Of all the devices that Samsung unveiled at its Unpacked event today, I think so Z Flip 3 the most interesting. It is a smartphone that folds into itself and becomes half smaller and has a new external screen that is four times larger than the one on its predecessor. Although there is no support for the S Pen provided on the Z Fold 3, the flexible Flip 3 screen still provides a refresh rate of 120Hz which makes scrolling and animation smoother. It is also waterproof and can process contactless payment when closed, making it more useful in a smaller mode. Equally important, it now costs $ 1,000, compared to $ 1,300, making it unavailable but on par with other leading smartphones. At a brief hands-on event in New York, I was able to check out the Flip 3 upgrades and cautiously hope this is the first foldable one I’m willing to buy.
The non – sequential name Flip 3 could be a bit confusing (the last two models were Z Flip i Z Flip 5G), but for the most part all of its upgrades are self-evident. The most obvious is the larger external screen – or, as Samsung calls it, the cover screen. Instead of the 1.1-inch section from the original Flip, the new Cover Display has a diagonal of 1.9 inches, giving users four times the real estate of the screen. This means you can see multiple of your notifications or widgets at once (up to four lines, according to Samsung). You can also drag up to six widgets on this screen, and available options include things like Samsung Pay, Weather, Alarms, volume control, media playback, and step count.
As before, you can tap and swipe to interact with this screen, and I’ve scrolled vertically on the Flip 3 screen cover to switch through the clock, volume control, and Samsung Pay widgets. It was nice to be able to drag the slider around this screen to make the phone louder, but I could also use the physical keys on the side. Other widgets are probably more useful and Samsung will have to encourage developers to create them for their apps. There were no notifications on my demo unit so I couldn’t see what that would look like. The side swipe on this board also did nothing, although it probably depends on what the widgets themselves are designed to support.
Another advantage of a larger screen mask is when you use it to frame a selfie with the Flip 3 closed. Of all the nostalgic values that comes with using a flip phone, taking a selfie with a small external screen and camera is the only thing that immediately takes me back to the 2000s. (I was one of many who used the pink Motorola Razr V3 around 2003-4.)
Of course, I don’t suggest relying on the relatively cramped Flip 3 screen cover and 10-megapixel selfie camera as the primary means of capturing portraits. But for a moment, the new larger window is more useful than its predecessor in measuring what you’re shooting. I used it to take a few selfies in a demo session using the volume keys on the edge of the phone as triggers. Although I couldn’t see the whole scene in the viewfinder, it was enough for a colleague and I to center the frame.
Open Flip 3, set it to half-fold mode, and you’ll see the Camera app expand to take up the entire 6.7-inch screen. Samsung calls this display Flex Mode, and compatible apps are automatically rearranged to align them with the top and bottom halves of the screen. In the Gallery app, for example, the lower section becomes a sort of navigation panel where you can swipe your finger to the side to move through the images in the carousel. In the Camera app, the viewfinder takes up the top half, while the controls stand at the bottom.
I didn’t have time at our briefing to try out every app, but so far I’ve noticed that Camera and Gallery support Flex mode, while Photos, Maps and Chrome don’t. Those who also switch very quickly between Flex mode and full screen display, which is a promising sign of the performance of the Flip 3 processor. The device will have the same chipset as the Fold 3, which is in the US Snapdragon 888, and will ship with 8GB of RAM along with 128GB or 256GB of storage.
Samsung said it is working with developers to optimize multiple applications for Flex mode and has already enabled at least 50 percent of the most popular options. Fortunately, it’s not that you can’t use your favorite app if it’s not optimized for Flex mode; it just won’t be so nicely set up.
In addition to the larger screen on the lid, the Flip 3 upgrades over its predecessors include support for an adjustable refresh rate of 120Hz on its internal display. This made scrolling through the list of articles on the Engadget home page look smooth and will probably make the system feel faster in general. Although the 22: 9 aspect ratio is higher than most phones today, it didn’t seem too disturbing to me. Meanwhile, the images looked colorful and clear on the Full HD + screen.
Another improvement Samsung has made to the Flip 3 is its IPX8 water resistance. There were no settings at the demo event to test this, so for now we will have to take Samsung at its word.
Like the Z Fold 3, the new Flip has some general endurance improvements. Samsung used the new “Armor Aluminum” in its metal frame and hinges that make the phone 10 percent stronger, while the company said that the Gorilla Glass that covers the device is 50 percent more durable than previous models. The main screen also uses a new protective foil which is said to be stronger and more resistant to scratches. These claims of durability I still can’t guarantee because I haven’t tried to drop or scratch our demo units, but I can say that the Flip 3 hinges moved smoothly and stayed open at different angles. I managed to close the phone with one hand as well, although that was not satisfactory thunk made by Razrs.
Despite all the durability improvements, the Flip 3 is about as light and thin as the Flip 5G, although the new phone is slightly smaller. Samsung is offering Flip 3 in seven colors this time around, and while I still love the purple version, green is also gorgeous. Oh, and don’t forget the Thom Browne edition that will also be available in the Team USA color scheme to meet the Olympics.
Everything else about Flip 3 is about the same as before. You will still have a 3,300 mAh battery, a 12 megapixel rear camera and a 10 megapixel selfie camera, which gave enough nice samples during my work. But battery life and image quality are among the many things we’ll need proper review units to try out in the real world.
Although I’m excited that Samsung has succeeded lower the price of the Z Flip 3 to $ 1,000 in addition to adding water resistance, improving the overall design and display of the screen, I would like to see how software updates contribute to its daily driver. But from my brief review, the Z Flip 3 could be the first foldable device I’m willing to invest in and that could finally make the category ready for the mainstream.
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