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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review: Y2K nostalgia

Is the Flip 3 enough to bring the classic flip phone from simple nostalgic memories to actual modern-day reality?

Price
£790 exc VAT
  • Compact design
  • Vibrant display
  • Fast connectivity
  • Unimpressive battery life
  • Distracting screen crease

There's something incredible about seeing a flip phone in the wild in 2022 - like an extinct animal suddenly being spotted in someone's pocket. Part of this resurgence can be credited to Samsung, which took the seemingly-outdated flip phone and revitalised it to meet the modern consumer's needs. This includes a touchscreen, 5G network connectivity, and wireless charging - features that its early-2000s forefathers could only dream of.

Apart from the addition of 5G and some design tweaks, however, the third generation of the Galaxy Z Flip doesn't seem to differ too much from its predecessors. But is it enough to bring the classic flip phone from a simple nostalgic relic to modern-day reality?

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: Design

Although looks aren't everything, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G is all about design - and that's not limited to its ability to bend open and shut. Topped off with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, the back of the Flip 3 5G comes in four colour options: black, a greyish dark green, a bright lavender, and a pastel-like light yellow described as "cream". We reviewed the latter, and the colour isn't as bad as it sounds, especially encompassed by the silver-toned aluminium frame. 

As opposed to previous models, however, the new Flip has a thick black panel surrounding the two camera lenses and preview screen. This strip takes up more than a third of the top lid, and we're definitely not fans of the two-tone effect it creates; In our opinion, the Flip would look much better if it was allowed to shine in its yellow-and-silver glory. Instead, the contrast of the black strip makes the device look like a washed-out bumblebee.

That being said, Samsung has also introduced the option to customise your Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G model by mixing and matching differently-coloured exteriors in 49 possible combinations. The Bespoke Edition, as it is known, also comes in pink and white instead of the lavender, and was showcased during the 2022 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Overall, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G is easy to open and shut, with the device able to maintain the user's preferred angle of closure by itself. So you can choose to open the phone only halfway - at a 45° angle, for example - and place it on your table to conduct video conferences similarly to a very tiny laptop. Not a lot of smartphones can boast a similar function, and it's definitely a welcome change from trying to balance an iPhone using random objects when conducting hands-free calls.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: Display

The 6.7in touchscreen is one of the high points of the Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G. With a maximum brightness of 382 cd/m2 and 100% sRGB gamut coverage, Samsung once again takes the crown for an immaculately-designed display. However, this splendour is somewhat tarnished by the crease in the middle which enables the Flip 3 to fold in half. 

Samsung says the panel is rated to withstand up to 200,000 folds; we obviously didn't have the device long enough to test its hinge to that extent, but the crease across the centre of the display is very noticeable, to begin with. The prospect of it becoming even deeper could make it very unpleasant. Additionally, the crease is especially noticeable under your thumb when scrolling up and down the screen. This isn't a complete deal-breaker but might take some getting used to if you previously only interacted with perfectly smooth displays.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G also sports a second, smaller preview display which comes to life when the phone is clasped shut. At 1.9in, it's useful when checking the time, battery, and weather status, previewing selfies, or getting a glimpse at an incoming text message or call notifications during a business meeting, but unfortunately, it doesn't provide much use beyond that. It would be great if Samsung added a simple, one-touch function to allow users to quickly reply to a text message (for instance: "Ok") while keeping the phone closed.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: Performance

As expected, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor and 8GB RAM deliver a seamless experience without any lags or issues, and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 scored 941 in Geekbench 5's single-core test and 3,432 in the multicore section. This is a significant improvement from the original Z Flip, and is reflected in the device's day-to-day performance. It's also more or less on par with Samsung's other foldable, the Galaxy Fold 3, as well as the recent S22 Ultra.

Now for the bad part: we found the Galaxy Z Flip 3's 3,300 mAh battery less than impressive. The device lasted just 12hrs 3mins in our looped video test - a third shorter than the iPhone 13's 18 hours of battery life, not to mention the 22 hours offered by the Google Pixel 6 Pro

The so-called 'fast' charging is also limited to 15W, rather than the 25W seen on the Galaxy Fold 3, which means refilling the battery isn't going to be as speedy as it could be - and even the Fold 3 lagged behind competitors in that area. On the plus side, the Flip 3 comes equipped with wireless charging as well as Wireless PowerShare, which allows the device to double as a wireless power bank.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: Camera(s)

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 comes equipped with a pair of 12MP rear camera lenses and a 10MP front lens, which seems lacking when compared to the Galaxy S22's 50MP main camera. Yet, despite being far from a photographer's dream setup, the Flip manages to deliver surprisingly well colour-recreated images, while its bendy design can be used to stabilise the device on surfaces for hands-free photoshoots and video calls. 

Another impressive feature is the Flip 3's ability to preview a shot on its smaller screen, which allows users to take selfies using the 12 MP rear camera instead of the 10 MP front lens. This makes it easier for the subject of the photograph to preview what the image will look like, allowing for more seamless collaboration between the photographer and photographed -- and with better results.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: Features

Security-conscious users will be impressed by the array of authentication methods offered by the Galaxy Z Flip 3, which range from pattern, PIN, password and biometric facial recognition and fingerprint scanning. The latter deserves a special round of applause as it's by far the best-working fingerprint scanner we've tested recently, trumping the hit-and-miss TouchID technology previously offered by Apple.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 also comes equipped with Samsung's usual fan-favourite offerings: a dual SIM slot, 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth 5, and IPX8-rated water resistance.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review: Verdict

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a great smartphone that offers a fun experience alongside impressive capabilities if you choose to carry around a charger to top up its weak battery. However, many of its best features, such as its vibrant display or wireless charging, are also available on devices that don't have a crease right in the middle of its screen. 

Hence, we would probably gravitate towards a less flexible Samsung phone offering or choose to wait for a smartphone which has perfected bending without any creases instead of shelling out for the Flip 3. Even with such a unique design, you need to nail the basics -- and the Flip just hasn't gotten there yet.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G specifications

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM8GB
Screen(s)Main Screen: 6.7in Dynamic AMOLED 2X
(2640 x 1080)
Cover Screen: 1.9in Super AMOLED
(260 x 512)
Front camera10 MP
Rear camera12MP, 12MP
Dust and water resistanceIPX8
3.5mm headphone jackNo
Wireless chargingsupports 10W wireless charging and Wireless PowerShare
USB connection typeUSB Type-C 3.2
Storage options128GB / 256GB
Memory card slot (supplied)No
Wi-Fi802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax 2.4G+5GHz, HE80, MIMO, 1024-QAM
NFCYes
Bluetooth5.0, A2DP, LE, aptX
Cellular data5G, LTE
Dual SIMYes
Dimensions (WDH)Open: 72.2 x 166 x 6.9 mm
Closed: 72.2 x 86.4 x 17.1~15.9 mm
Weight183g
Operating systemAndroid 10
Battery size3300 mAh
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