Samsung rules the foldable market for now, and while that makes it the king of a sparsely populated hill, its foldables are waiting for some competitors to knockdown. We should finally see that happen later this year, but for now, Samsung’s foldables reign supreme together.
Samsung made an almost unfathomable leap forward with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 last year. As we wait for it to launch its third-generation foldables on August 11, let’s take a look at how these two very different foldables stack up against one another based on what we know today. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 offers massive screen real estate (and likely a price to match), while the Galaxy Z Flip 3 should be a pocketable powerhouse with a 6.7-inch display.
There’s room for both in the market, but which of these foldables will be right for you?
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Flip 3: price and value
SamMobile’s sources claim there will be a price drop of up to 20% on both phones. That would bring the Galaxy Z Fold 3 to as low as $1,600 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 to around $1,200. While Samsung may not discount them that aggressively, there’s no question that the Galaxy Z Flip 3 will remain cheaper than its larger counterpart. The value proposition is a much more interesting question.
Even at the lowest rumored price, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 would top the highest configurations for flagships like the iPhone 12 Pro Max or Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, but it offers something no other phone can in its unique form factor. While I tried to convey this point in my Galaxy Z Fold 2 review, it is a device you need to see and hold to appreciate fully. It’s the best Android tablet I’ve ever used because it’s a form factor I want in a tablet but you get an excellent phone as well. There’s tremendous value there for the right user, but it’s not for everyone.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 may drop below or into direct competition with top-end traditional flagship phones. Rumors indicate it will still lack a zoom lens, but will otherwise match up spec for spec. And when you are done, it folds into your pocket at roughly half the size of its competitors. It’s still hard to call a $1,200+ phone a value, but the Galaxy Z Flip 3 comes close. In some ways, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the iPhone 12 mini concept done right. Most users don’t want to give up a big-screen phone, but rather, they want to give up the annoying realities of carrying a massive device. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 should do that while still delivering a 6.7-inch display.
While both phones could be a value for the right buyer; the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is unquestionably the better value for the broadest audience.
Projected Winner: Galaxy Z Flip 3
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Flip 3: design
There should be a lot of shared DNA between the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3, with some obvious differences. The hinge mechanism and displays are the first similarities that come to mind, but there’s more. Both phones look poised to feature the same rear camera and flash alignment. The finishes and button configurations also match more closely than last year’s models based on the leaked renders.
It appears that neither phone will precisely follow the current Samsung Galaxy design language. From what we’ve seen, they don’t have the Contour Cut Camera. However, both phones will still unmistakably be Samsung devices.
The biggest aesthetic departure is the two-tone color scheme seen in renders of the Galaxy Z Flip 3. The top section of the phone surrounding the cover display and two rear cameras is always black regardless of the phone’s primary color. As a long-time Pixel owner, it is reminiscent of the Pixel 3 and earlier models., I’m a fan, but it might prove divisive.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3, by comparison, sticks to a much more traditionally uniform color scheme in the renders. The biggest change from last year’s model is the rear camera housing. Rather than the old rectangular bump or the new Contour Cut, it moves to a much more minimal elongated oval. I’m on board with the change, but curious to see what it’s like setting it down if you opt to go caseless.
What matters most is the horizontal versus vertical display fold. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a (thick) traditional phone that unfolds to become a tablet. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is a throwback to the old clamshell or flip phones with an external display primarily for notifications. In contrast, the interior display on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 should match some of the largest on the market.
According to numerous credible sources, one notable design upgrade for both phones in this generation is the addition of IPX8 water resistance. If true, both phones will handle being submerged completely in water; that’s a game-changing durability upgrade. What’s more, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will offer S Pen compatibility, which implies the screen will be more ruggedized than on previous models.
I don’t see a clear winner in design between these two phones as the designs serve different purposes. Both execute well on their intended purpose, and while the competition is limited at the moment, it’s clear Samsung has the competition outgunned for now.
Projected Winner: Draw
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Flip 3: displays
We will put the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 through our rigorous display testing once we have the devices in hand. For now, rumors and Samsung’s track record give us a clear picture of what to expect.
According to a recent leak, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will feature an identical display configuration as the previous model, with a 6.2-inch exterior display and a 7.6-inch interior display. The biggest unanswered question is whether the external display will get a refresh rate upgrade from the 60Hz of last year’s model.
The displays on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 were gorgeous, so this is purely a question of Samsung not messing up a good thing. The notable rumored changes from last year are moving to an under-display camera on the interior display and the addition of S Pen support to that panel. The former is likely more of an experiment, but the latter has enormous potential. According to some reports, Samsung was not happy with the reception for S Pen support on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. It will be interesting to see what kind of a push this gets on the Galaxy Z Fold 3.
