Samsung started releasing folding smartphones more than two years ago. The first few devices in the new category were functional, and presented their fair share of flaws in equal measure. Remember the original Fold and the first Z Flip? They made the industry interesting in a world of ordinary slabs, and more players started releasing bendy rivals.
It also means that Samsung has had some time to tune its flipping phones, and this time around, we can authoritatively say that the devices are getting there.
The Z Flip3 that we have had in the house for a couple of weeks has been an excellent companion, mainly because it is not as fragile as its older siblings, but you still have to baby it to ensure that it lasts for a long time.
And it is affordable to those with a budget at KES 117K, and bearing in mind that we are in the festive season, we might start seeing some good deals. So, be vigilant if you really want one, and you should if phones are a fashion sense to you (the Flip3 also ships in a couple of shiny colours). Besides, it is a better phone than the bigger Z Fold3, which, in my opinion, is a tad too big and heavy for my liking.
As I said, I have had the Flip3 for long enough to be smitten by what it brings to the table. Not only is the phone better-looking and more well put together than the original Z Flip and the Z Flip 5G, but it also turns heads, has an excellent screen that is bright and fast at 120Hz, and is generally fun to use.
And you might ask, what makes the phone better than its predecessor, and where does it perform poorly? Also, is this the future of flipping phones?
All these are good questions, and I will try to address them as we go along this short review.
Now, let’s talk about the Flip3’s hardware and design.
When you buy the phone, the package it comes in looks ordinary. It does not have anything in it besides the phone (it is open, not flipped in the box), warranty information, user guider, SIM ejection tool and a USB C to C cable. That is all.
When un-flipped or open, the phone looks just like any other phone. But you will notice how thin it is.
The 6.7’ AMOLED screen is a joy to look at, and it gets plenty bright. Of course, there is a crease at the part where it bends, but trust me, you get over it really fast.
The phone gets really compact, although a bit thick when folded. This is made possible from the excellently engineered hinger, and the ultra-thin glass display. When flipped or closed, the foldable reveals a cover display that measures 1.9”. The secondary display sits next to the primary dual snappers.
Holding the phone for the first time tells you that the Flip3’s design has matured. It is refined, with a few missteps: the aforementioned crease, which the industry is yet to figure out how to eliminate, and the small gap by the hinge and the two parts of the phone when it is closed.
Flip the open again and you will see a selfie snapped, centrally placed on the top of the screen like any other modern phone from Samsung. It is not hidden under the display as is the case with the Fold3. The display is also interesting: it has thin bezels, but they are not bezels per se, just a black material/strip that secures the flexible screen onto the front frame. It, however, makes gestures, especially back swiping challenging in some instances. The good thing about the tiny bezels is that they are uniform, and that is something we have not seen in other Samsung phones.
The screen also has a screen protector that is applied from the factory. Do not remove it, and even the manual advises you not to do so.
On the left-hand side is a power key, and a volume rocker. The power key has a capacitive fingerprint scanner, a better solution, in my opinion, than an on-screen scanner. The reader is by far the best I have ever used, because it is fast, and works 100 percent of the time.
The right-hand side houses a SIM tray, but it only accepts one SIM card. There is no room for a microSD card.
Stereo speakers are here, and they sound glorious if you keep volumes just at 50 percent.
Other than the sleeker, thin design that I am absolutely fond of, the Flip3 has an IPX8 rating, which is industry leading for a bendy smartphone. However, the phone is not dust resistant (thusly, the X in the rating), so do take extra caution when you go to the beach with the pricey Flip3.
Generally speaking, I am in awe of the design, and the hardware is nothing short of marvelous.
|Z Flip 3||Specs|
|Screens||Foldable Dynamic AMOLED 2X, 120Hz, HDR10+
1080 x 2640 pixels
Super AMOLED, 1.9 inches, 260 x 512 pixels
One UI 3.5
No microSD card slot
12 MP, OIS
12 MP, ultrawide
10 MP in a centred notch
11W wireless charging
4.5W reverse wireless charging
|Colours||Phantom Black, Green, Lavender, Cream, White, Pink, Gray|
Regarding performance, the Z Flip3 ships with the Snapdragon 888. This is a high-end silicon by Qualcomm, and has powered the majority of flagship phones for the better part of 2021 (the company is releasing new flagship chipsets for leading phones of 2022 at the end of November, 2021).
It is also worth noting that this is the first time that Samsung has brought high-end phones to Kenya that are equipped with a Qualcomm chip (the Z Flip3, and the Z Fold3). This is interesting because Samsung has always used Exynos for phones shipping to the MEA region, and we hope this development will continue when the S22 lineup arrives in January 2022.
The unit I have has 8 GB of RAM, and as you can guess, performance was excellent to say the least, because we have always had issues with the Exynos versions of Samsung’s top-of-the-line smartphones.
