Remember flip phones? Someone at Samsung sure did and had an idea: “why not a flip phone, but with a folding screen?”. And thus the Flip line was born, and of course it’s called that, what else would you name it? As is par for the course for Samsung’s newest of endeavors, the first generation was decent but not really polished enough. Enter the second coming of the flip phone then, in the form of the second coming of Samsung’s Flip phone: the Galaxy Z Flip3. Let’s ignore the confusing naming, owing to the fact that there was also a Flip 5G. We’re counting that one as a variant of the original, because, aside from the different chipset, that’s exactly what it was.
The Flip3 is thus the epitome of Samsung’s vision for foldable flip phones, and it’s also, incidentally or not, the best-selling foldable device ever. Why is that, though? That’s what we decided to try and investigate, which is how this long-term review came to be. We didn’t dislike the Flip3 in our normal review, but we certainly didn’t see its huge popularity coming, so there must be something we missed – right? Well, spoiler alert – not really. It’s just a compelling package for those who want a folding phone that’s cheaper than the rest, which is also interestingly viewed by some as a fashion accessory, which surely helps drive sales.
But what is the Flip3 actually like as a smartphone? After all, it is kind of weird. Yes, it folds, but not in order to hide a bigger screen like the Fold3. This one just folds to become more pocketable on two of three axes. That’s it. So does it work? We set out to figure that out by spending a long period of time with this as our one and only smartphone. Our journey with the Flip3 has definitely been interesting, and we’ve had some unexpected revelations along the way.
Let’s spoil one of them right now: we thought closing and opening the phone dozens (if not hundreds) of times a day would always be really annoying, but we just got used to it in a few days. Looking at things rationally, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to add an extra step for whatever you want to do on your phone, but in real life, it’s not as big of a hassle as we thought it would be. If this whets your appetite for more such details about our findings, please join us over the next few pages as we dissect the Flip3 and how it fares as a daily driver.
Design, handling, build quality
If you ignore the original Flip and Flip 5G, as well as Motorola’s not very popular but recent Razr experiments, the Galaxy Flip3 isn’t directly comparable to anything else on the market. It’s a foldable phone, but it looks nothing like a Fold3 or a Mi Mix Fold, or an Oppo Find N. When unfolded, it almost kind of looks like a ‘normal’ phone, but the hinge and the thinness definitely give away its folding nature.
So, in a smartphone world saturated with lookalike designs, this is unique, and thus will stand out from the crowd instantly – especially when folded. It will be a conversation starter with your non-techie friends, it will get a lot of looks in bars, basically, it’s hard to ignore. Contributing to that are some of its color versions, but definitely not ours: it’s called Cream, and the name is accurate. It doesn’t offend anyone, it’s not ‘shouty’, it just… is. Then again, this phone doesn’t need a bombastic color to be noticed, so we’re fine with it. For lack of a better word, it is different, since there aren’t really a lot of ‘cream’ phones out there. White? Sure. But this isn’t quite white.
Anyway, the glass panels seem sturdy enough, and the metal frame too. That frame also has an excellent-feeling matte finish that, unfortunately, makes it incredibly slippery – this is among the slipperiest frames we’ve ever handled on a phone. And since the rest of the device is rather slippery, too, opening it without feeling like you’ll drop it becomes a challenge. One we eventually learned to rise to every time, but it did take a few days of being very careful initially, and then we only ever used both hands to open the precious little Flip3 up. That’s the price you pay for going naked; in contrast, things are much better with a case on its back (and, most importantly, on its sides).
In the end, all of the precautions paid off, as we never dropped the Flip3 during our time with it for this long-term review. We would definitely not recommend this phone to the clumsiest of people, though. Its shape when closed, paired with the aforementioned slipperiness, makes it one of the easiest phones to drop among all we’ve handled.
The weight is fine; it doesn’t feel hollow and too light, nor does it feel too heavy, at least for this reviewer. Handling when open is great owing to the thinness, but you still need to be a tad careful with the slipperiness. It’s easily doable if you cup your hand underneath it, though, so that even if it slides down somewhat, it only ‘falls’ in your palm. Closing it is much easier than opening it since you have a lot more phone to grip.
