Why the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a perfect ‘normal’ smartphone

A few weeks ago, while waiting for a new review phone, I returned to the Galaxy Z Fold 3† During that time, I’ve used it more with the screen closed than open. At first, this may sound like an admission that smartphone folding is a gimmicky failure, but it isn’t. It’s proof that foldable phones normally work well, in everyday, general-purpose conditions. More importantly, it’s something that could help people still on the fence jump off and into the waiting arms of a foldable device.

Folded it is a normal phone

Closed, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a standard-sounding 6.2-inch AMOLED display, a resolution of 2268 x 832, and a dynamic refresh rate of up to 120 Hz. Where it differs from other phones with similarly sized screens is the overall size. It is 67mm wide, while a iPhone 13 with its 6.1-inch screen it is almost 72 mm wide. Still, at 158mm, it’s much larger than the iPhone 13’s 146mm. When folded, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is tall and slim. It’s also quite thick, of course. At its largest point, it’s 16mm – twice the nearly 8mm thick iPhone 13.

Man holding a Galaxy Z Fold 3 with a browser window on the outer screen.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

While the Z Fold 3 feels very unusual at first, I’ve gotten used to it after using the phone since its launch. I quickly found that the Fold 3 works very well when closed, which may contradict some perceptions of the device. I open the screen when I need to, not because I have to.

Google Discover looks great when you slide it in from the home screen. Instagram formats perfectly (and better than on the tablet screen), as do Twitter, Chrome, Teams, Outlook and WhatsApp. I can swipe with one hand, but the length makes constant one-handed use quite difficult, as with most modern large-screen phones. If this all sounds like what you’re doing with a non-foldable phone, then you get my point. After that initial adjustment period, the Z Fold 3 a normal telephone

When you call, the beam-like dimensions mean there’s more to hold onto. It’s also super secure in your hand and the speaker is loud and clear. The Fold 3 is also easy to place accurately against your ear, and I’ve had to shift a lot less to find the speaker’s sweet spot than usual during use. The fingerprint sensor in the power button is fast, to the point where I use it more than the face unlock system.

The unusual size and shape of the folded Galaxy Z Fold 3 can be off-putting, but the more I use the phone, the less of an issue it has become. It’s a very different experience from the original Galaxy Foldwhich I used almost only with the screen open.

Durable and well designed

If I’m using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 more folded, why should I have an $1800 foldable phone? For the past few weeks, life has dictated that I use the Z Fold 3 for more basic tasks — calling, messaging, and web browsing — than usual. And the effortless way the Fold 3 excelled in it was beyond impressive. After all, it should come as no surprise that when you open the Z Fold 3 to watch videos, read or play a game, it is brilliant. that is what is it for?

Galaxy Z Fold 3 is being held by a man while it plays video on the open screen.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Overall livability is what people may not expect. yes there is need a period of adjustment, but it’s not extreme, nor is it long and drawn out. I haven’t played the Z Fold 3 either and I’m not worried about build quality or sturdiness. It is not in a case and does not have extra screen protection. I keep it in my pocket or purse and treat it like any other phone I own or review.

There are no scratches on the outer screen or back panel, the outer part of the hinge on my Phantom Silver version is unmarked and the inner screen appears to be new. The crease is there but I don’t notice it when the screen is active. The selfie camera below the display is so effectively hidden that I forgot it was there. Samsung has made a big issue about the durability of the Z Fold 3, and so far it has been justified. For some context, my review Pixel 6 Pro got scratches on the front and back within a few days of similar use, and the screen on my iPhone 13 Pro has several light scratches that it has accumulated over the past eight months.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 on a table, with background on the outer screen.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Fold 3’s hinge has softened over time, but that’s a good thing! It was very stiff at first, to the point where it was a bit of an effort to get the movement going. Now, however, it is perfectly weighted. There are no disturbing sounds coming from the hinge when you open it, and closing it is a tactile joy. It maintains a similar resistance throughout the movement, right up to the last second when it pulls itself shut. There is no click, no splash and no signs of grinding of the hinge.

The only game in town

Complaints about the Galaxy Z Fold 3 after about eight months? It’s expensive, heavy, and Google still hasn’t released a split-screen version of its Gboard keyboard. Otherwise, Samsung kept software updates. My phone has OneUI 4.1 with the Google May 2022 security patch, plus the most recent update added some new camera features.

The camera’s performance has also improved since launch. Although it is not the Galaxy S22 Ultras full telephoto capabilities, dynamic range, color rendition and often beautiful balance in the photos mean many people won’t mind, especially if online sharing is a priority. You can see some examples made over the past few weeks in the gallery above.

Samsung is still the only game in town if you want a foldable smartphone, but I don’t see many (any?) in the wild, suggesting there are still barriers to adoption. The price is clearly the biggest to overcome, but now that I’ve lived with the phone for a considerable amount of time, it has delivered an experience that I will continue to enjoy. If you do have the budget, don’t think you’re sacrificing that much on a non-foldable phone. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a powerful, capable, different, exciting and shocking normal smartphone, folded or unfolded.

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