Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review: Peak foldable chic

The big phone problem is solved by folding it in half.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Cover Display Pocket
(Image: © Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

Android Central Verdict

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the first foldable that makes sense to recommend to most people. It's not just the price that's better this time around, either. Water resistance, fantastic screen protectors build-in, a uniquely durable design, great performance and battery life, and reliable cameras mean you'll enjoy every day with the Flip 3, even if there are some improvements Samsung could make next year.

Pros

  • +

    No-compromise performance

  • +

    Great cameras

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    Bespoke software features

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    Gorgeous and useful design

  • +

    Water, scratch, and drop-resistant

Cons

  • -

    No telephoto camera lens

  • -

    Cover display has limited functionality

  • -

    Likes to slide off uneven surfaces

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    15W charging can be slow

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Turns out, the third time really is a charm when it comes to Samsung's foldable clamshell design. What may have initially seemed to be an homage to a relic of another time is actually the ideal form factor for the devices we have come to love and use every single day.

Samsung is making sure that the idea of flip phones isn't just relegated to a few overly nostalgic, wealthy customers either, as it has dropped the MSRP to $999 and is even trying to woo younger demographics (opens in new tab) with attractive accessories that make the Galaxy Z Flip 3 (opens in new tab) hip to be square.

But it's not just the style that Samsung is nailing down for its third-generation clamshell foldable. Important features that people have come to expect from a modern smartphone are finally available on foldables like the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 (opens in new tab). That includes major milestones like water resistance, stereo speakers, a screen that doesn't scratch easily, and more durable materials than ever that are all necessary for more mass-market adoption.

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is an amazing experience from the first unfolding of the day to the last snap closed before bedtime. It's an oddly cathartic experience that phone users have forgotten in the age of black mirrors that all look and operate nearly identically. It's also a much more straightforward design than the Fold 3 since it doesn't change the way you'll use the phone when it's open — only in the times when the phone is closed or somewhere in between those two states. It took me no time at all to fall in love with the phone and, as our Galaxy Z Flip 3 review unfolds, I think you'll quickly understand why.

Galaxy Z Flip 3: Price and availability

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Flex Mode Box

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 made its debut in early August and is available from August 27 at all major retailers, carriers, and at Samsung.com. Samsung's retail price for the phone is $999, making it the first major foldable to achieve a sub-$1,000 price point. The best Galaxy Z Flip 3 deals (opens in new tab) make it easy to get the phone for only a few hundred dollars though, especially if you score a deal with your carrier of choice or have other phones to trade in to Samsung.

If you're feeling extra fancy, Samsung now offers the Galaxy Z Flip 3 Bespoke Edition (opens in new tab), which is a customizable version of the phone that you can personalize in a way other phones simply don't offer. The Bespoke Edition lets you customize the front panel and back panel from a choice of about half a dozen different colors. The frame, too, can be customized with a choice of one of two colors.

Samsung has created a wide variety of fascinating Z Flip 3 cases (opens in new tab) that won't just keep your new Flip protected, but make it look even better than that out-of-the-box style. That's great because, unfortunately, almost nothing comes in the box alongside the phone, continuing the trend of offering little other than the phone with a purchase. In total, you'll find the phone, a USB-C cable, and some manuals in the small box.

Galaxy Z Flip 3: Hardware and design

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Banana Phone Flex

(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)
Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategorySamsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G
Operating SystemAndroid 11, One UI 3.1.1
Cover Display1.9 inches, 260x512 (302 ppi) resolution, AMOLED
Inner Display6.7 inches, 22:9, 2640x1080 (425 ppi) resolution, Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz refresh rate
ChipsetSnapdragon 888
Memory8GB
Storage128GB or 256GB
Expandable StorageNo
Rear Camera12MP, ƒ/1.8, 1.4μm (wide-angle)
12MP, ƒ/2.2, 1.12μm (ultra-wide)
Inside Camera10MP, ƒ/2.4, 1.22μm
SecuritySide-mounted fingerprint sensor
Battery3300mAh
15W Fast Charging
10W Wireless Charging
4.5W Reverse Wireless Charging
Dimensions86.4 x 72.2 x 17.1mm (folded)
166 x 72.2 x 6.9mm (unfolded)
Weight183g
Water and dust resistanceIPX8
ColorsPhantom Black, Cream, Green, Lavender, Gray, White, Pink

I'd be remiss not to begin with describing just how much I've missed flip phones. I began my cell phone journey back in high school with a brick of a Nextel-branded Motorola, but I've never gotten over just how great closing the lid can feel. Likewise, Android began with a phone that also featured a physically hinged keyboard but, somewhere along the way, the industry lost the plot.

