Samsung has unveiled the third generation of its Galaxy Z Fold smartphone named appropriately enough the Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G. In many ways, the new phone is similar to its predecessor, the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Both phones offer a hinged foldable design with internal and external screens, 5G connectivity, a 7.6-inch display and a rear triple camera setup. But the Z Fold 3 5G ups the ante with S Pen support, a speedier processor and a somewhat lower price tag.

SEE: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

What is the Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G?

The most prominent feature of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G is its foldability. Since unveiling the Galaxy Z Fold in 2019, Samsung has been banking that consumers would be attracted to the novelty and uniqueness of foldable phones. Like its predecessor, the Z Fold 5G offers a hinge-based design that allows you to unfold and fold the phone.

When the device is folded, the 6.2-inch cover screen lets you view, work and play with all your apps and content. Unfold the phone, and the edge-to-edge 7.6-inch internal display takes the stage with two screens. Both screens can function as one to give you extra real estate, or they can work separately. For example, open a document in the top half and launch a virtual keyboard in the bottom half, and your phone functions like a small laptop. A special customizable taskbar lets you quickly access your favorite apps.

Image: Samsung

The hideaway hinge that holds the two halves together allows the phone to stay in place at any angle, even standing up. The hinge on the Z Fold 3 is thinner than the one on its predecessors, according to Samsung. Plus, a sweeper feature uses bristles to repel dust and dirt and keep the hinge area clean.

“Phones with folding displays are an integral part of Samsung’s smartphone strategy, and Samsung is on its fourth iteration, gaining an increasing amount of consumer feedback, which is cycled back into improving its next generation of devices,” said GlobalData senior analyst Anisha Bhatia. “With Huawei fast losing its grip on the smartphone market, and no sign of a foldable iPhone, this futuristic segment is open for Samsung’s taking.”

SEE: Research: How 5G will transform business (TechRepublic Premium)

Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: Processor and storage

The Z Fold 3 5G is powered by a more powerful CPU than its predecessors. The new phone comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip versus the Snapdragon 865 Plus found in the Z Fold 2. The new processor promises a faster and more efficient performance with a 6th generation Qualcomm AI engine, a Tensor accelerator with twice the compute capacity, and a score of 26 for TOPS (trillions of operations per second) performance.

The phone comes with 12GB of RAM and offers a choice of 256GB or 512GB of internal storage. There is no built-in SD card slot, so there’s no way to add extra storage.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: S Pen support

Image: Samsung

The Z Fold 3 5G is Samsung’s first foldable smartphone to support the company’s S Pen to let you write notes and draw directly on the screen. You have to purchase an S Pen made specifically for the phone, either the $50 S Pen Fold Edition or the $100 S Pen Pro. Both pens come with a retractable Pro tip with force limit technology designed to better protect the phone’s screen while you write or draw. The S Pen Fold is compatible only with the Z Fold 3 5G, while the S Pen Pro works with any S Pen-compatible Galaxy smartphone or tablet.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: Connectivity

As with the Z Fold 2, the third generation phone offers 5G connectivity for areas that support the latest wireless standard. The new phone supports Sub6 for broader coverage and millimeter wave (mmWave) for higher speeds. Also included are Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2, NFC and GPS.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: Cameras

The Z Fold 3 5G comes with the same three 12MP rear cameras as its predecessor. The F2.2 ultrawide camera offers a field of view (FOV) of 123 degrees, the F1.8 wide-angle an FOV of 83 degrees, and the F2.4 telephoto an FOV of 45 degrees. For video recording the cameras provide an optical zoom of 0.5x out and 2x in and a digital zoom of 10x.

The cover screen selfie camera offers 10MP, while the interior camera provides only 4MP (down from 10MP in the previous model). On the plus side, there is a major improvement here that hopefully will find its way to other smartphones. The interior camera uses an under display technology that hides it from view. No notch. No punch-hole. No cutout. That means the display is truly edge to edge, though it’s an innovation that hopefully won’t affect the quality of your photos or videos.

The camera provides a few different shooting modes. Portrait mode lets you quickly change the depth of field and lighting. Night mode tries to retain the proper color and clarity under low-light conditions by stabilizing the rear camera. Night Hyperlapse mode snaps long-exposure shots with the rear or cover cameras. And Director’s View mode takes videos from different angles and cameras.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: Display

When the phone is folded, the cover screen provides a 6.2-inch HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a resolution of 2,268 x 832 pixels and an aspect ratio of 24.5:9. The refresh rate has been bumped up to 120Hz vs the 60Hz on the Z Fold 2, so the display promises to be faster and easier on the eyes.

When the phone is unfolded, the main screen offers a 7.6-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display with a resolution of 2,208 x 1,768 pixels and an aspect ratio of 22.5:18. The refresh rate of 120Hz is the same as on the Z Fold 2.