Build quality is as outstanding as you’d expect from the price point, although the nature of foldable displays today still means they need to have a plastic screen protector on top, which inevitably looks cheap, but we’ll get more into that in the Display section of this review. From the front, if you can ignore the crease running through the middle of the screen and that screen protector, this looks just like any other smartphone out there: almost the entire surface is taken up by the display, with a small centered hole-punch cutout for the selfie camera on top. It’s still a great, modern look, accentuated by the intriguing presence of that crease, which signifies that despite how it may look from this angle, the Flip3 is no ordinary smartphone.
If you look at the back while unfolded, the design (apart from the obviousness of it being a two-part affair here) is very clean and minimal, with no branding, and a tastefully executed black ‘window’ housing the cameras and external screen. It’s one of the cleanest looks on any phone ever, and we dig it a lot, although we can’t say we usually sit it on its screen to look at it like this – nor that you should. But this gives you an idea of what other people see when they’re across from you, and you’re using the phone.
The Galaxy Z Flip3’s hinge is what makes all of the foldable magic possible, and it’s… fine, but honestly rather underwhelming when compared to the Oppo Find N’s, which we’ve also recently reviewed long-term. This hinge here does have the ability to customize angles, so it’s not always a 100% folded or 100% unfolded affair, and we appreciate that, but when the phone is fully unfolded, its two sides aren’t actually fully aligned; there’s still the tiniest amount of angle between them. That’s disconcerting.
You probably won’t see this unless you go looking for it, but what you are more likely to notice is how flimsy the hinge feels, and the fact that, when opened, the phone doesn’t actually give off a monolith vibe – it still seems like it’s made out of two separate parts. Which it is, but again, compared to what the Find N feels like when unfolded, this seems kind of last-generation. And in a way, it is, having launched months before Oppo’s device, so perhaps we should cut it some slack in this regard.
The same could go for the fact that this is far from a “zero gap” hinge. When closed, the two parts of the phone aren’t parallel, and there’s a very visible, very obvious gap that makes it take a weird triangular shape. We, of course, knew this going into this review, but it’s still irksome day-to-day and gives the device the feel of a beta testing product, not a finished one. Not to mention that dust can easily get into that gap and thus onto the inner screen, which due to its flexibility, isn’t the most sturdy, to begin with. We hope Samsung can improve things this year with the next Flip, as competitors from China have seemingly already fixed the hinge gap problem for their devices.
The Galaxy Z Flip3’s vibration motor is excellent, reminding us of the ones the company used to fit in its flagship line of slab devices before the S22 line. It’s got a lot of ‘oomph’ and depth in how it feels, but it’s also loud on a table or any other hard surface, so in that scenario, you’ll hear the vibrations too. Some people hate this; we love it and decry the switch to a different type of motor for the S22 line, one you can still feel very well but not hear almost at all.
Compared to the motor in the S21 Ultra or Note20 Ultra, for example, this one subjectively feels equally loud but not exactly as tight, which we assume has to do with space constraints due to the insane thinness of the phone that Samsung was designing for. Still, it’s a very good vibration motor that beats most others on the market right now, and in a foldable phone no less!
While vibrations aren’t used throughout One UI as much as they are in other skins, you still get a bunch of options for how the phone will vibrate, separated for incoming calls and notifications, as well as intensity sliders for both of those as well as touch interactions.
The Flip3 has Samsung’s usual pairing of a downward-firing speaker with the earpiece pulling double-duty as the secondary channel, and like in all of the company’s recent flagship-tier devices, this setup is impressive. These speakers aren’t the best in terms of bass, but they are among the loudest we’ve ever heard, up there with other Samsung top-tier devices. The first time you take them all the way to the maximum volume, you’ll be shocked, especially if you’re coming from an Android device that isn’t a Samsung flagship.
