Review: Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip3 is flipping great for anyone wanting a flip phone

Newshub Technology reviews the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Samsung's push of the foldable phone market continues with gusto as not one but two new foldable devices have just been released in New Zealand.

The Galaxy Z Flip3 is a clamshell foldable phone that harkens back to a time long ago when one could dramatically snap open their phone and then even more dramatically clack it shut.

Beyond theatrics, being able to fold a phone in half means it takes up a lot less space.

But as the name suggests, it's the company's third go at a 'Flip', with the previous releases copping fair to middling reviews.

Have those criticisms been addressed? Does the Flip3 offer more than just nostalgia?

I've been using one for the past two weeks and here are my thoughts.

The good

For a phone whose main feature is its ability to flip in half, this performs fantastically.

The Flip3 is stylish, comfortable, light and thin, and snapping it shut is just as satisfying as you probably imagine it is.

The lack of bulk when it's shut is great and means it'll fit much more comfortably in most pockets or handbags. It'll even allow smaller bag options that normal-sized smartphones would rule out.

There's a very impressive hinge powering this thing's flipability, which has a high quality, stylish feel to it. You can move it to pretty much any angle you like and the hinge holds it firmly in place.

Is the Galaxy Z Flip3 good?
Photo credit: Samsung

There's something to be said for having the phone half-shut. You can sit it on a table, armrest or anything similar to hands-free watch the screen. That does reduce the screen size considerably, but still, it's handy in a way very few other phones can compete with.

Previous iterations have had a number of problems and, to Samsung's credit, they've pretty much all been addressed.

Last year's Z Flip was drastically over-priced, whereas this one is much more reasonable - crucially, it's cheaper than the $1900 ballpark that most premium flagship models start at.

The durability has also been upped - it now boasts an IPX8 rating, so getting it wet or even dropping it into water shouldn't damage it. But it is still weak when it comes to dust and sand, due to the hinge. Samsung advises it not be taken to the beach or used by the pool.

When the phone's unfolded, it's basically all you'd expect from a modern smartphone. It's got a 6.7-inch dynamic AMOLED display boasting 120fps and HDR support with 2640x1080 resolution and a peak brightness of 1200 nits.

Performance-wise, a Snapdragon 888 chip powers this thing, with 8GB LPDDR5 RAM, which isn't top-of-the range but certainly isn't budget. I had no issues with performance, jumping between all kinds of simultaneously running apps instantly, and running the 'directors view' camera mode with ease.

That 120fps display, which is also HDR10+ certified, is actually really nice for watching TV on too. The seam through the middle of the screen is almost never an issue, only noticeable occasionally.

And then there's the other screen, on the cover. It's a 1.9-inch display that can be used to check the time and date, to read notifications, for basic controls of stuff like music and you can also answer or decline calls with it.

But it also makes for a great selfie monitor. Without even opening the phone, you can access the main camera and use the cover screen to frame it up right, even resting the half-open phone on a table or something if you like.

If you're into that sort of thing, it's super handy.

How good is the Galaxy Z Flip3 camera?

This is not the phone you want to buy if camera quality is your number one priority. Instead, you'd opt for Samsung's S21 Ultra, or perhaps the recent Ultra model from Xiaomi, or something like the latest Pro models from Oppo or Apple.

But the Flip3's cameras are still fine and, I'd say, fine enough for most people. Those flagship, premium phones have cameras that are so great they're overkill for most everyday users.

On the rear, the Flip3's primary is a dual camera with a 12MP ultra-wide and 12MP wide-angle, while the selfie camera offers a single 10MP lens. Both support HDR and the main camera can shoot video in up to 4K at 60fps that is HDR10+ certified.

To try and demonstrate the difference, I snapped a few pics with it alongside two rivals.

A few big caveats about the below photo comparisons: the other phones do not flip, like this one does, and some of the production money saved by not doing so went into better camera tech.

They also have higher price tags, but not drastically so.

All photos are taken with standard settings, auto-beautifying features switched off and of course have been cropped and slightly compressed for the Newshub website.

These were taken with the main, rear cameras:

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 camera versus Apple iPhone 12 Pro and Oppo Find X3 Pro.
Photo credit: Newshub.
Galaxy Z Flip3 camera versus iPhone 12 Pro and Find X3 Pro.
Photo credit: Newshub.

These were taken with the selfie, front cameras (due to the unsightly lockdown look I'm currently sporting, this fairly uncooperative model was instead used):

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 selfie camera versus Apple iPhone 12 Pro and Oppo Find X3 Pro.
Photo credit: Newshub.

Keep in mind that you can take better quality selfies with the Flip3's main camera, using the second screen as a monitor.

Hopefully those give some idea of the differences a camera novice can expect to see in the phone's pics. In my opinion, for most people, the cameras are fine - but they are seriously under-specced if high quality photos are a priority.

The bad

Just to summarise the above: the cameras of the Flip3 aren't great and if camera quality is your main concern, this is not the phone for you.

Of the other compromises this phone has made, one that may sting is its storage capacity. You get either 128GB or if you pay a bit more 256GB, with no ability to expand via microSD.

That means you'll be wanting to live that cloud life, especially if you take a lot of videos.

Durability-wise, it's awesome this has an IPX8 rating, but I am concerned about how susceptible to dust damage it is. My two week review period isn't enough to really test this out, especially since it was during COVID-19 lockdown and the phone has always been on a desk instead of in my pocket.

But with other long-term phones, I always seem to get a fair bit of dust and fluff in their ports and under the cover etc, so that's something I'd worry about with the Flip3.

Daniel Rutledge of Newshub reviews the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3.
Photo credit: Newshub.

The battery life also isn't great. It sports a 3300 mAh battery, possibly due to how thin it is, and that meant I had to charge it every day.

If you don't mind having the brightness lower than I do you might get more juice out of it and I definitely got through a working day fine, but had to be charging it at least by bedtime.

The worst thing about this phone is that everything it offers, aside from being able to flip in half, can still be bought for cheaper in other devices. If you don't care for it flipping, this is a bad choice - but then why are you reading this review?

The verdict

If you want a modern smartphone that flips in half, this is the phone for you.

However, your desire for the phone being flippable must be greater than your desire for a phone with the best camera available, best battery available or most grunt available.

If that's the case then I can wholeheartedly recommend the Flip3. You can't take it to the beach, but it's going to provide all the functionality an everyday user needs from a phone easily and it can flip on top of that.

This strikes the right balance between cost and what it packs in power and features, so if you're into a clamshell foldable it'll be ideal.

Newshub was supplied a Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 for this review.