If you are getting a foldable phone, good choice! But if you're wondering which one fits your needs better, it can be hard to make a choice.
After extensive use of the Samsung Z Flip3 and Z Fold3, we found some interesting quirks about them. We did a real-world test to look beyond the surface of these beautifully designed foldables to help you decide which of these two would be the right one for you.
The Z Flip3’s clamshell design kinda resembles a makeup compact powder, while the Z Fold3 has the familiar feel of opening a book.
Both of these phones have a foldable AMOLED 2X Display with an adaptive refresh rate of 120Hz, similar to many of the other flagships that have been released this year. You may find the screen's plasticky feel to the touch a little unfamiliar compared to the normal glass construction in most other phones, and they still have some way to go to completely eliminate the crease.
The Z Flip3 makes a statement for compact phones, with a 6.7-inch display, and its now-larger 1.9-inch Cover Screen. It is a refreshing revival of the flip phone, but if you’re hoping to bring back the nostalgia of the 2000s with a phone you can snap open and shut with attitude, this won’t be where you find it. You’ll have to open this with both hands, so we kinda wish there was a spring mechanism to it.
The Cover Screen gives you a preview of your notifications and control with certain app widgets without having to flip open your phone all the time. So, if you’re looking to reduce your screen time or are struggling with tech addiction, this could be a comforting way to know you’re not missing out on anything. It gives you enough resistance to not want to flip open your phone all the time and fall into a pit of doom scrolling.
The Z Fold 3 on the other hand with a much larger 7.6-inch display when unfolded, is designed to be a workhorse to push the boundaries of what a normal phone could do on a daily basis. It obviously gives you more room to work and play. It is a powerhouse in its own respect running on a Snapdragon 888 and 12GB of RAM, with the option of 256GB or 512GB of internal storage.
Multitasking feels comparable to a tablet. Creating slides or building spreadsheets feels like it was made for it in some ways, without having to work on a completely separate device. The ability to open a split-screen view for browsing through the web while writing your ideas on another window may exist in most phones already, but in this circumstance, bigger is better.
Typing feels natural as it fits comfortably when using both hands. Something about the right amount of spaces in between letters on a keyboard makes a world of difference for long-form writing. But for smaller hands, we find typing in Portrait more comfortable than Landscape.
We also wish it came with a stylus built-in like the Note Series to make the experience a little more enjoyable with the amount of real estate it has - it would have been ideal for doodling or handwriting. You’ll have to buy that separately though, even though there is a dedicated S Pen Fold Edition for the Z Fold3.
The S Pen Pro would also work with the Z Fold3. However, if you happen to have the other S Pens like the Galaxy Note S Pen, the Galaxy S21 Ultra S Pen, or the Galaxy Tab S Pen - unfortunately you’ll still have to buy yet another stylus as they won't be compatible with the specially designed foldable screen.
You can also use it closed with just the external screen, a convenient option for when you’re on the go. This should serve you well as your main display for casual use like replying to text messages or scrolling through Instagram. It basically does everything the internal screen would do but in a taller aspect ratio.
A quick warning though, if you choose to switch to the internal display midway through a task, some apps will request to restart the app if you already have it running. For example, crafting a post on Instagram and switching displays halfway will restart the app and you may lose your carefully crafted caption. So bear this in mind and save your progress/drafts for some apps that are not yet optimised for both aspect ratios.
As for the Z Flip3, despite being the "affordable" option between the two, we were impressed that it packs a good amount of power, also running on the Snapdragon 888 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB or 256GB of storage. It performs beautifully in day-to-day use, as you would expect from a flagship phone.
For portability, we found ourselves reaching for the Z Flip3 more often with its lightweight design coming in at 183 grams and it fits into a pocket easier as well.
The Z Fold3 on the other hand is significantly heavier at 271 grams, but it’s actually pretty nice to hold on to and move around with when it’s folded, despite the heft. It still fits nicely into the pocket of your jeans, though we won’t be able to say the same for women’s clothing and their smaller pockets.