Flipping the phone open and closed feels sublime in a way a standard slate-style smartphone simply can't hope to achieve, even if you buy a case with a cover that closes. Having the hinge built into the phone is paramount to the experience, and it's one that's sure to turn heads no matter where you go. It's also amazing just how pocketable a flip phone is; a stark contrast from most modern phones that are too tall to fit in some pockets.

If you can believe it, that smaller, unique form factor means you won't have to give up flagship-level specs. It's got the same top-tier Snapdragon 888 processor and amazing 120Hz display as the Galaxy S21, significantly enhanced brightness levels over the Z Flip 5G, and great cameras — even if they're not the very best you'll find on a Samsung phone.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 exudes a level of chic design that foldables of the past could never pull off. Samsung went with a dual-tone look for all seven colorways — a choice that further enhances the exemplary design — that helps to highlight one of the biggest physical changes between this year's model and the last: the cover display.

Last year's Galaxy Z Flip 5G had what could barely pass as a screen on the front — which was no bigger than a fingernail — but the Flip 3 quadruples the size of that screen to make it far more useful. Still, this display is too small to perform regular tasks like replying to messages or using apps.

Despite the unique form factor, Samsung packed in the best processor, 120Hz display, and water-resistance that you'll find in its other flagships.

While the cover display is only a partial improvement over the Z Flip 5G's cover display, the hinge is a 100 percent improvement across the board. Like the Z Fold 3, the Z Flip 3's hinge is tight enough to be useful at any angle when placed on a surface.

That means it's easy to fold the phone at any angle between roughly 30 and 150-degrees and set it on a surface for use. More acute angles are best for taking pictures from weird angles, while obtuse angles are likely better for video calls or certain types of multitasking. While the phone is difficult to pick up from a table or other surface when it's open flat, having the phone all the way closed or in Flex Mode makes that common task substantially easier.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Flex Video Call

Source: Nick Sutrich / Android Central (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

The metal frame of the Z Flip 3 feels rock-solid yet, thanks to the Armor Aluminum, surprisingly light, especially when compared to the inordinately heavy Z Fold 3. 183g makes it just a tiny bit heavier than a Galaxy S21 and far lighter than a Galaxy S21 Ultra. The hinge is sturdy and doesn't creak or wobble at all, further helping to solidify the well-built nature of the Flip 3.

Gorilla Glass Victus is the real deal. After 2 weeks of use, I don't have a single scratch anywhere on the phone.

The Z Flip 3 also includes Gorilla Glass Victus everywhere there's a shiny surface. While I've scoffed at the "improvements" made to Gorilla Glass over the years, Victus is the real deal. I've been using this phone without a case for two weeks now and it doesn't have a single scratch on it. That even includes the new PET (polyethylene terephthalate) screen protector on the larger inside display, which both feels identical to glass and doesn't scratch easily at all. That's great since repairs aren't cheap (opens in new tab) and you likely won't want to be scratching it up or breaking it, if you can help it.

As a folding phone, the display itself has to fold inward so as not to break. That might be an obvious physics fact when you think about it, but it also creates an obvious horizontal crease right in the middle of the display. There's no getting around it: the crease is noticeable and could very well drive some people crazy, either by looking at it or by rubbing their finger over it while scrolling on social media. Personally, the crease doesn't bother me and isn't particularly visible when looking at the device straight on, but it's a tidbit of info that you'll need to know before jumping in.

On top of general durability improvements with the metal and glass portion of the phone, the Z Flip 3 is finally water-resistant with an IPX8 rating. That means you can take it to the pool and snap some great pics or get super super-mo diving videos without having to worry about ruining your foldable, unlike all previous foldable generations. Just don't take it to the beach, because there's no dust ingress protection, meaning you could irrevocably damage the hinge.