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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 and Galaxy Z Flip3 Review: Folding Fun

We all use our phones on the can. There’s no shame in admitting it. Sometimes it’s just to stare at a cat nonchalantly pushing a glass off the countertop, and other times it’s to respond to Slack notifications. There are some tasks I generally loathe doing on my phone, so I usually wait until I get back to the comfort of my desk. That’s until Samsung’s new folding phone came into the bathro—er, picture.

The Galaxy Z Fold3 has the shape of the ancient Nokia E90 Communicator; it’s tall and remote-like, but it opens up like a book to reveal a sprawling 7.3-inch screen. There’s also a narrow screen on the front for the times you don’t need all that screen space (or when you don’t have two free hands). The sales pitch? Convert your phone into a mini-tablet anywhere. 

Two days into using it, the bathroom was where this premise clicked. I was responding to an email, but I needed to simultaneously look at an attachment. On a normal phone, I could’ve toggled between the attachment and the email, but that’s annoying, especially when you’re trying to reference text in the attachment. Using a cramped split-screen mode isn’t all that fun either. 

But with the Fold3, I opened the phone up and put the attachment on the right side of the screen and the email draft on the left. No need to memorize anything and no need to juggle apps. Yay! I’ve been doing many more of these tasks on the Fold3, ones I usually would’ve saved for a laptop or PC. Not always in the bathroom! Sometimes while lying in bed before the day starts, or when I’m out walking the dog. And it’s not always work-related. 

I’ve also spent some time with Samsung’s other folding phone, the Galaxy Z Flip3, which is less a productivity tool and more a smartphone that can actually fit in almost any pocket. These two gadgets are iterations on their predecessors, but they’ve hit a level of maturity that makes them the first folding phones I feel comfortable recommending to, well, just about anyone who can stomach their prices. 

Flip Out

The Flip3 uses the familiar clamshell design.

Photograph: Samsung

Of the two foldables, the Galaxy Z Flip3 has a broader appeal. It’s delightfully colorful and stylish, not to mention it starts at an attractive $1,000, which is among the lowest prices we’ve seen for a device in this category. (Its accessories look equally fantastic.) Best of all, it’s compact. Take a normal, rectangular smartphone, then fold it in half so the top edge comes down to meet the lower edge. That’s the Flip3. How can you hate that? 

In its folded state, it’s around the size and thickness of a stack of Post-Its. It can pretty much fit anywhere. Yep, even those skinny jeans, so you can shove those cargo pants back into storage. Every time I had it on my desk or nightstand, I couldn’t stop admiring how little space it took up. If you’ve ever complained about the size of modern smartphones, this is a good solution. I also really like the physicality of opening and closing a phone. I noticed I kept playing around with it in my hands when I wasn’t using it, like a super expensive fidget spinner. 

New in this model is the larger 4-inch cover screen. You’ll need to double-tap to wake it (or press the power button), and you can scroll through several widgets, such as weather, calendar, and music playback. Swipe to the right to see your notifications. To do anything more, you’ll need to flip the phone open. It’s great that you can do more on the larger cover screen, but there’s a good deal Samsung can still do here to make it even more useful. For example, I’d love to be able to use voice dictation to reply to messages without needing to open the Flip3. 

I did run into an issue where the cover screen kept activating in my pocket, changing the brightness of the screen or launching Samsung Pay and the weather app. A minor inconvenience, but no one likes ghost touches.

Unfortunately, you can’t literally flip the phone open like you would a flip phone of old. Try that here and your Flip3 will fly out of your hands. There’s a good deal of tension in the hinge, so you need to open it up with two hands. You can open it one-handed, but the few times I was successful, the Flip3 nearly slipped out of my grasp in the process. A lip on one of the edges would make things easier, like the kind you see in the design of some laptops.

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