Samsung also touts the screen as 29% brighter but more energy efficient than in previous models thanks to its new Echo display technology.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: Battery and charging

The two-cell 4,400mAh dual battery offers slightly less capacity than the 4,500mAh used in the previous model. But the more efficient Snapdragon 888 processor should compensate for the lower capacity, so battery life hopefully will be more or less the same. The phone supports fast charging and wireless charging with 25W fast charging, 10W fast charging and 4.5W reverse wireless charging.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: Durability

The Z Fold 3 5G is designed with Armor Aluminum, which Samsung points to as the strongest aluminum ever found on a Galaxy smartphone.

The front cover screen uses Corning Gorilla Glass Victus to protect it against scratches and drops. Lab tests conducted by Corning found that Gorilla Glass Victus withstood drops onto hard, rough surfaces from up to 6.7 feet. Corning said that this new flavor of Gorilla Glass has up to four times the scratch resistance of competing products. The screen also is covered with a new protective film made of stretchable PET (polyethylene terephthalate), making it more durable than previous models, according to Samsung.

The main screen is composed of Samsung ultra-thin glass, which the company says is less breakable and more scratch-resistant than in the past. Further, the Z Fold 3 5G is rated at IPX8 for water resistance, which means it can survive immersion in more than 3.3 feet of water.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: Authentication and security

Both facial recognition and a fingerprint sensor are available to lock and unlock your phone as well as authenticate purchases and logins. Located on the side of the device, the capacitive fingerprint sensor doubles as the power button. Your fingerprint data and other information stored on the device are protected by Samsung’s Knox security. A special secure folder is designed to isolate private files such as apps, photos and videos.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: Operating system and interface

The Z Fold 3 5G comes with Android 11. Samsung also has outfitted the phone with a special version of its One UI interface designed to take advantage of the foldable format and display.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G: Colors

The Z Fold 3 5G is available in three colors: Phantom Black, Phantom Green and Phantom Silver. Included in the box are the phone itself, a data cable, ejection pin and a quick start guide.

Specs for the Galaxy Z Fold 3

  • Internal display: 7.6-inch QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Infinity Flex Display (2,208 x 1,768 pixels), 120Hz refresh rate
  • Cover screen display: 6.2-inch HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display (2,268 x 832 pixels), 120Hz refresh rate
  • Dimensions: Folded: 2.64″ x 6.22″ x 0.63″ (hinge), 0.56″ (sagging); Unfolded: 5.04″ x 6.22″ x 0.25″
  • Storage: 256 GB or 512GB
  • RAM: 12 GB
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
  • Cameras: 12MP rear ultrawide, wide and telephoto lenses; 10MP selfie cover camera; 4MP under display camera.
  • Battery: 4,400mAh dual battery
  • Login security: fingerprint reader on side, face recognition
  • Charging: Fast charging compatible on wired and wireless, wireless power share
  • Connectivity: LTE, 5G Sub6/mmWave, Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth, NFC, GPS
  • Ports: USB-C
  • SIM card: One eSIM and two Nano SIMs
  • Water Resistance: IPX8
  • OS: Android 11
  • Colors: Phantom Black, Phantom Green, Phantom Silver
  • Included in the box: Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G, data cable, ejection pin, quick start guide

Should I buy the Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G?

One way to answer that question is with another question. Do you want or need a foldable phone? What started out as a gimmick from Samsung and one that was poorly designed with the original Z Fold has evolved into an intriguing and potentially useful concept. Foldability turns your smaller smartphone into a mini tablet-sized device, effective for multitasking, creating documents, playing games and watching videos.

The other answer to that question depends on what phone you own now. If you currently own a non-foldable phone and see yourself truly taking advantage of this form factor, then the Z Fold 3 5G is certainly worth considering. If you already own the original Z Fold, the third generation represents a leap forward in terms of performance, reliability, durability and other areas. But if you own the Z Fold 2, then the changes you’d find in the Z Fold 3 are more evolutionary than revolutionary.

SEE: Samsung’s new foldables and how they stack up to the competition (TechRepublic)

The deciding factor usually comes down to cost. Even in a smartphone market that has seen selling prices jump over the past few years, $1,800 is a pretty penny to spend on a mobile device. You’d be shelling out the same amount or more that you’d pay for a full-blown computer. That has to give anyone pause, even for a device that potentially represents the future of the industry.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is hardly the only foldable game in town. Samsung’s new Galaxy Z Flip 3 offers a foldable experience at a much lower price, though its clamshell flip design is smaller and less immersive. Microsoft’s Surface Duo is another take on the foldable concept, and one that has plummeted from its original price of $1,400 down to under $700.

Following in the footsteps of Samsung, other Android manufacturers are planning their own mobile phones. Even Apple has filed a patent for a foldable iPhone, though such a device is likely a few years away. So if you’re keen on a foldable phone right away, Samsung is still the main game in town.

When will the Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G be available, and how much will it cost?

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G launches on Aug. 27 in select regions, including the U.S., Europe and Korea.

Anyone who preorders the phone will receive a year of Samsung Care+ protection to cover the device for accidental damage, including screen replacement, water damage and back cover replacement.

The price starts at $1,800 for the 256GB version and rises to $1,900 for the 512GB model. Those prices are $200 less than the initial cost of the Z Fold 2 but still represent a high mark for a smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Image: Samsung

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