The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has amazing hardware, but its software feels unfinished

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Lifestyle
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Lifestyle (Image credit: Chris Wedel / Android Central)

Foldable phones are still relatively new in the grand scheme of smartphones. But that doesn't mean that some of these products aren't impressive. For example, while the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 isn't a significant improvement over the second generation Galaxy Z Fold 2, the fine-tuning that Samsung has done with the device is very much welcomed. However, the bulk of that tweaking Samsung did with the Z Fold 3 was mainly on the hardware side of things. The software and UI are very much the same as the prior version — and that's unfortunate because it's still kind of a mess.

Yes, Samsung did add a couple of new features and expand on a few others as well. But, when fellow freelancer Andrew Myrick put together his first 12 things to do with your new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, it further solidified the complicated feelings I had when using my own Z Fold 3. Put simply — if you want to get the most of your expensive folding phone, you are going to have to do quite a bit of tinkering — and that shouldn't be the case.

Twitter Fantasy Football List Z Fold

Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

Don't get me wrong; the Z Fold 3 is a fantastic device in many ways. In fact, there were a couple of reasons that I decided to trade in my Fold 2 for the new version. The first reason was because I had cracked the outer display after a tumble onto the concrete. The other reason was the improved camera experience on the Z Fold 3. I hoped that many of my disappointments from the software of the Z Fold 2 were fixed on the Z Fold 3. Unfortunately, I still feel a bit let down.

The Z Fold 3 is very much a power user's phone. Does that mean you have to be in that camp to enjoy the device — no, it does not. But, if you don't fall into that category, there are many features that you may not know are available or you may feel intimidated when trying to access them. Many of the Z Fold 3's customization and even battery features are missing when you first fire up the phone for the first time, and unless you are in the know — you may never know about Good Lock.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

I'll give a quick description of what Samsung's Good Lock is without diving completely into it. This app houses multiple modules that you also have to download individually if you want them, allowing you to have more control over things like your lock screen, notifications, theming, etc.

Samsung has been one of the better OEMs at offering theming options for its devices for years now. Much of the theming options that used to be housed in the Galaxy Store have moved into the Good Lock module Theme Park — albeit with many options and controls over what you can accomplish. I don't feel that moving more complex customization options like themes into a separate app is necessarily bad. Still, a module that can further optimize the apps and battery of the phone to give better battery life shouldn't be hidden.

If Samsung knows of ways to improve your phone's battery life, why not apply those fixes rather than hide them within a module within an app?

Samsung's Good Guardian app is designed to try and give your phone better battery life. Five separate modules need to be downloaded, each with its own function, giving more insight and attempting to help your battery last longer. I applaud Samsung for offering this, but if the company knows that these are things that can improve the phone's battery, why are there so many hoops that the user has to go through to find them?

Perhaps these apps and modules to adjust the Z Fold 3 are a way to clean up the settings menu. If that's the case, there's still a long way to go. Because Samsung's settings menu has never been lacking options, although for a short while, it had gotten a little better. The number of options within the settings is up to 22 initial buttons after opening up the settings menu. Some of those choices are themes, battery, lock screen, and others that have even more sub-menus if you download their modules for Good Lock.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Good Guardians Screenshot

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Of course, opening up each button gives a deluge of options with that choice, and some of those have layers too. Don't get me wrong; I'm all for choice. But the organization of the settings menu is a disaster. It appears that even Samsung knows this, because once you tap on one of the initial 22 options, after all of the choices for that option is a menu at the bottom that says Looking for something else? with settings that aren't in that menu, but are the ones you may actually be looking for.

It would make more sense to have a set menu with basic and advanced settings each having their own areas. This would make the most commonly used options quick and easy to find, with the more in-depth, power user choices in their own area. This would also allow for many of the sequestered choices into Good Lock to have a home on the phone from the start, without needing to download a separate app or modules.

Organizing and getting the Galaxy Z Fold 3 set up just the way you like is a more much-involved undertaking than a typical smartphone — and it sucks.

