There is a certain nostalgia when I review the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 5G. After all, I have lived through the era of clamshell phones and have owned a few myself. The Motorola StarTac X is definitely one of the wonders of mobile phone design, and I thought it would be cool to relive the times when I have to flip the phone to use it.
This is not an in-depth technical review of the device. Samsung has sent the device to me 3 months after its announcement. Since then, there are hundreds of review articles and videos out there to be read. This write-up is not going to repeat what the others have said. What is more important is to share my experience in using the device. Thank you Samsung Singapore for their patience in letting me experience this piece of tech.
Build Quality of the Z Flip3
With a strong aluminum shell encasing the 2 parts of the phone and a glass back, the Z Flip 3 is built solid, nothing like the Motorola Razr 5G. The review unit did not come with a protective case, so I was rather careful when using it as my daily phone. There were occasions when I almost slipped it off my hand when I was unfolding, this is due to the slippery side frame. I reckon all owners would invest in a case, so this issue would not happen.
Samsung has made the phone IPX8 water protection, which is quite a feat. However, it is not dust resistant, so please stay away from sand and fine particles.
Durability of the Flip
The flip mechanism feels sturdy and reliable. Unlike the flip phones of the 90s where there is a sharp click when folding, the fold mechanism on the Flip 3 is silent. I never felt a need to take special care of the phone or the flip when using it. For the display, I did not purposely take extreme care of it when using. Neither did I use my fingernail to drag along the surface, since I never do that even on normal smartphone glass surfaces.
At an angle, the fold in the middle of the screen is very obvious. Aesthetically, it might not pleasing, but in real life, it doesn’t bother me. In fact, you won’t see the fold when you look straight at the screen, it is only apparent when looking from an angle.
Practicality of the Flip
While the ability to flip the phone is really cool, it is not very practical for large-screen lovers. This is because I have to flip it open whenever I want to use the phone. Unlike the past when the phone is solely used for making calls, smartphones today are used for a lot more purposes, which means you need to flip the phone more often than before. It came to a point where I sometimes kept the phone open and kept in my pocket instead of closing it. Imagine you are shopping, with one hand holding your shopping bag, as you reach for the Flip3 phone in your pocket, you had to use your other hand to flip open the phone so that you can see the big screen.
The small Cover Screen isn’t that useful if you prefer to read your messages in full detail. For me, I prefer to read the message in the large screen so that I can see the full content in one glance instead of scrolling the small screen.
If you are a minimalist, where you keep your life simple, do not use the phone a lot except for messages and notifications, dislike indulging in large-screen devices, and have a small pocket or bag, then the Z Flip3 would blend into your life very well. And clearly it is design for light use, as the battery drains fast and the phone heats up when using intensive applications or doing lots of video recordings.
Flip As An Option
Even if you think you do not need a flip phone, you probably could still get one. After all, you can simply leave the phone open for most of the time, and close it when necessary. That’s what I do when I am at home, in the car, or when I am wearing pants with roomy pockets. The UI behaves no different from any other Samsung smartphone. You can double-tap the screen to wake up or turn off the display, wireless charging is supported, and the screen is just as touch-sensitive as any smartphone.
The two camera lenses offer good coverage from ultra-wide to standard frame, with up to 10x digital zoom, a far cry from the flagship S-series models. But all the shooting features are available, the night shots bring up the vibrancy of the lights, the cameras can shoot up to 4K 60fps.
Design and Performance
Still, the phone has to cut some tech specs to maintain the price point and the size. If you compare the spec against other models for the same price point, the Z Flip3 may not offer the same powerhouse features. Hence, you are really paying a premium for the foldable feature.
There are definitely some advantages with a flip phone. First, there is no need for a tripod stand since it is possible to place the phone partially flipped and then angle the camera for hands-free shooting. I can also tilt the upper screen for odd-angle shots. There is also the ability to see a live view through the Cover Screen. Also, there are apps like YouTube and Camera that supports half-flip mode such that the screen auto-adjusts to split the display.
As a phone, I do find that the overall performance is above average, without any performance lag when navigating apps. My major complaint is the battery life: there was one evening when I went out for an event after dinner with almost 50% battery life. By the time the event ended 3 hours later, I was struggling with less than 10%, no thanks to my extensive use to shoot video, edit the footage, and post the events on Instagram.
The Samsung Z Flip3 is named one of TIME’s best inventions in 2021. Recently, Huawei has also released their own foldable version, called P50 Pocket. This form factor is certainly more pocket friendly, size-wise and price-wise. The technology has matured pretty fast and the quality is good enough to be handled like any other smartphone. There is a lot of potential in this form factor, closing the gap with the traditional slate in terms of features and price. In time to come, perhaps the flip phone will be the defacto form factor of this decade, if the cards are played right. Just like what the Galaxy Note series did for Samsung, perhaps the Z Flip series will be Samsung’s next big lead in smartphone design.