We very much liked these and used them a lot for listening to podcasts – as they seem to be tuned best for dealing with voices, music sounds fine but needs a Bluetooth speaker, really. That said, on the maximum volume level, they do sometimes distort slightly. This wasn’t really a problem for us, as even the second-highest volume setting notch was loud enough, but it’s something to keep in mind nevertheless.
Also, as impressed as we were with this phone’s speakers, the speakerphone function was incredibly disappointing. Not for us, mind you – the speakers being great means we heard the people we were talking to very clearly and loudly. But they didn’t hear us great; there were a lot of issues with the mics in speakerphone mode, not picking up our voice very well, but managing to pick up a lot of random noises around us.
We’ve tried speakerphone calls with multiple people in normal calls and WhatsApp calls and tried holding the phone closer or further away from us, with the same results. If you constantly use the speakerphone function, this is probably not the phone for you unless you want to annoy every person you’re speaking to and make them constantly ask what you just said. Just to give a point of comparison here – with a few notable exceptions, mid-range devices do generally have even worse speakerphone capabilities in terms of mic quality, but we were comparing the Flip3 in our minds to other similarly priced handsets.
The Galaxy Z Flip3’s fingerprint sensor is side-mounted and, as such, is of the ‘traditional’ capacitive variety. It’s built into the power button, and it works outstandingly well, achieving first-try recognition rates of almost 100%. Seriously, in our entire time with this phone we only remember not being able to unlock it on the first try about 10 times. That’s out of many thousands of unlocks, so it’s an extremely good result. In fact, we’d wager this is the best side-mounted sensor we’ve ever used, out of all devices we’ve reviewed long-term.
The only downside is its position, which is way too high. We get why the sensor is there – because of constraints springing from the fact that this device is foldable, and also antenna positioning for best reception results. That makes sense. But at the end of the day, the position of the sensor is just wrong for most people, and like us, you’ll end up constantly thinking it’s lower than it is (because that’s where it should be), placing your finger on the frame in that spot, waiting a second till nothing happens, then realizing that you need to go higher, and then finally reaching the sensor and unlocking the phone.
By the end of our time with the Flip3, we only did this a few times per day, but the first week was brutal. Do you eventually get used to this? Sure. Should you have to, though? Arguably, no. Perhaps the Flip4 can improve ergonomic design in this respect.
Interestingly, you can use the fingerprint sensor to access notifications. The setting is off by default, but if you turn it on you can swipe downwards on the sensor to bring up the notification pane, and this can prove really useful when out and about since it prevents you from having to try and reach the top of the screen on what is a pretty ‘tall’ device.
We tried this feature and definitely saw its benefits but eventually had to turn it off because merely holding the device would trigger it a lot when we didn’t want it to. It’s an interesting idea, though, and we hope the implementation will get better at ignoring semi-swipes that clearly weren’t intended. This is definitely something other Android device makers should look into for their phones with side-mounted fingerprint scanners (looking at you, Xiaomi).
As you’d expect, face unlocking is present too, but we saw no point in using it since the fingerprint sensor is so good. Face unlocking is also much less secure, but if you end up really hating the fingerprint scanner’s position, you can turn it on and double tap to wake the screen and restore your sanity that way. You do you.
Resolution, brightness, display quality
Like most foldable phones, the Flip3 has two displays. But unlike most foldable phones, you can only use one of them to do most of the things you’d want to use your phone for. We’ll get to the outer screen in a bit, but let’s start with the main display, the one that folds.
The Flip3’s inner screen has a slightly taller aspect ratio than most mainstream slab phones, but it’s not so much taller than it’s ever an issue in day-to-day use (unlike the outer screen of the Fold3, for example). And we assume most people wouldn’t even notice that it’s taller, unless they had a different ‘normal’ smartphone around to visually compare to.
It’s ‘just’ 1080p, so it doesn’t quite match the top-of-the-line mainstream alternatives with their QHD panels, but it’s highly debatable whether most people would actually be able to perceive the pixel density delta in real life use case scenarios. We were certainly not left wanting a higher-res panel for what it’s worth.