Something else that isn't talked about enough with these foldable phones is organization. I know some people may not care too much about how their phone is set up; all they need to know is where the phone app, their SMS app, and maybe email is — and the rest is a crapshoot. On the other hand, some set every phone up the same way. That includes home screens, widgets, and folders — I fall into this latter category.

On a phone with two completely different screens with different aspect ratios, that presents new challenges. This is another area in which Samsung needs to do better. Out of the box, the outer display and the main inner display are treated as two independent phones. So you have to set up and organize each screen separately. For some, a different organization for each display is preferred because of how they may use each screen. But for others, those differences in layout can be confusing and disorienting.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

I use muscle memory as to find where each app is located within its proper folder, and when that changes, it is very frustrating. Yes, I can and do take the time to create the same folders and organization process on each display. This is something that Samsung can resolve. Unfortunately, the only realy organizational option Samsung offers is to mirror the outer display to the main display. In theory, this is good — in practice, not so much.

When cover screen mirroring is enabled it does exactly as the setting name suggests — it mirrors everything that is set up on the outer display to the inner display. It essentially creates a link for the way you organize that outer display, from the folder and the apps within them to the widgets, to the main display. This link stays active, meaning if you add a widget or folder to the cover display it will be reflected to the inner display. But, not only is the setup mirrored to the main display but a virtual separation of the large display is created to match the outer display's screen ratio.

As an example, you can't expand a widget to cover more screen real estate on the inner display because it no longer recognizes the screen size as being a single large screen. It is now virtually split into two displays, with the ratio now being observed by the UI to be the same as the outer display. It would be nice to mirror the two displays, then once the folders and more time-consuming organization were complete, disable the link. But turning off the mirror function restores the layout used prior to the setting being enabled.

The keyboard situation on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is less a software issue for Samsung as it is a case of other apps needing to get their act together.

While on the subject of the unfortunate circumstances of the way Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 handles the inner and outer displays, let's talk about the keyboard situation. Though there are far worse keyboard apps out there than Samsung's, there are far better keyboard apps for Android. The problem is that none of them can acknowledge that a phone has transitioned from a standard phone layout to a tablet size like Samsung's keyboard app does.

My keyboard of choice is Google's Gboard because it does such a fantastic job of voice-to-text transcription and it's better at recognizing swipe gestures than other options. But there isn't an option for a split-key layout for the keyboard when on a large format display. Instead, when the phone is unfolded, you just get a bigger keyboard. While it is less comfortable than what the Samsung keyboard offers, I'll suffer with it because the pros outweigh the cons.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

Though Samsung has done better a better job resizing apps to work better on the larger format of the inner-display, many still don't look quite right. Again, this problem falls on both Samsung and app developers to solve. But, Samsung knows that it can't wait around for every developer to retool its app to work for the few foldable phones on the market if it wants to push this form-factor to the mainstream.

Will these software hiccups, frustrations, and other odd quirks drive me away from the Z Fold 3 — no, absolutely not. Because in the end, I love having a dual form-factor device in my pocket. The improved camera experience, the addition of water resistance, and the significantly better screen protector on the main display make the Z Fold 3 a near-perfect phone for me. Once Samsung, or another manufacturer — cough Google Pixel Fold — can make a more durable folding display, add dust resistance, and nail the software experience — then it'll be perfect.

