Why the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3's PET cover is its best new feature

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Hands On
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Hands On (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Samsung is proud of the display on the new Galaxy Z Fold 3 and all the work it has done to make it one of the best foldable phones you can buy. It should be — the addition of S Pen support, using an under-display camera, and making it water-resistant are nothing to sneeze at. But perhaps the biggest improvement didn't get a lot of screen time: a new PET layer to top it all off.

The layers that make the display have been shuffled around to include support for the S Pen. The first layer is a dual-digitizer and controller setup to provide the actual S Pen support. The OLED panel comes next, and it's covered by Samsung's UTG (Ultra-Thin Glass) and a layer of polymer. Finally, on top of it all is a new PET sheet that acts as the new non-removable screen protector. This is the part that sees all the action, which means to the end-user like you and me, it's the most important part.

What is PET?

A PET bottle

Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Image credit: Source: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Since we're talking about PET, we have to take a few words to talk about what it is. Luckily, everyone already knows the basics because PET is what most 20-ounce soda bottles are made of.

PET stands for Polyethylene terephthalate, a synthetic fiber that can be weaved into all sorts of products. From sailboat sails to parachutes to clothing (PET is the most popular polyester type, and Dacron is a brand name for PET), PET has been a popular fabric for over 50 years.

But PET doesn't have to be a supple fabric. It's also what plastic bottles for carbonated drinks are made of. In its "natural" form, PET is colorless and odorless, clear, and very impact-resistant. It's a really versatile polymer.

The screen protector

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Hands On

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

In earlier iterations of the Galaxy Z Fold, the factory screen protector wasn't anything great. It was soft, easy to tear, and definitely felt like plastic when you touched it. The addition of UTG helped things feel more rigid, but the screen still felt like plastic because that's what it was.

PET changes all that. PET is both rigid and feels hard to the touch. That means it feels closer to glass while you're using the phone, and it provides just the right surface for the new S Pen, which was designed specifically for the Z Fold 3. Even with a soft retractable tip, the S Pen needs a rigid glass-like surface to be great.

It's also a lot more durable. Samsung says the new PET layer is 80% more durable than any of the previous Z Fold display protectors, which translates into fewer fingernail marks, scratches, and tears along the fold line. Samsung knew it needed to find a better way, and it appears to have done so.

Perhaps the best thing about Samsung using PET as the final screen layer is that it's flexible. PET can be formed in a way that it's easy to bend but will spring back into shape without having much of a "memory" where it was bent or folded. This means when you open the Z Fold 3 up and snap it into place, the crease is much less noticeable. Eventually, a crease will form, but it's not going to be the deep mess that we've seen in previous versions.

All that said, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 isn't for everyone and isn't the perfect phone. No phone can make these claims. But it's a big improvement over previous versions, and the addition of the PET screen layer is the one big feature that won't see a lot of press.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.