The main screen is also very visible outdoors, even on the sunniest of days. Its perceived brightness doesn’t quite match the likes of the Galaxy S22 Ultra (nor the S21 Ultra), but it’s better in this regard than most phones out there, and you’ll definitely not have any issues with visibility. The panel also gets sufficiently dim on the lowest brightness setting that you won’t feel like it wants to destroy your retinas when you use the phone at night in a dark room.
The auto brightness curve isn’t among the best we’ve seen in the past couple of years, but it’s definitely in the top 25%. We did have to manually adjust a number of times, but not so much that it became annoying, and of course, the adjustments were then remembered and applied the next time the device encountered the same amount of ambient light. Brightness changes are also quick enough when ambient light changes, and overall our experience with auto brightness was good but not perfect.
The screen quality is top notch, as is always the case for high-end Samsungs; it didn’t disappoint. As usual, you can pick between two modes, where Vivid is accurate for P3 content, and Natural is intended to cover the sRGB space. We like our AMOLEDs vivid, so we went with the eponymous mode but bumped up the warmth slider since the default seems to prefer whites that are a bit too bluish for our taste. You can definitely find a specific setting for your heart’s content, no worries about that.
The 120 Hz refresh rate is pretty much standard across high-end devices nowadays, and the Flip3 offers the same. It’s the usual quirky Samsung way of choosing, though, with Adaptive basically never actually fixing the rate at 120 Hz, but varying it depending on what you’re doing. This definitely saves some battery, and we’re fine with the setup because, as you’ll see in the Battery life section, this phone definitely needs all the help it can get in that regard.
The switching between rates isn’t as dynamic as on LTPO2 panels, but it is much more dynamic than a simple choice of 120 Hz or 60 Hz. And this is implemented very well; we never in our use felt that the refresh rate chosen was too low. Basically, in use, it feels like it’s at 120 Hz all the time, even though it isn’t, and that’s some magic that Samsung needs to be commended for.
The crease and the screen protector
Less commendable is the very obvious horizontal crease that runs through the middle of the display. This is never not noticeable, and even after months of using the phone, we didn’t stop seeing it. It’s always there, and while constantly seeing it is a tad annoying, constantly touching it is even worse.
See, its position turns out to be smack dab in the middle of where we usually scroll vertically. And since most mobile apps these days seem to be built around that vertical scrolling gesture, needless to say we do a lot of it every day. And every single time, for every single scroll, your finger will meet the crease. It’s just unavoidable, and because the crease is pronounced, you will never not feel it, and it will never not be a nuisance.
That said, it’s not a deal breaker in any way. It’s just something to keep in mind. There are sometimes quirks of a phone that you quickly get over after a few days of use once you’re familiar with them. This isn’t one of those things. And so we’re hoping the next Flip takes some inspiration from some of Samsung’s competitors (including Oppo, whose Find N we’ve already reviewed long-term) and gives us a much more subtle crease.
To end with our niggles regarding the screen, we have to mention the factory-applied screen protector that is necessary for the entire display assembly to work (seriously, do not remove it!). Because this is a foldable screen, this layer needs to be plastic, even though there is some ultra-thin glass underneath. That’s fine, but it also means that you’re constantly touching plastic when you’re using the phone. Not just that, but this is very fingerprint-prone plastic, which looks dirty after just a few minutes of use. You might end up carrying a microfiber cloth with you everywhere.
It actually reminds us of those poor quality pre-applied plastic screen protectors you get on some lower-midrange devices, which we instantly take off when we review such phones because they make the experience of using them much worse than if we would directly be touching the glass underneath. Alas, there’s no such option here, because removing this layer will render the screen dead, so you’re stuck with it.
We know it’s a small price to pay for the wonders of a folding phone, but we also have to mention that the inner screen of the Fold3 has a top layer that feels ever so slightly better to the touch, as does the Oppo Find N. So perhaps this can be improved for the next generation of the Flip. We hope it will be, as the inner screen is the main way you interact with this device after all.
