step. Especially when you don’t have a case that features an S Pen holder, which means losing your S Pen is definitely a possibility.
Hopefully this is an aspect addressed in future Folds.
Added to this no note applications or other productivity solutions launching when S Pen Fold Edition is present, which is something older Note phones use to do. It’s another example of Samsung not having the software or interface ready to match the hardware, as was the case with the Fold2.
Whether future iterations of Samsung’s One UI look at this, remains to be seen, but for right now, the Fold3 does not feel as productivity focused as it should be despite the addition of stylus support.
One area the Fold3 has really impressed us is the screen and camera. For the latter, both the 6.2″ HD+ cover and 7.6″ Infinity Flex displays make content bloom. Some apps and web browsing is a little his and miss for the latter, but that’s more to do with developers not optimising for this form factor yet.
Reading content and watching videos in particular is enjoyable on the increased screen real estate, and Samsung’s nifty solution to the front facing camera punch hole where digital pixels overlay to create the illusion of an under the display selfie camera is definitely something that competitors will try to mimic.
Added to this is a camera performance that surprised and then delighted. We never snapped during the unfolded mode, as we did not want to look like those weird people who take pictures with tablets, but when closed the trio of lenses on the rear yield great all-around photography.
Natural light and outdoor shooting in particular was a joy, with the 12MP ultra-wide, 12MP wide-angle and 12MP telephoto options all producing images that look crisp and detailed.
People may not be buying the Fold3 for its photographic capabilities, but it will not disappoint in this department at all.
From a sheer engineering perspective, it is difficult to fault the work that Samsung has done on the Galaxy Z Fold3.
The work that has gone into the device in such a short amount of time is truly impressive and the company should be commended on that front, but our issues with the device stem from a lack of support for the hardware.
Whether that be no real productivity features or functionality, along with the missed opportunity with the stylus, the Fold3 feels like a device in transition as the device is yet to reach its final form.
There are still many elements to enjoy, such as the sumptuous display, great camera performance and solid battery life (4 400mAh battery) considering all the moving parts here, but the Galaxy Z Fold3 feels like two or three iterations away from being a truly must-have multitasking device.
Added to this is the price tag of R37 999 (RRP), which is understandable, but may ward off those wanting a device that should be near perfect given how much it costs.
Like previous foldables from Samsung, the Fold3 is designed for those willing to take a risk on experimentation and the hit or miss nature that comes with it.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 is a feat of engineering and innovation that consumers may not be able to fully appreciate. The South Korean firm has refined several elements across the board, but one significant issue from past iterations has not been addressed - software. More specifically UI and functionality that make the most of the multiple form factor design and lean into the addition of S Pen support. As such, at R37 999 (RRP), the Fold3 still feels experimental.
Still In Beta