Last year, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 2 launched with dozens of hardware improvements that put its predecessor to shame. But the newly-announced Galaxy Z Fold 3 doesn’t make such massive leaps; it’s a much more subtle refinement of Samsung’s famous foldable design. So what sets the Galaxy Z Fold 3 apart from its forebear? What’s new?
Let’s start with what hasn’t changed. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 still uses the same primary camera array, with a 12MP wide lens, a 12MP ultra-wide lens, and a 12MP telephoto lens. It still sports a 7.6-inch 120Hz inner foldable display, and its narrow outer display is still just 6.2 inches (although it’s bumped up to a 120Hz refresh rate). Other small features, like the stereo speakers and side-mounted fingerprint reader, remain mostly unchanged.
But everything else about the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is new, or at least tweaked in some way.
Hidden Cameras, S Pen Support, and a New Cover Screen
Samsung made a lot of small design changes with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but these minor differences really add up. First, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is slightly thinner and lighter than its predecessor—Samsung claims that the new phone is “lighter than a cup of coffee,” which is kind of a strange thing to say … anyway, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 weighs 271 grams while the Z Fold 2 weighs 282 grams.
The new Galaxy Z Fold 3 also follows a slightly new design language. While the Z Fold 2 mimics the color schemes and square camera humps of Samsung’s S20 and S21 devices, the Z Fold 3 sticks to more subdued colors and features a thin camera array (even though the lenses are all the same). The hinge also sticks out less than its predecessor’s, providing a slightly cleaner look.
Unlike the Galaxy Z Fold 2, the new Fold 3’s outer display features a snappy 120Hz refresh rate. Samsung also swapped out the Fold’s inner 10MP hole-punch camera for a 4MP under-display camera. Naturally, this new inner camera takes worse photos than its predecessor, though it could be less of an eyesore when you’re watching videos or playing games. Or not.
But the biggest change that comes to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is S Pen support. While the “foldable glass” screen is still too soft to use a regular S Pen or off-brand stylus, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a built-in digitizer and could be perfect for writing notes. You just need to buy the new $50 S Pen Fold Edition, which uses a soft, spring-loaded tip to avoid damaging the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s screen.
Oh, and unless you want to carry the S Pen Fold Edition in your pocket, you’ll also need a Galaxy Z Fold 3 case with a built-in S Pen holder. (If you want the full Galaxy Z Fold 3 experience, you have to spend a lot of money.)
Water-Resistance, a More Durable Display, a Stronger Hinge
Foldable phones are notoriously fragile, and while the Galaxy Z Fold 3 probably shouldn’t be manhandled, it does seem to be a bit more durable than Samsung’s previous foldables. Not only is the inner screen 80% tougher than the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s screen, but its outer display sports new Gorilla Glass DX+ for extra protection.
A new Aluminum Armor hinge ensures that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 can handle 200,000 folds in its lifespan, but of course, Samsung makes similar claims about all of its hinge designs. Given that the new Z Fold 3 still lacks an IPX dust-resistance rating, it’s probably vulnerable to dust and pocket sand, just like its predecessor.
But there’s one interesting spec here—an IPX8 water-resistance rating. Samsung says that the Fold 3 can survive a submersion and even showed the device next to a kiddie pool in one of its promotional videos (though the company says you shouldn’t take the phone to a beach or pool).
Samsung claims that it achieved an IPX8 rating through the use of gaskets and special water-repellent grease. The gaskets keep moisture from touching the phone’s electronic components, while the special grease prevents its hinge from getting rusty. This is clearly an improvement over the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s build quality, which lacked any water-resistance certification.
And of Course, a Few Spec Bumps
Along with all the hardware and design changes, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 features some upgraded specs that put it in line with Samsung’s Galaxy Note devices. There’s a new 5nm 64-bit Octa-Core Processor, which is the smallest yet in a Galaxy device, plus 12GB of RAM and 256GB or 512GB of storage. Wi-Fi 6 support also makes an appearance, which may provide faster Wi-Fi speeds when connected to a compatible router.
Yeah, RAM and storage are identical between the Fold 2 and Fold 3, but the new phone’s upgraded 5nm processor is a major leap from the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s Snapdragon 865 chip. With this new processor, the Fold 3 is really the first foldable to offer flagship performance on par with Samsung’s Galaxy Note series.
And really, that’s the big idea behind the new Galaxy Z Fold 3. Samsung wants it to feel like a real, usable device with a fast processor and premium features. Thanks to improved durability and other refinements, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 can finally carry the flagship label and free itself from the realm of “concept” devices. That may explain why Samsung chose not to release any Galaxy Note devices this year—well, maybe supply shortages are the real reason, but we’ll ignore that for now.
SAMSUNG Galaxy Z Fold 3 5G Cell Phone, Factory Unlocked 2-in-1 Android Smartphone Tablet, 512GB, 120Hz, Foldable Dual Screen, Under Display Camera, US Version, Phantom Black
Samsung's refined Galaxy Z Fold 3 packs a new, large cover screen, S Pen support, and an IPX8 water-resistance rating. Pre-order it now starting at $1800.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Pre-order the Galaxy Z Fold 3 on Samsung’s website for a $200 credit. Samsung will also let you trade in 4 items to help pay for your device.