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Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 hands-on: the mainstream foldable phone we've been waiting for?

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung isn't giving up on the foldable phone dream, and with the newly-announced Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G landing on August 27, we're seeing prices drop to much more affordable levels. I've just tried the new compact foldable phone for myself and have come away suitably impressed with an improved device that moves foldable phones that little bit closer to the mainstream. We've also just posted a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 hands-on preview if you're interested in the other model.

The Flip 3 is less expensive than expected, particularly compared to the Fold 3 - that one's still a seriously pricey phone at $1,699/£1,599. By contrast, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 comes in at $999/£949. Far from what I'd call cheap, but that's still less than what you would have paid at launch for some favorite flagship phones like the Note 20 Ultra, S21 Ultra, or iPhone Max Pro. Plus, you're getting something much more unique here. This phone is much more impressive than the previous Flip when opened up.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

(Image credit: Samsung)

An incredibly versatile set of display options

For a start, there's a rather stunning 120Hz display, which is double the refresh rate of the previous model. With the old phone, it felt like you were paying a premium for the foldable tech, and then losing out a little on the phone itself, but that's no longer the case. Now we're getting that smooth scrolling experience we've come to expect over the last couple of years when using any flagship Samsung/OnePlus device (I'm still baffled at the iPhone sticking with 60Hz). It feels like you wouldn't be making a compromise by taking the plunge on the Galaxy Flip 3.

The resolution hasn't changed, but the HDR performance has - we're getting a Dynamic AMOLED display over a Super AMOLED one, which is capable of a wider range of colors and with less blue light emission too. That means it's better for your eyes.

The resistance on the hinge now allows for a wider choice of viewing angles

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 has a 6.7-inch internal display again, but the bezel around it has been greatly reduced. So much so that the phone itself is slightly smaller than last time around.

The phone's edges have been rounded off a bit more as well, so I found the phone quite slippery in the hand, as most modern phones are, so it's certainly going to need a case to avoid getting dropped. Especially if you're going to try and open it one-handed like you might have done with an old Motorola Razr.

That's because it's surprisingly stiff to open one-handed. However, the resistance on the hinge now allows for a wider choice of viewing angles when you put the phone down, which is much better for video calls.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

(Image credit: Samsung)

The crease in the center of the screen is still there though, and I think it's going to be a year or two until Samsung works out that particular wrinkle. But in all honesty? I barely noticed it. When the screen goes black it's at its most noticeable, but I stopped seeing it when navigating menus or browsing on Chrome. It's not that distracting to the touch either, and with it being in the center it won't be much of an issue as the lower third of the screen is where most touches and swipes take place.

When folded halfway into an L-shape, the Flip 3 is great for video calls or lining up photos. The display will change automatically if you're watching video content and while very small, if you have it on a table nearby, it's very watchable for short content on a break or commute.

The redesigned front cover display shows much more information as well - it offers a 1.9-inch screen that’s four times bigger than the previous model. It’s still fairly small, but large enough to comfortably display track information on Spotify, show a WhatsApp message, or even scroll through a longer email. In short, there’s much more you can do now without even opening the phone up at all. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

(Image credit: Samsung)

Small yet mighty

The Samsung Galaxy Flip 3 has plenty to consider beyond those impressive display features, of course. So let's quickly round up a few other specs and features before we get our hands on a review unit to test more extensively.

The selfie camera is a respectable 10MP, which makes for high-quality video calls too. And if you use the video call app, Google Duo, the camera automatically zooms in and out to fit you in the frame or allow more people to join in next to you. Again, that L-shape mode is great for quick calls and not having to hold the phone during or prop it up against something (because they always fall over when I try to do this).

The main camera isn't bad either. If you’re spending close to a grand on a phone, foldable or not, you really want to see a great main camera on the phone too, and the 12MP snapper on the back is happy to oblige. I was limited to testing it in a well-lit demo area, so I'll hold off a full verdict on the cameras until I can get it out in the wild and test it in the dark too, but so far so good. There was plenty of rich detail and reasonable zoom performance on display.

You don't need to worry about taking snaps near water, either - the Flip and Fold 3 are set to become the first foldable phones with IPX8 rating for water resistance, which instantly makes them more appealing as a pricey phone with one less vulnerability.

What about gaming, then? There were no games installed on my demo unit, but I'll be sure to put it through its paces at a later stage, as that tabletop mode could be quite interesting when paired with a controller. Maybe it'll make its way onto our best gaming phones list.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

(Image credit: Samsung)

Prime portability

The colors available for the Flip 3 feel fairly muted, but that seems to be the trend across the brands right now on most flagships. Phantom Black, Green, Lavender, and Cream will be available at your usual mobile phone retailers, but the White, Pink, and Gray will be Samung.com exclusives. Of the ones I had a look at, the lavender and cream models seem to be the standouts.

Samsung will be selling a wide selection of specially-designed folding covers to pick up alongside your new phone, and the palette here offers some much-needed punch. If you like the look of the phone already, clear covers will be available too.

If you're popping it into a pocket solo, a handbag, or super small clutch, you'll absolutely adore it

Unlike the Fold 3 series, which sees a regular phone fold out into a tablet, the Flip 3's charm lies in it folding into a much more compact square design then folding out into something akin to one of today's larger phones. It really is tiny when folded and doesn't feel too thick either, although if you keep your phone and wallet in the same pocket you might find it's a bit more of a squeeze. But if you're popping it into a pocket solo, a handbag, or super small clutch, you'll absolutely adore it. 

After getting my hands on the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 for a few hours, it's beginning to look like the foldables market might just have a chance at breaking through sooner than we thought. Sure, the bigger Samsung Galaxy Fold 3 might be the device that has me drooling more as we chase that futuristic horizon (just give me that foldable tablet from Westworld, already damnit!), but the Z Flip 3 is much more affordable (relatively speaking that is) and comes with enough unique features to be genuinely useful beyond the cool factor of having a foldable phone.

The Samsung Galaxy Flip 3 5G will be released August 27 and Samsung is taking pre-orders right now. Be sure to check out our Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 hands-on preview too.

Brendan Griffiths

Brendan is GamesRadar's Managing Editor of the Hardware & eCommerce team. Formerly the Deals Editor at our sister site, TechRadar, he's obsessed with finding the best tech, games, gadgets, and hardware at the lowest price. He spends way too much of his free time trying to decide what new things to watch on Netflix, then just rewatches It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia instead.