Chris Wedel
Smart Home Writer
Chris Wedel is a fan of all things tech and gadgets. Living in rural Kansas with his wife and two young boys makes finding ways to get and stay online tricky. By utilizing his years of experience with the tech and mobile communications industries — success is assured. When not conquering connectivity challenges and testing new gadgets, he enjoys cruising a gravel road in his UTV with some good tunes.
  • Not sure it is a giant mess or a mess at all. The device is amazing and fully functional. Could it stand some tweaks to the UI over time? Sure
  • The device is fantastic! These tweaks are first world problems. The only criticism that I wish Sammy could have done was allowed for a device housed s-pen. The phone is a multi-tasking beast!
  • Or at least the pen for free. I understand not making a new mold but they could dropped a 50 pen in the box.
  • I laughed at "cough maybe Google pixel fold". That means Google has to add support for app function to recognize fold options.
    Question how many years we have to wait for Google to catch up or want to add the resources to make the app compatible. Kudos to Samsung it took a situation and did it best to give the user the best experience with folding devices. Think about it Apps for Chromebook are still in beta never touched since they implemented the feature, so I do not have faith in Google. Plain android continues to be boring not innovative and without OEM like Samsung, One plus, LG pushing their own changes to Android what experience would we have with Android that really changed from the beginning.
  • So much money for an unfinished product.
  • Name a Computer product, especially cutting edge, that is "finished" at launch. And the newer the tech, often the more unfinished and more expensive. It's the nature of buying products that are on the leading edge. Consider, also, that third parties will not accommodate something like the Fold until there are enough to make up an actual market. Samsung has to launch into an unfinished ecosystem or the rest of the ecosystem will never be built.
  • So, if you still love the device, and think it's near-perfect, maybe "a giant mess" might have been hyperbolic?
  • SwiftKey works great with the Z Fold 3.
  • "if the company knows that these are things that can improve the phone's battery, why are there so many hoops that the user has to go through to find them?"
    If you don't know the answer to this question then you are NOT in the right business! This is an EIGHTEEN HUNDRED DOLLAR phone! Do you think they're making a good profit on it...say about $1300.00 per unit???
    With this much profit pouring into their greedy little pockets why would they ever want you to know how to make your phone last more than a year or two...they WANT YOUR BATTERY TO DIE A PREMATURE DEATH so you will buy a new one and they make gobs more money! Sheesh, the ignorance of some writers boggles the mind!
  • That's dark and cynical. The options in good lock won't make your battery wear out any faster or slower. (And note that windows has power toys...samsungs additional features isnt unique) It's also highly unlikely that they are making g $1300 a device. More likely $200-400 per.... and when you take into account developmental costs, the fold line is likely just about break even at this point. Sheesh the ignorance (maskerading as intelligence) of some commenters
  • You should research the costs of R&D and other overhead that have to be amortized over the units sold, as well as the yield rate when producing new tech like screens and ever finer chip densities. Not to mention support, marketing, etc. I doubt they're making much of anything on the folding phones yet. Also, you confused daily battery performance with physical battery longevity. Only the 85% charge setting relates to longevity. These batteries will last beyond what most of us tech enthusiasts hold our phones for.
  • These are verrrry early days for such devices. When Google, Xiaomi, BBK etc. are pumping out dual and foldable screened devices things will be better. For now, a bit of jank is expected. But look at what you are getting!
  • Clickbaiting like crazy.
    So, where's the same disappointed writeup for anything else you can find a "12 things to do with your new device" for? Those suggestions are generic, with the obvious exception that you CAN enable tablet mode for apps on the Fold if you want to, so why is this suddenly a GIANT software mess on the Fold 3?
  • The biggest issue with Android and Windows Central is that the article and comments don't have a voting system.
    That makes for crappy journalism.
  • As someone who owns a Fold 3, I disagree with your clickbait headline and article. The software is fine. Is the settings menu a tad complicated? Maybe, but this device designed for power users who would welcome the many settings available. The only issues i have had with my Fold 3 so far are 3rd party app related, nothing to do with Samsung...and the issues have been minimal. OneUI is really polished now, no longer feels bloated, and runs smooth. Before anyone calls me a Samsung fanboy, I came from the iPhone 12 Pro Max. 😎
  • So, lots of complaining about set-up issues. Regardless of whether or not someone considers them issues, they're a one-time problem; take the time to do it once, and they're issues no longer! And that keyboard complaint? Maybe point the finger at the developers (Google, in your case) rather than Samsung...