The night of September 20th was the time that I unboxed the Galaxy Z Fold3, unboxed it, and transferred my stuff over from the Galaxy S21 Ultra. From that day onwards, I never wanted to return to a flat phone again.
Through these 2 months, I went through a lot of adaptation, discovery, some issues, and also growing pains with the Galaxy Z Fold3. So, allow me to share my experience with you.
Okay, so I gotta say outright – we have reviewed both the previous generations in the Fold series, but I’ll still say that the Galaxy Z Fold3 is the first that I’ll consider “mature enough” to daily drive. The IP-rating was unexpected, and the S Pen compatibility sealed the deal for me. Plus, the price is even lower than its predecessors – and that just sweetens the deal for me.
So, I got my hands on the Phantom Green color of the Galaxy Z Fold3, and I immediately realized that the greenness of this Phantom Green isn’t exactly “green” green, per se. Not Kirby’s Green Greens, by the way.
As mentioned earlier, I am migrating from the Galaxy S21 Ultra to the Galaxy Z Fold3. I used Samsung’s Smart Switch to carry all my settings and files over – and just as a quick note, I have been using Smart Switch for a very long time. I started since the S9, then to the S10+, then to the Note20, then the S21 Ultra, and now the Galaxy Z Fold3. I literally have photos in my phone now that were taken using the Galaxy S9 and transferred over to this Galaxy Z Fold3.
Anyway, I knew that Smart Switch is not going to be a seamless transition because the device form factor is completely different when compared to a traditional smartphone. I had to head into the settings and re-explore all the features that are exclusive to the Galaxy Z Fold3.
I took a few weeks’ time to go in and out of the settings menu to do some finetuning before I am finally happy with the settings. One feature that I think many people will need take some time and explore is the Labs menu under Advanced Features. Most of these experimental features are only applicable to the Galaxy Z Fold3 when unfolded – like the custom app aspect ratio, the app split view and Flex Mode.
Personally, I only use these experimental settings on apps that do not work with Fold-specific features. For example, do you know that you can open two apps side by side? I wanted to do this with both Lazada and Shopee so that I can compare the prices when I want to do some shopping.
However, it turns out that Shopee doesn’t support this feature. So, we gotta head into the Labs menu and enable “multi window for all apps” feature. Then, it’ll work – kind of. The UI is still buggy and everything is misplaced, but I can compare prices between Lazada and Shopee – which is what I wanted to do in the first place.
By the way, one new feature with One UI 3.1 is the screen layout. Out of the box, it’s using the “multi view” screen layout which actually means “tablet layout”. I know this because Gboard changes into the tablet layout.
So, I gotta live with two different Gboard layouts – first one is the tablet layout when the Galaxy Z Fold3 is unfolded, and another phone layout when I am using the cover display. There is no way to configure this in a per-application level, by the way.
Speaking of the cover display, I actually find myself utilizing this cover display a lot. Yes, I do think that the cover display is quite lanky since everything is squished horizontally but has a lot of space vertically. Screenshots appear weirdly and many apps got their texts weirdly wrapped around, too.
But, it’s functional. Quick tasks can be done with just the cover display just as efficiently as other conventional flat phones. And when I want to get some serious work done, I can just unfold and get a much larger display to use.
Now, I do have a confession to make – I’m not much of a tablet guy and I personally tried to use a tablet before, but I just don’t find myself picking up a tablet to use – because transitioning my work from a phone to a tablet is quite a hassle. And yet, the Galaxy Z Fold3 solved that issue of mine by just unfolding into a larger display.
Seriously, I never picked up any other Android or Apple tablets to use since I got my hands on this Galaxy Z Fold3.
But, because of the duality of this machine that can morph between a phone or a tablet, that 4,400mAh battery is affected. So let me just describe it to you. When I was using the Galaxy S21 Ultra, I usually end the day with about 45% of battery – which is above 2250mAh battery left.
Translating that 2250mAh over to the Galaxy Z Fold3, I should have about 50% battery left – but that’s not the case.
I presume that is because I switch between both the cover display and the inner display when I use the device. You see, the cover display has 832 x 2268 pixels – that’s about 1.89 million pixels and the inner display has a whopping resolution of 1768 x 2208 – about 3.9 million pixels. The inner display has more than twice the number of pixels of the cover display – and that is definitely going to heavily impact the battery life of the Galaxy Z Fold3.
And throughout my usage, I can confirm that is indeed the case. There was one day that I was using the cover display much more often compared to the inner display and I got about 40% left at the end of the way.
However, for many of the days, I use more of the inner display more – and I only have about 20% left at the end of the way. Do you see the big discrepancy here?
While on that subject, let’s talk about using this inner display to watch shows and play games. I absolutely love this big display. And that under-display camera? I think it’s a genius of an idea to use it with the inner display of the Galaxy Z Fold3. It doesn’t abruptly create a black hole on the screen and the human brain can just fill in the gaps and make it as though the image is whole.
Of course, this comes with a sacrifice too – that under-display camera’s picture quality is heavily affected. However, I don’t see a problem with that since I only use this inner display’s camera to attend calls on Zoom, Google Meet, and Webex.
