The smug satisfaction that comes with using two apps at once on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 hasn’t worn off. The combination of being an early adopter of new technology is a powerful, potent superiority drug that I’m currently in the thralls of.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: A unique, rich experience that can’t be matched.
Of course the Fold 1 and Fold 2 offered the same multi-tasking skills, but there is refinement here. Small details like Multi View, where one side is dedicated to a menu, whilst the other is dedicated to a sub menu, really drills down into what this device is about. If you consider what’s awkward and clunky about using your phone for anything that requires a bit more dexterity, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 solves that.
Gmail and WhatsApp are good examples of this. In Gmail, the list of senders is on one side, with the email open on the other, which means I can quickly switch between emails without going back and forth. Gmail uses the Multi View feature to do this. For WhatsApp, the same thing is available—the list of chats on one side with individual conversations on the other—via the App Split feature.
It’s a more productive way to use your phone and, as I said in my original Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 review, exactly what I expect from mobile computing. What I really like is how Samsung has thought deeply about how to utilize the larger screen across the entire device. Drag & Split lets you drag items on shopping sites into a new window so you can compare side by side.
The App Split function I mentioned earlier does a similar thing with shopping apps. But the kicker is that they only work with certain apps. Drag & Split can only be used with Samsung’s proprietary browser and some other Samsung and Microsoft apps. App Split currently works with Wish, WhatsApp and the Samsung Members app.
The Fold 3 can support up to three apps at once.
I suspect a futile drive to get people to use Samsung’s own apps, alongside the difficulty in getting third party developers to play ball, is the reason for this. But it doesn’t stop the feeling that the phone’s full potential is unrealised, like a race car without a track to speed down.
This will change with updates and as Samsung builds these features out, which makes me wonder: Surely it could do the same with the Fold 2? These aren’t hardware specific features and absolutely could be an update for last year’s Fold. I don’t know if Samsung will filter these features down the version pipeline, but if it does, you can pick up a Fold 2 for a decent price these days.
That is ultimately a salient point about the Fold 3: It simply isn’t that different compared to the Fold 2. The camera setup is exactly the same, the main display is the same and it’s marginally more powerful with the updated Snapdragon 888 processor.
The camera isn’t any different to the last model, which wasn’t wildly different to the camera tech on the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus. This isn’t bad. The Fold 3 takes nice pictures, with good contrast and vibrant colors. Pictures have good dynamic range and don’t look overly sharpened, but they also lack the detail of Samsung’s S21 Ultra.
The phone’s night time photography is also decent, producing well lit images without too much noise in awkward lighting scenarios. But when I look over at what Apple is doing with its latest iPhone 13 camera tech, especially the cinema mode, I can’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy. Regardless of that, I have taken some really nice pictures with this phone and buyers who pick up this up won’t feel like it’s lacking.
Darker and lighter shots with the Fold 3. CMS compression caveats apply.
The Fold 3 would benefit from a better level of photography in a few ways. The bigger screen means you can genuinely use apps like Adobe’s premiere rush without feeling too cramped, or Lightroom’s granular controls to fine tune your images. This phone is built for exactly this, so it needs some camera hardware to back it up. However I have enjoyed creating content on this device over the last month and it has replaced having to open up my laptop or boot up my PC. With the right apps, the Fold 3 is a fast and capable creative suite.
That’s aided by the new low-latency S Pen. I didn’t get to review the Pen, but I know from experience with other Samsung devices that the ability to annotate, draw and tackle tasks with precision really enhances the larger screen experience.
What negatively impacts the big screen fun is the battery life. It isn’t bad, rather it’s bang average. I get roughly between five to six hours of screen on time before it dies. In day-to-day use I find the phone will be dead before I go to bed; with heavy use I’m charging more than once a day.
I’m not sure Samsung can do much to solve this without bulking the phone out, but I think adopting the notification display on the Z Flip 3 might be a way forward. Especially if it means more internal space for a larger power pack. On day trips I have found myself carrying a portable charger in my small bag too. I don’t fully trust the lasting power of the phone in the same way I do for the S21 Ultra.
With that said, I still utterly adore using this phone. The shine hasn’t worn off because it is just plain fun to use. Samsung has smartly leaned into what the point of book-shaped foldable phones is with refined software that concentrates the experience.
There are small examples of that dotted around the phone, which I’ve discovered over the last few weeks. For example there’s an option to toggle on Dolby Atmos in the settings menu, which genuinely emulates some form of surround sound when watching content on the device’s speakers. I also really like how seamlessly video apps like Netflix shrink to a small window when another app is opened without losing a beat. Or the Google Discover page showing two columns of stories at once. It’s all so slick.
There are phones out there that cost less and have a better camera, battery life and a more reasonable form factor. But If you want to shun the sensible part of your brain, the Fold 3 won’t disappoint. It is very much a luxury purchase that injects some fun into using your smartphone, which most traditional handsets simply don’t do.
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