Blue light filter and Always On Display
It’s 2022, so the screen has a blue light filter function, which Samsung calls Eye comfort shield. It has the standard feature set, but nothing more: you can schedule it, pick the color temperature with a slider, and have the software adjust the intensity automatically based on the time of day. You don’t get a black and white mode, or a ‘light colors’ mode, or textured backgrounds like in MIUI, though, which is why MIUI’s blue light filter still reigns supreme in the mobile world to this day.
It’s a similar story with the Always On Display. You can have it be always on, or only show up on tap, or on a schedule. It’s there, it’s customizable, but not as customizable as MIUI’s – unless you have access to Samsung’s GoodLock app, which is regionally limited. There are a bunch of clock styles to pick from, and you can even have the AOD show in landscape mode if that’s your thing. Auto brightness can be toggled on, as can the display of music information when you’re playing something. All of these are nice features to have, but it’s debatable how much you’d end up using the AOD on a foldable phone on the inner screen.
Theoretically, you could just leave your Flip3 unfolded most of the time when you’re not on the go, and that’s where the AOD comes in very handy. But if you’re the type of person to always fold the phone back after use, then this is rather pointless.
One of the Flip3’s primary improvements compared to its predecessor is undoubtedly the much bigger and thus more usable external display. The original Flip and Flip 5G both had laughably small outer screens, and this one is greatly improved comparatively. That’s the key word here: comparatively. Because while it’s more usable, it’s not very usable for anything other than glancing at the clock, controlling media playback, and quickly looking at notifications. Although even for notifications, it’s most useful for just checking their titles if you want to go in depth, the experience of tapping and reading and scrolling on such a small surface is far from ideal, and we’d recommend you just open the phone up and use the main screen instead.
So this outer display basically acts like a glorified notification window, which is fine, but that’s all it is. For all intents and purposes, this handset has one actual screen and then a ‘window’ into the notification panel, including media controls. It gets these jobs done well, but you can’t really expect more from it. Weird as it may sound, perhaps the best way to think about this screen in terms of functionality is as if it’s a smartwatch affixed to the outside of your phone (without the health tracking, of course, and also without an app store). There’s a limited amount of stuff it provides, but sometimes for quick glances, it’s fine. Most times, however, you’ll probably end up opening the phone up.
In terms of outer displays, Motorola’s not very popular Razr 5G definitely takes the cake for this folding device form factor, with a bigger screen that can even be used for apps – not that it’s ideal for most, but it’s an intriguing prospect for sure. There’s no such flexibility on offer on the Flip3, nor would we have wanted to see it because of the dimensions of the canvas here.
There are some settings relating to what you see on it, you can choose between different style clocks like for the Always-on Display, set brightness individually for it (although auto-brightness doesn’t appear to be an option, which is disappointing but probably means there’s only one ambient light sensor on this phone and it’s on the inside screen), and pick from a list of ‘widgets’ you can get to by swiping left or right (we’re getting smartwatch vibes again). These can be reordered too, but the list consists of exactly seven of these ‘widgets’. Finally, you can choose if you want notifications to turn this screen on, and you can also use it as a viewfinder for the camera if you want to take selfies with the main sensors. That’s literally it. A fully functional display, this one is definitely not.
We got used to it being the way it is, and yet we can’t help but feel that the next Flip should get an even bigger outer panel with more functions. We sort of think the original Flip’s tiny outer screen somehow made more sense, as it was clearly not intended as anything more than a glorified notification LED – the implication was that you’ll obviously unfold the phone to do anything. Now on the Flip3, the size of the outer panel puts us in a very strange middle ground where it’s big enough that you may think you can do a lot of stuff on it, but it’s not actually big enough for that to be practical.
If there’s one area where Samsung has definitely risen above all of its competitors in the Android world, it’s software updates. A few years ago, the South Korean company was among the worst at this, and now it’s very clearly the best, even managing to release security patches before Google a few times per year. This 180-degree change has been exciting to witness, and we have to congratulate Samsung on what it’s achieved.