The greatest thing is, Zoom and Google Meet works natively with the Galaxy Z Fold3’s Flex Mode. So, I just attend briefings and events with the phone propped up. That means I can save space on my desk by chucking the phone stand away.
And I think the battery life is mostly affected by the Snapdragon 888 chipset. I do not like this chipset at all. I don’t play games on my phone, yet this chipset heats up way too much even when I’m just scrolling through Facebook or literally listening to a playlist on Spotify that I have already downloaded.
I have also used the Galaxy S21 Ultra with the Exynos 2100 chipset. and throughout my experience, I do prefer the Exynos 2100 a lot more.
For the cameras, I knew that I’m literally downgrading the cameras when I switch over from the Galaxy S21 Ultra to the Galaxy Z Fold3. And that’s a tradeoff I am willing to make. However, I realized that there are a lot more enhancements to the camera’s user experience that comes with the Galaxy Z Fold3.
For example, Flex mode. It kinda acts like a camera’s flip-out screen and it can also swap its position between the upper and lower half of the screen – so that provides even more flexibility.
Then, since the Galaxy Z Fold3 can literally become its own tripod, I find myself taking more pictures with the Pro photography mode. I can turn the ISO to its minimum of 50, adjust the shutter speed accordingly, and then hit the shutter button and get the best picture that I can possibly hope for. A little movement is fine too, since it does have proper OIS.
Granted, that is only for the main camera. Both the ultrawide and 2x telephoto cameras can still take amazing pictures, but they’re nowhere near as good as the Galaxy S21 Ultra – but I’m okay with that.
One thing I do like a lot though, is the ability to literally unfold into a tablet and getting a much larger viewfinder to take the picture.
I gotta mention a few more personal quirks that I have with the Galaxy Z Fold3, though. The inner display is quite clunky to be used with a traditional 3-button navigational bar and I don’t want to sacrifice the Galaxy Z Fold3’s massive, beautiful screen – so I tried using gesture navigation. And I immediately hated using gestures. It’s slow and had a lot of accidental triggers – especially from the sides.
Currently, I’m still in the process of testing out the gesture navigation that swipes from below.
I’m not sure if I am able to live with this, so we’ll see. Nah, screw that. I went back to 3 button navigation system. Navigating around the phone without any problems is so much better than having to worry about accidental swipes.
I did want to use Bixby Routines to force the cover display to use the traditional 3-button navigational keys and change to the swipe gestures when using the inner display, but that option is not available. By the way, Bixby Routines became one of my favorite features in Samsung’s One UI recently.
I set it to do a few tasks for me – like rotating the screen to landscape orientation when the Galaxy Z Fold3 is fully unfolded and the YouTube app is launched, and also automatically play music from my Spotify playlist when it connects to the car’s Bluetooth system.
The S Pen situation
And of course – we need to talk about the cases available for the Galaxy Z Fold3 – particularly if we want to use the S Pen. I won’t go into detail about the S Pen Fold Edition in this video because we have a review specifically for this pen alone – so watch it at the top right corner there.
What I want to focus here is how we carry the S Pen around with the Galaxy Z Fold3. We reviewed like a total of 3 cases for the Z Fold3 that has an S Pen slot.
I eventually went back to the official Samsung case because of reasons – watch those other two videos to know the full story – and I am still finding a case that fits my usage. By the way, any cases with a magnet will cause the S Pen to not work.
Currently, I am still looking for a case that doesn’t have any adhesive, provides hinge protection AND a proper S Pen slot. The Araree Nukin 360 P actually fits those requirements like a glove – but I don’t like that clear, transparent plastic material. So, I ordered yet another case that has a very similar design to the Araree Nukin 360 P and we’ll have a quick unboxing and review when I get my hands on it.
Spoiler alert: that case sucks like a black hole.
And I need a phone case for the Galaxy Z Fold3 because:
- This is an expensive phone and any slight damage to it will definitely break my heart even if it doesn’t break the phone – I hope.
- Having a case improves the grip of this device especially when unfolding.
- A case provides a place to hold the S Pen.
As a side note, I have seen a lot of people asking if the inner display is actually durable or not. Well, so far I have no issues with it and I definitely didn’t baby this phone. I literally hold my phone like this and press it against my palm nearly everyday – and everything still works just fine. I do realize that I have to wipe the dust away from the inner display – and my usual gesture is by wiping it towards the bottom left corner. That’s why you can see there’s a clump of dust gathered there.
I have also seen some people peeling off the inner display’s included screen protector for a much better feel. Some even install a third-party screen protector for the inner display! I applaud your courage to do that but I’ll stick to the stock screen protector for now.
And that’s it – that’s my 2-month long user experience with the Galaxy Z Fold3 that I have to share with you. So far, I’m really liking this phone butthere are definitely parts of it that can be better – like the battery life. As for app support, that truly depends on the app developers themselves.
These 2 months have been fun and eye-opening for a non-believer of foldable devices at first, eventually grew to see the potential and finally realized its feasibility.