So, is it worth carrying around the extra weight and all those screens? If you already have a tablet with you, you’ll likely reach for that or your laptop more often for work and stick to using your phone as a single screen. But if you’re always on the move and looking to expand your ease of working while keeping to a single device, then this is a good choice.
If you're into gaming, both the Z Flip3 and Z Fold3 hold up pretty well with the 120Hz refresh rate. It’s a slightly more enjoyable experience with the Z Fold3 if we'd have to choose, given a much bigger screen and immersive stereo speakers. Some games utilise this 4:3 aspect ratio and provide a full-screen experience, giving you some advantages in intense matches. Buttons in games are better placed in comparison to traditionally sized screens but this also depends on how big your hands are.
Even with the Z Flip3, it has a wider aspect ratio thanks to its tall configuration, which makes some games feel as if you have a wider field of view, such as racing or first-person-shooter games. However, the Z Flip3 isn't exactly suitable for intense gaming since it only comes with a 3,300mAh battery, which we found does not even reach a full day of casual use. In fact, we’ve gone to sleep at night with 30% and woke up to find the battery at 15%, just being on standby.
So you might want to look into the Z Fold3 if battery life is your biggest concern, which we found will last you a day of extensive use in multitasking, watching videos online, and intense gaming with its 4,400mAh battery.
Moving on to cameras, taking pictures is where the Flip and Fold offer a unique experience.
The Z Flip3 has a dual-camera construction with a 12MP wide and ultra-wide camera on the back and a 10MP selfie camera on the front.
You can take photos with the phone folded by pressing the volume button. Taking pictures in its half-opened orientation comes quite useful for lower to the ground shots or when you want to take selfies but don’t have a tripod or a place to balance your phone. You can pop it open on a surface, then use the Cover Screen to view the framing of the picture when you use the back camera - so if you’re travelling alone or want to include everyone in a group photo, this is definitely useful.
You can also make video calls in this upright position and not have to hold the phone throughout, but then you'll be viewing only half of the screen.
The Z Fold3 on the other hand has a triple camera array with a 12MP ultra-wide, 12MP wide-angle and 12MP telephoto lens. The selfie camera on the cover display is 10MP and you get a 4MP under-display camera when unfolded.
It can feel a little unnatural when snapping away with it unfolded. But in certain situations where you could use a bigger viewfinder, this orientation will come in handy. The experience for the subject however is where it shines - your subject will be able to view themselves in the shot on the outer screen while you’re taking a picture. We imagine this would be a practical feature for some of the Instagram enthusiasts out there. But most of the time, you will find taking pictures with the phone folded will do just fine.
The picture quality on both devices is evenly matched, providing consistent exposure in both bright and low light settings, with high dynamic range, contrast-y Samsung colours and detail for your photos.
Video capabilities however are where the Z Fold3 gets ahead. While the Z Flip3 is still able to shoot in 4K at 30fps, you’ll notice the Z Fold3 gives you a level of finesse when compared side by side. While colours, exposure and detail are a close match, the Z Fold3 in this category ranges up to 4K at 60fps, 1080p at 60fps to 240fps with gyro-EIS and 960fps at 720p. It also supports HDR10+ in certain settings to give it that little extra oomph. But even at the top of its range, noise and grain are inevitable when light begins to fade. Something about low-light performance in video is still lagging in some smartphones, and we hope to see improvements in the years to come.
In the end, when it comes to choosing the right foldable phone for you, we believe that it always comes down to what your most important needs are.
Priced from RM6,699 or S$2,398 for the Z Fold3, and from RM3,999 or $1,398 for the Z Flip3, it's marketed for very different users.
If your cup of tea consists of a bleeding-edge display with priorities in productivity and the highest range in cameras, then the Z Fold3 might be your winner. But if you enjoy a fun and compact phone with all the bells and whistles of a flagship, then the Z Flip3 could be a great match for you. Either way, it's an impressive feat to see where foldables have come to in our current times and where they would end up in our lifetimes, for when folds within touchscreen phones were once just a fairytale.
Content by Melissa Tan & Fitri Aiyub