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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review: A mainstream flip smartphone

Cheaper than many iPhones, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a compact device that doesn't compromise on performance. Here's our review of the new foldable phone

At Rs. 84,999, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is not a cheap smartphone. But it is a mainstream flagship-class device which folds. (Courtesy: Samsung)

The first question I get from my friends, whenever they see me using a foldable Samsung phone, is how much does it cost? Is it worth lakhs? This year is the first time I can tell them that the foldable flagship that fits, rather neatly, in even the smallest of my pockets costs as much as any other flagship phone. More importantly, it’s cheaper than many iPhones.

At Rs84,999, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is not a cheap smartphone. But it is a mainstream flagship-class device which folds — and that’s what everyone has been asking for since the first foldable phone came to the market. Samsung is also the only company to achieve this at the moment.

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While the price is an important distinction, it isn’t the only reason why this is Samsung’s first mainstream foldable smartphone. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 runs on the Snapdragon 888 processor, the same chip that powers Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S21 Ultra.

We’re going to skip over the performance aspect, because there’s really no Snapdragon 888 device that doesn’t do the work it’s supposed to. What is important here is that Samsung is no longer making consumers compromise on power and cutting-edge technology simply because this phone has a foldable screen.

A foldable display is likely more expensive than our regular smartphone displays, but that’s certainly no reason to compromise on the brain of the device. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 also has IPX8 certification, meaning it can be submerged in up to 1 metre of water. Water-proofing is another feature that adds cost and complexity to building a device. This had been ignored by Samsung in the past.

The fact that a phone will fit in your pocket has long been a feature that we, as consumers, have been trained to forget. Smartphones like the Galaxy Z Flip 3 can bring that back.
The fact that a phone will fit in your pocket has long been a feature that we, as consumers, have been trained to forget. Smartphones like the Galaxy Z Flip 3 can bring that back. (Courtesy: Samsung)

All that doesn’t mean that the Galaxy Z Flip 3 doesn’t come with compromises. Samsung still needs to figure out how to fit the best cameras on the Flip series. It’s fine if megapixels matter to you, but not for image quality.

That doesn’t mean these are bad cameras. The quintessential vibrance that Samsung cameras are known for is retained, but it lacks the low-light performance other high-end cameras offer today, particularly when compared to the iPhone 12 Pro. In addition, the sheer number of features and distinct versatility that come with Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra are also missing.

To be fair, dropping the telephoto lens for a foldable display does make sense, but the smartphone maker is commoditized to an extent where the same person looking for a foldable phone may also want three or four camera sensors on their phone. If your priority is simply to shoot some photos for social media, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 works just fine. But like all Samsung cameras, we could do with sharper photos.

Another compromise is in the audio department. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is not as loud as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which, by the way, is much more expensive than the Flip 3. I listen to audio recordings of my calls and watch YouTube on these two phones often and the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the one I’d prefer for that purpose.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 also has IPX8 certification, meaning it can be submerged in up to 1 metre of water.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 also has IPX8 certification, meaning it can be submerged in up to 1 metre of water. (Courtesy: Samsung)

Having said that, absolutely nothing beats how compact a phone like the Galaxy Z Flip 3 can get. The fact that a phone will fit in your pocket has long been a feature that we, as consumers, have been trained to forget. Smartphones like the Galaxy Z Flip 3 can bring that back. I wish Samsung could trim a few centimetres off the width, but that comes down to personal preferences.

That is actually the key strength of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3. So far, the Flip and Fold have lacked performance, durability and cameras. Most of the issues I have with this year’s devices are down to personal preferences. That is really not something you can fault a company on.

One change that is still required though is putting the screen on the outside of this phone to work. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 has a larger screen outside than its predecessor, but it’s still of little use. Samsung needs to figure out use cases for this device or have developers build apps that can take advantage of it.

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 remains a novel device, but it’s a novel device that’s ready for consumer use. Market research firms say that close to 50% of India’s premium smartphone market is driven by Apple, meaning Rs84,999 is really not an amount that buyers aren’t used to. In this price range, the phone really is worth a shot, at least for the early adopters.

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