See, Samsung’s latest Flagship. After the Galaxy Note was out of the way – at least for this year – the company took advantage of today’s Unpacked event to add extra legitimacy to its foldable line. The original Galaxy Fold, launched in 2019, represents some sort of experiment for the company (along with all the hiccups that come with it) as the first foldable device from a major hardware manufacturer, while the Galaxy Z Fold 2 saw some fixes from the company last year has the glaring problems with its predecessor.
Today’s event notes that the company introduces the Galaxy Z Fold 3 as something beyond an experiment or a curiosity. The task will almost certainly be an uphill battle for generations to come. Unlike the latest version of the Flip, which starts at a significantly reduced price compared to its predecessor, the new Fold lowers the starting price from $ 200 to $ 1,800. Every price cut is a step in the right direction – and should become increasingly feasible as the technology scales. But even in the premium flagship world, this will continue to be a difficult pill to swallow.
However, what the improved Fold really brings to the table is a continuous refinement of the building materials that make the foldable screen a viable option for everyday use. That, of course, is exactly what crippled the original. Sure, the company did a lot of testing in controlled rooms, but when the product was launched (and got into the hands of non-Samsung employees) it began to experience durability issues resulting in inadvertent damage to displays diverse imaginative ways.
The Galaxy Z Fold features a stronger armor aluminum frame, a new protective film for the foldable display, Gorilla Glass Victus on the front-facing screen, and an IPX8 rating – the company’s first ever waterproof rating for the foldable display. Sealing has become an industry standard, of course, but obviously things get complicated quickly when you include folding mechanisms in the equation.
For this reason there is an “X” in the middle of the rating. It is effectively protected from accidental immersion in water, but not from dust and dirt. This is due to the hinge mechanism that was developed for earlier models that lets some particles through but sweeps them away with a built-in brush that moves when the device is opened. This effectively protects it from getting behind the screen where it could damage the phone with a press of a finger on the other side.
Of course, the stronger protective film is the thing. It’s what (hopefully) stands between you and damages your phone’s biggest selling point with an overzealous finger pressure – or, for that matter, a stylus. The Fold eventually follows in the footsteps of Samsung’s S series by blurring the line with the Note (which practically chose to place this round).
In fact, Samsung has actually gone out of its way to develop a special fold edition of the S-Pen that is specifically designed not to damage the fold display. It’s optional, of course, and like the S21, there’s a slot for the stylus in the handset – that’s to be expected given the relative fragility of the product. Of course there will also be a case with an integrated S-Pen holster.
The Fold Edition S-Pen is smaller and has a spring-loaded tip that retracts so you don’t damage the screen by writing / drawing too hard. Certainly, the Fold is a clear candidate for stylus functionality, as its 7.6-inch screen dwarfs even the Note Ultra’s 6.9-inch screen. Of course, structural integrity problems with the screen have severely hampered the feasibility of this combination. It will be interesting to see how the company did it.
At 7.6 inches (2208 x 1768, 374 ppi) the main screen remains largely unchanged. The title screen is also roughly the same at 6.2 inches – although it now plugs into the main screen at a refresh rate of 120 Hz.
Notably, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the first Samsung device to add a camera under the display. This, along with foldable displays, has been one of the biggest Holy Grails in the smartphone category for a number of years. Samsung isn’t the first to introduce the technology. A handful of Chinese manufacturers, including Xiaomi and Oppo, have either released devices with this technology or are planning to do so.
It’s telling that the company chose to test the water with the fold. Aside from the obvious aspect of creating a cohesive display, it gives the company the opportunity to try another mainstream technology. The dirty little secret of the first generation under-screen cameras is that the picture quality tends to be poor. Samsung certainly knows this and has chosen to stick it on a device that already has a selfie camera above the front display.
The company describes the new technology as follows: “Z Fold 3 has an enlarged field of view, so users have an uninterrupted screen for their favorite apps.” The idea is that the internal camera just isn’t used that much, except for things like teleconferencing (which of course we did a lot more in the last year). As currently configured, it’s a little compromise on both ends. The image quality suffers and the camera hole is still half visible. So either the best or the worst of both worlds, depending on what you’re looking for.
The camera under the display is four megapixels (when was the last time you saw one of these?) Compared to the 10 megapixel front / cover camera. The setup of the rear view camera is practically identical to that of the predecessor:
- 12MP ultra wide. F2.2, pixel size: 1.12 μm, FOV: 123 degrees
- 12MP wide angle. Dual Pixel AF, OIS, F1.8, pixel size: 1.8 μm, FOV: 83 degrees
- 12MP telephoto lens. PDAF, F2.4, OIS, pixel size: 1.0 μm, field of view: 45 degrees
The battery got a little damper, from 4,500 to 4,400 mAh (distributed over two modules, as well as the foldable type). The Fold also supports Fast Charge / Fast Wireless and Wireless Powershare to use this 4,400 mAh battery to power other devices. Samsung generally doesn’t offer phone battery estimates before it is released, so wait for the review. The whole thing is powered by a Snapdragon 888 chip (depending on the market), paired with 12 GB of RAM and either 256 or 512 GB of memory.
Like the other devices announced today, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is available for pre-order now and will ship on the 26th. The $ 1,800 price tag remains a barrier to greater mainstream adoption, even though the company has already moved a number of these devices to early adopters. Pre-orders receive $ 200 Samsung credit.