While the Galaxy Z Flip 5G display was good, the lack of a high refresh rate was frustrating. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 should rectify this with a move to 120Hz just like the rest of Samsung’s flagship devices. Assuming that is the case, that is enough of an upgrade even if it’s the sole spec change for the Galaxy Z Flip 3 display.
Every photo or image of these devices so far are renders that don’t show the display crease. As such, it’s unclear if Samsung will iron things out (literally). Much like the notch, you eventually learn to ignore it, but the crease is still there.
Samsung remains the best in the business when it comes to mobile displays, and its foldables are no different. While the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will undoubtedly be the more impressive of the two, both of these phones should have beautiful displays.
Projected Winner: Galaxy Z Fold 3
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Flip 3: performance
The Galaxy Z Fold 3 should be the winner in the performance department as rumors have its internals as a near carbon copy of the Galaxy S21 Ultra. A recent Geekbench listing showed the Galaxy Z Fold 3 running a Snapdragon 888 processor with 12GB of RAM. SamMobile was the first to spot this and claimed previously that the phone will also be available in a 16GB of RAM variant, which would be identical to the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 shouldn’t be a slouch with the same Snapdragon 888 processor, but will likely scale back to 8GB of RAM like the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus. That’s still plenty of power to make this a solid gaming phone and it should handle typical smartphone tasks in a flash.
The one wildcard is the Snapdragon 888+ Qualcomm announced back in June. We traditionally see the Note adopt this updated processor, so there was speculation we’d see the same with the Galaxy Z Fold 3. It’s still possible, which would give it an even greater edge on the Galaxy Z Flip 3, but regardless, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 should win this category.
Projected Winner: Galaxy Z Fold 3
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Flip 3: cameras
While we’ve learned some basic details regarding the cameras (thanks to rumors) on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the Galaxy Z Flip 3, specifics have been frustratingly hard to come by.
Both phones will reportedly stick to the same 12-megapixel rear sensor arrangements as last year’s models. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 should have three rear sensors covering wide-angle, ultra-wide and telephoto, while the Galaxy Z Flip 3 should again offer wide-angle and ultra-wide.
Front-facing cameras are a similar story. Both phones are rumored to have 10MP front-facing cameras, just like last year. The one rumored change is the under-display camera on the internal display of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 at just 4MP. Rumors suggest the results from that camera are less than optimal. Both phones can use the cover display as your preview screen, allowing you to use the excellent rear cameras instead, so it shouldn’t be much of a concern.
It would be disappointing if the sensors are identical to last year’s models but both produced excellent results, so it wouldn’t be a dealbreaker. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 should retain the edge with its telephoto lens, which I will always advocate for. Still, neither is competing with the top-tier options from Samsung like the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Projected Winner: Galaxy Z Fold 3
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Flip 3: software
Software is arguably a tie as Samsung offers the same four years of software support across its flagship models with three years of major OS updates, but I give a slight edge to the Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Samsung’s Flex Mode and other foldable specific optimizations, particularly the multitasking capabilities, are more useful on the larger display. Having three apps open on the Z Fold’s 7.6-inch display feels too crowded to me, but running two apps is outstanding and productivity-enhancing.
Conversely, not every app does an excellent job of supporting the large and unusual aspect ratio of the interior display on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 (I’m looking at you Instagram), an issue the Galaxy Z Flip 3 won’t face. Otherwise, One UI is essentially the same on both phones, and while my preference is for the more vanilla Android you get on the Pixel phones, I never have trouble switching back and forth between them.
No one is a loser here as Samsung currently offers the best software support of any Android manufacturer. Still, the larger screen of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 does a better job of showcasing some of Samsung’s foldable software touches.
Projected Winner: Galaxy Z Fold 3
I don’t doubt that the Galaxy Z Flip 3 will be the better selling of these foldables for the price alone. And despite my personal leaning toward the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the better mainstream phone based on what we know right now.
I’ll say it again: the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is what most people wanted out of the iPhone 12 mini. It’s a phone that fits in your pocket and has all of the power of the big flagship phones. Simply put, larger screens are better — it’s the reality that came crashing down on the iPhone 12 mini and why I suspect it didn’t sell well. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 should deliver the best of both worlds, and if Samsung can hit the right price point, it should take off this year.
The Galaxy Z Fold 3, even with the rumored price cut, is too expensive to crack into the mainstream, but it should get more of a chance to shine this year. The added productivity features and capabilities made possible by that massive interior display are something travelers will appreciate. It won’t sell like the Galaxy Z Flip 3, but it should massively outperform the Galaxy Z Fold 2.
Overall, this should be a breakout year for foldables as Samsung’s competitors will bring more attention to the category, which I suspect will only benefit both of Samsung’s foldables as the established player in the market.