Today, smartphones are all alike: they are rectangles of metal and glass. Talking about design is therefore a bit excessive, because those normally discussed in these cases are minimal details, such as the radius of curvature of the corners and edges, the thickness, the presence of protrusions or not, the camera, the arrangement of sensors, buttons, writings. Of course, they make sense, individually and all together, because the smartphone is an object that we have in our hand, under the eyes, close to the ear for many hours a day. In the meantime, however, the luminaires have been exhibited in the shop windows for a while with the back in full view, because it is there that one can still see some difference between one model and another.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3, on the other hand, is different from everyone. The only one that resembles it is the predecessor, released a year and a half ago: but if the Z Flip was a beta version, born in turn from the experience of the Z Fold presented shortly before, this time the Korean company finally proposes a product mature. Well built, better finished, and ready for the global market.
In about three weeks of testing, the Z Flip3 proved to be solid and reliable, practical and pleasant to use. And it made sense of the idea of the folding smartphone, even more than the larger model, the Z Fold3, which we will talk about in detail later on, managed to do.
The Z Flip3 suggests a different way of living with your phone: in jeans, for example, it doesn’t fit in your back pocket, and it doesn’t stick out like virtually all current phones, making it ideal prey for thieves and pickpockets. No: the Z Flip3 can be put in the front pocket, where its thickness (considerable, let’s say it immediately: from 15.9 to 17.1 mm) is not a problem, as would the length. Samsung’s idea is a winning one: a standard-sized device, which however fits in half the space. Here, perhaps more people need this, rather than a tablet that fits in the space of a smartphone.
And the external display, so small at 1.9 inches, is actually an advantage. It has a surface roughly comparable to that of a smartwatch, and serves more or less the same purpose: to impose a distance between us and the phone. It limits the functions of the various apps without compromising usability too much (as was the case in the previous model, with a much smaller external screen). So the phone can be used for basic functions without opening it: no problem with messages, with Spotify, with the weather, the recorder and other apps. You configure the widgets in the settings, although for now the choice is not very large. You can also use the external screen for photos, but in this case the advantage is relative: the screen remains too small, the image quality is not up to the level of the main display; on the other hand, you can also use the wide angle for selfies.
With the Z Flip3 closed you can also make phone calls, using the speakerphone, but the beauty of the flip phone is exactly in the gesture of opening it to answer calls. And here comes a disappointment: you can’t do it with one hand, Samsung’s super-engineered hinge has many advantages but not that of opening easily. In short, for those used to cell phones of the nineties, the Startac and then the Razr, the Samsung is something else. And rightly so: for the nostalgic, Motorola has a new folding screen razr, but that’s not the Flip3’s target audience. For those who are thirty years old today have a very vague memory of the first mobile phones, the nostalgia effect in this case does not work. Instead, the look ahead works, the feeling of owning a new object different from all the others. And for this the Flip3 exists in different colors, which accentuate the playful and carefree aspect while remaining sober and usable in the most disparate contexts.
Again, another way of living with the smartphone: the two halves fold and remain fixed at every angle. So the new Samsung can be placed on a table, for example, and the top can be tilted to make a video call, or to take videos and images with maximum stability. The software also helps here: the Flex interface separates the content from the controls, placing the former in the vertical half, the latter in the horizontal half. With some system apps it works great, with others a little less (and must be enabled in the settings), but the idea is interesting even when it is not immediately useful.
App Edge is a development of the interface introduced by Samsung on the first smartphones with curved display at the edges (the Galaxy Note Edge of 2014). But now that this design solution seems to have finally gone out of fashion, the Korean company transforms the active edge of the display into a kind of vertical dock with access to the most used apps. It is useful, but perhaps less than the multitasking that can take advantage of the two halves of the screen, complete with drag and drop of the content. If anything, the question is another: even if possible and well functioning, do you really need multitasking on a 6.7-inch screen?
The right perspective
But that’s not the perspective from which to consider the Galaxy Z Flip3: nor is that of the cameras. There are two, 12 megapixels, similar to those of the current top of the range Galaxy S21, and therefore very good, even if a third zoom lens is missing. They won’t disappoint anyone, but they’re not the best on the market. It is appropriate to insist: this is not what we ask of the Z Flip3, which also has an excellent Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor with 8 GB of RAM and 128/256 GB of non-expandable UFS 3.1 storage. And in fact in use it is fluid and without uncertainty, also thanks to the display with refresh up to 120 Hz. The screen has a resolution of 2640 x 1080 pixels in a 22: 9 ratio with a density of 425 PPI. The colors are vibrant, as per Samsung tradition, but remain natural. And this time it is worth noting the adoption of a new protective film in elastic PET, to make the display more resistant than the previous model.
Speaking of resistance, the new Flip 3 and Fold 3 are the first IPX8 certified folding folds in the world: they can be used without fear of splashes of water, or even short dives. The hinge is guaranteed for 200,000 openings and closings, and – together with the Armor aluminum chassis – give the device a feeling of reassuring solidity that was previously lacking.
The real weak point of the Z Flip3 is if anything the battery, which arrives at the end of the day but hardly goes beyond; it can be recharged (even wirelessly) relatively quickly, although the competitors offer better performance. In the package, as is now common practice, there are no accessories: no battery charger, no headphones, just a USB-C cable.
Samsung has refined the One UI year after year and today it is consistent and well designed, unlike many Chinese competitors; in addition, Android updates are guaranteed for four years. The processor power is the best the market offers today, and also on the connections, there is everything that can be used today and in the near future, from 5G to Wi-Fi 6. For multimedia there is no shortage of stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos. And for security there is a fingerprint reader integrated in the power button, on the side: in times of masks, it is the perfect solution.
We like it
- The design
- The robustness
- The display
We do not like it
- The crease on the display
- Cameras could be better
The Z Flip3 is certainly one of the most interesting smartphones released this year. From a commercial point of view, it is also the first foldable that really makes sense to buy: for the price, equal to a non-folding top of the range (starting at 1099 euros), for the performance, completely up to the level of similar devices. But holding it in your hand, using it, carrying it in your pocket is really something new compared to all the others.