This, in fact, is the fastest Samsung phone I have ever used. The device does support 5G out of the box too, unlike previous releases that had the radios turned off for the Kenyan case (the S21 and S20 series have 5G, but can only be activated via a software update. That has not happened yet, but our guess is that the industry is waiting for Safaricom to fully roll out 5G in more parts of the country for the technology to start making sense, at least to enthusiasts).
Battery life, however, was not okay to me, although there are some groups that can find its endurance quite acceptable. I pushed the phone so much, and by midday, it was begging for some juice. But if you are in between charges, the device can last a full day just fine.
Those who have wireless charges can also take advantage of it on the Z Flip3, although wired charging is slightly faster (15W, and using a brick with higher wattage doesn’t accelerate charging speeds).
Part of the okay-ish battery life can be traced to the chipset, which has a knack for overheating. This is not an isolated case because many other phones that have used the 888 have reportedly experienced the same issue. It is not as bad as the Snapdragon 810 case, but we have seen some manufacturers opt for the S870 that offers nearly the same level of day-to-day performance, but does not get as toasty.
Another thing worth noting is that the phone does not ship with a charger or earphones. You get a USB C to C, though, so make sure you bring your own adapter.
The earlier Flips had only a single speaker, but that has since changed with the Flip3, which has dual ones. They are louder, and at mid volumes, they sound fantastic, and nearly as close as to what you get from the S21 lineup. This means that you get to enjoy YouTube videos more if you do not have wireless earbuds because there is no headphone socket here.
Before I conclude, let’s quickly speak about the cameras. In this case, Samsung did not make any major changes, but hear me, the snappers are still excellent.
First, we only get a dual cam set up in a world where triple or more systems go a long way in offering versatility. The main cam is a 12 MP sensor, and there is an ultrawide 12 MP module too.
At the front is a 10 MP selfie shooter.
Now, I like ultrawide lenses, but their use case, at least for me, is minimal. I would have loved a telephoto lens in its place, or heck, they could have just made the system triple cam module.
Again, I am not saying that the cameras are bad, they are just basic in terms of features because even the cheaper A72 has an impressive system, and beats it by a far in terms of versatility.
Of course, pictures from the cameras are excellent. It is a point and shoot system that just works, but if you want to zoom, then the images will start deteriorating.
Also, images are vibrant, and like any other Samsung phone, they are sometime oversaturated with a hint of sharpening here and there.
The selfie snapper still smoothens faces.
But I get it, these are ‘missteps’ that people like to see in their images, and I can’t fault Samsung for sticking to this formula.
It is the same thing as saying that the results you get here are very good, and you do not need to do any kind of editing, so the images are shareable right away.
At low light, the Z Flip3 is more than satisfactory, but it does not get the same dose of versatility as the S21 lineup.
And I will remind you again, skipping a telephoto lens here was a bad idea in my opinion.
Oh, you can use the main cameras to frame selfies using the cover screen, but the display is just not big enough for the exercise.
Other than the form factor, the Flip3 runs the same software you experience in other Samsung phones. It runs Android 11 and One UI, although it has since received beta Android 11 and OneUI 4.0. The latest version of Android should hit the device sometime in December or January, bearing in mind that the S21 series has already been updated.
The Z Flip3 was announced alongside the Z Fold3, but it does not do more like its bigger sibling. For instance, the Fold3 targets people who want a phone and a tablet in one package. The Fold3 can also take S-Pen input, marking a departure from the Note series whose features are slowly being put in the device, as well as the S21 Ultra and possibly, its successor.
Rather, the Z Flip3 targets to work normally, because it runs all apps perfectly, and mainly wants to introduce some fashion and hardware versatility in a market that has showcased signs of staleness and waning innovation.
Samsung has also since promised that the Z Flip will receive four years of security updates, and three major software updates, meaning the device will be receive Android 14.
However, can the phone last for that long? Perhaps, yes, because, while it is a delicate phone, it is well constructed, and you get a free screen replacement should you break one.
Over the years, companies, including Motorola, have illustrated that folding smartphones can be used normally, while adding that wow factor. Remember, flips were a thing back in the feature phone days, and those who use their modern forms can get used to them, which is kind of the theme here.
The normal aspect of the Flip3 can also be seen from pricing. The device costs KES 117K, or less if you look around. It is the same price that a buyer will pay for the likes of the S21 Ultra or the Note20 Ultra.
And the South Korean company has keenly addressed the issues of the original Flip and Flip 5G: the screens are faster and bigger, performance is up to par, it has ingress protection and dual speaker, not to mention an attractive price and durability.
However, the Flip3 is not for everyone. First of all, it is an expensive piece of tech for the majority of Kenyans. There are buyers who also want the best cams in a phone, but are not particularly attracted to a flip or what the Flip3 has in store. And while it is durable, long-time longevity is still a big question that will be answered over a long period.
Nevertheless, it is the first flip phone that is actually appealing to a lot people, and I have seen plenty around.