It’s August, and today is Samsung’s latest big Unpacked event. Normally, that would mean time for a new Galaxy Note. But in the company’s own words, not “this time.” The new Note won’t be released this year, so the Note 20 and Note 20 Ultra will stay where they are in Samsung’s lineup. Instead, this summer will focus on what Samsung sees as the future of phones: foldable. The company has just unveiled the new Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3, which showcase the possibilities of folding screens in different ways.
Z Fold 3 is a productivity powerhouse that now has a 120 Hz display both inside and out. And it transfers part of the Galaxy Note’s DNA by adding support for the S Pen. But what’s even more important than regular technical upgrades is Samsung’s message of sustainability: the Fold 3 is more durable than its predecessor.
Remember: this is technically fourth Galaxy Fold if you count invalid, failed first attempt, and the company acknowledges that sustainability issues remain to be addressed. Samsung advanced with Galaxy Z Fold 2, but some people still faced cracking screens and other presentation stopping issues during normal use that shouldn’t happen — even if Samsung customer service would make it right for them.
So for the Fold 3, Samsung made a number of changes to the device’s materials and internal design that should give the $ 1,799 foldable smartphone a better chance to last for years to come. It looks similar to Fold 2, but there are improvements everywhere. The screen protector is now 80 percent stronger; Samsung is using Gorilla Glass Victus on the cover improve fall protection; The aluminum of the Fold 3 hinge is now 10 percent stronger. The entire device now has a waterproof IPX8 rating, so you can immerse it for up to 30 minutes and it should come undamaged.
The Z Fold 3 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888, with 12GB of RAM and 256GB or 512GB of storage. Its three rear cameras are close to the Fold 2: f / 1.8 wide, f / 2.0 ultra-wide, and the f / 2.4 still uses 12-megapixel cells, and the apertures remain the same. But the telephoto lens now has optical image stabilization. Also, the 10 megapixel camera on the cover is the same.
But there’s quite a change in the camera on the Fold 3’s primary display. Samsung has moved from a perforated selfie camera to a screen. This is not the first time we have seen such an approach; Xiaomi announced yesterday a phone with a camera below the screen.
Samsung has a 4 megapixel sensor under the pixels of the screen. It sounds miserable for photos, but the purpose of this camera is really for video chats. The company says it is perfectly suited for Zoom calls and other video conferencing, and 4 MP is enough to produce HD video.
But let’s just face it: you can totally tell you there’s a camera. Samsung says there are “minimum pixels” set on top of the camera’s hole, and they are very noticeable when you look directly at the circle. (It’s even more obvious in the photos, so don’t too in the image below.) It is not intended to completely hide the camera; it makes the screen look like an “unbroken fabric” when you use the phone. Focus on any other part of the screen, and the camera below the screen will disappear in a way that the aperture camera does not. It still seems like a lot of work to make a minimal profit, but sometimes Samsung just wants to bend over. Also, yes, the wrinkle in the center of the screen still exists. I can barely notice it when the screen is on, but it’s well there.
As for the S-Pen, the pen works on the Fold 3’s 7.6-inch primary screen — though oddly not on the cover, Samsung told me. The company developed a special Fold Edition pen that covers all the basics, and also more expensive S Pen Pro support to support and add air gestures and some Bluetooth tricks. (Both are sold separately from the Fold 3.) The S Pen Pro has a handy toggle switch that you can turn when using the pen with other Samsung devices. they apparently use a different frequency than Fold 3.
Both compatible S pens have a “specially designed retractable tip” that limits the force that can be applied to the Fold 3’s display. The screen protector may be 80 percent stronger, but it is still sensitive under very thin glass. Nonetheless, I wrestled pretty hard while on the phone, and the pen left no permanent line marks on the protective film. But I realize it doesn’t help in determining how Fold 3 takes up to a year or more to take notes, sketch, edit PDFs, and so on.
Samsung seems determined to help Z Fold 3 owners make a more spacious display on their property – even when app developers aren’t yet involved. The new Labs feature in Settings lets you put any app on a split screen or pop-up when using multiple tasks. You can also edit the aspect ratio of the application. The company says it has finished multitasking and promises an experience that feels more cohesive and intuitive. You can now permanently attach the Edge panel to the side of the monitor like a dock.
Pre-orders for Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 start today and are available in three colors: black, green and silver. The foldable flagship will go on sale on August 27, along with the Galaxy Z Flip 3, Galaxy Buds 2 and two new smart watches that Samsung introduced today. Stay tuned for our full review soon.
Photographer Chris Welch / The Verge