Some things never change. Fast-forward to the 2020s and Microsoft is hawking a new PC platform called Windows 11; Amazon and Google resemble startup nation-states; and we are still the coolest kids in the office with our new flip smartphone (the shiny new Galaxy Z Flip3).
Yes, we recently purchased Samsung’s modern-day equivalent of those ultra-cool flip phones from a quarter-century ago. The Galaxy Z Flip3 was announced in August 2021, representing the third generation of Samsung’s efforts to market a foldable phone. The Z Flip’s cousin, the Galaxy Z Fold3, was also introduced at the same time. Both unique phones feature a special type of flexible glass that allows the device to actually fold in half. The Z Fold3 folds horizontally, and the Z Flip3 folds vertically.
While the bendable glass of the Z Flip3 phone makes it seem like a novelty, it actually is a really good Android-based smartphone. Aside from all the unique features, we found the phone to be comparable to a Galaxy S21 phone except for a slightly less robust battery life. When unfolded, the phone display is vivid and tall (taller than the iPhone 12 Pro Max or the Galaxy S21). It has both facial recognition and fingerprint unlocking options. We especially like the fingerprint sensor being located on the side of the phone as opposed to on the screen or on the back of the phone near the cameras.
“While the phone compares favorably to top-of-the-line iPhones and Galaxy S models, the bendable glass is what makes it shine. You can literally fold the phone in half.”
Additionally, the phone has two rear cameras and one front-facing camera, which is fine for our purposes but less than the three rear camera configuration found on the latest iPhone and Galaxy S models. And, of course, the Z Flip3 is 5G-enabled.
IT HAS BENDABLE GLASS!
While the phone compares favorably to top-of-the-line iPhones and Galaxy S models, the bendable glass is what makes it shine. You can literally fold the phone in half to a compact 2.8-by-3.4-inch form factor that fits nicely in your pocket. Samsung has included a small cover screen on the reverse side of the phone so that you can see the date, time and other notifications while the phone is folded. You can even answer calls directly from this screen without unfolding the phone — the speakerphone function is activated automatically.
Unlike the nostalgic flip phones of old, you really can’t “unflip” the phone with a simple flick of the wrist (darn it … that always looked so cool). The phone is rigid enough that it takes two hands to unfold it. Once unfolded, you get the full 6.5-by-2.8 screen to work with. There is a crease in the glass right in the middle where the phone folds. At first, this crease is very noticeable and maybe a little distracting. The more we’ve used the phone, however, the more the crease just sort of faded from our focus.
If you leave the Z Flip3 flat, you use it just like any other smartphone with a giant display. However, when you bend it at a 90-degree angle, you can set it up on a desk and watch a video or participate in a video call hands-free. This “desktop” configuration is what we love the most about the Z Flip3. It’s especially handy when traveling. You can even configure one app to show in the top half of the display and another app in the bottom half. Or you can take advantage of the natural split in the display to use a single app in the dual-screen mode.
If you are into selfies — we have been advised to refrain from those — you’ll love the ability to set up the phone in desktop mode and shoot hands-free selfies from the more powerful rear cameras. Your selfies never looked so good. More useful to us than the hands-free selfie capability is the ability to shoot a hands-free video while the phone is stationary in desktop mode. No more shaky-hand problems for our videos when we are capturing an important lecture at a conference.
There are many things to love about our new Galaxy Z Flip3. The price is not one of them. It’s priced at a premium, though the price point has gotten lower from the previous foldables from Samsung. Phone retailers are, however, offering good incentives on trade-ins, so we took advantage by trading in an older Galaxy S10 phone and got a nice rebate.
We probably would not pay full price for the Z Flip3 (although it is tempting). But given the rebate incentives offered, we jumped at the opportunity to pocket our first flip phone since 1998 — and we love it!