Big software updates are also coming faster and faster every year, ever closer to when Google pushes them to its Pixels, security updates come every month for flagship tier devices, on the clock – sometimes the rollouts even begin in the previous month! But nothing is more impressive than Samsung’s ever-expanding software update promise. The Flip3 will get four years of big Android updates and five years of security updates. That’s outstanding, and the only other company in the same league on the Android side of the fence is Google. No one else even comes close.
This could be a huge deciding factor for purchase decisions, so let’s just state things in an unequivocal fashion: if you want a foldable phone and care about updates, that phone should be a Samsung. Luckily, you have two different foldable form factors to pick from, and if the Flip3 has caught your fancy, you’ll have peace of mind for many years to come.
We can confirm through our use of the handset that Samsung isn’t playing with updates – there are a lot of them, and most recently, our Flip3 made the jump to One UI 4.1 – the latest version of the manufacturer skin, which was launched alongside the Galaxy S22 family.
As the incrementation implies, One UI 4.1 is not a huge departure from One UI 4, which was the first version of the skin to be based on Android 12. And even if you’re coming from One UI 3.x, you’ll feel right at home, as the design language is very similar, and the user experience is too. That includes the fact that you get two app stores, the Google Play Store as well as the Galaxy Store, and while over the years we’ve gotten used to this state of things, it still doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The duplication theme continues with a lot of apps made by Samsung to compete with Google’s similar offerings, but a new twist introduced in the recent past means you actually get to pick and choose some Samsung apps to pre-install when you’re setting up the phone for the first time. So if you’re not a fan, you can safely uncheck those you don’t need. That’s a nice step forward, but generally speaking, Samsung’s insistence on having its own app for everything can still create a lot of confusion with normal users. Then again, if they’ve had another Samsung device in the past, they surely know the drill, so we won’t dwell on the app duplication subject any more.
Like all modern Android skins, One UI 4.1 delivers a Dark mode which you can manually select, or schedule to go on automatically, either between sunset and sunrise (based on your location), or with custom hours.
This standard implementation is falling behind what some other companies are doing – Oppo with its three different darkness choices, or a bunch of skins offering the possibility to force apps to a dark theme. None of that is present here, so while you do have a Dark mode (which should go without saying in 2022), it’s not among the most customizable out there.
Things that aren’t where (or how) they should be
Perhaps confusingly, the “apply Dark mode to wallpaper” toggle is only to be found in the Wallpaper section of Settings, and not in the Dark mode part. We can understand this decision, but perhaps this would have been one of those rare cases where redundancy would be preferable? We mean to have it in both parts of Settings, to ensure that users don’t miss it.
Many other things are incredibly customizable, down to every little detail. Generally, you don’t have to dive deep into Settings if you don’t want to, because the defaults are sensibly set – with a few exceptions, of which one is only displaying app icons on the lock screen when a notification comes in. This isn’t standard Android behavior, and to our knowledge, One UI is the only skin that has this as the default. It’s easy to change to the ‘normal’ way everyone else is doing it, actually showing the full notification and not just the app’s icon, but novices may not even be aware that this is a possibility.
Continuing the non-standard Android behavior idea, you may be used to long-pressing the power key to reach the power menu – the one that provides you with options such as shut down, restart, and the likes. Well, by default, you won’t have that on the Flip3, instead Bixby will be activated. Because Bixby is still a thing in Samsungland, even though it’s still inferior to the Google Assistant in many ways. But, a lot of money must have been spent to develop it, so here it is. If you want to power off your phone, you’ll need to long press both the power button and the volume down button, which is obviously more convoluted than it should be, but thankfully there’s a Side key setting that you can change to skip Bixby and have the phone do what you actually intended it to.
Oh, and while most Android skins have a dedicated top-level Battery menu in Settings, Samsung has buried that in the Device care menu, requiring an extra tap to get to. We were baffled by this decision initially but have grown used to it by now.
We can kind of see the idea here – that Device care groups device-specific stuff such as battery, RAM and storage use, all under one umbrella – but then it also has “Device protection” in there, which is generally useless for anyone that doesn’t sideload APKs from dubious sources. But maybe Samsung knows its customers better than we do and decided they’re just the kind of people to do that and as such, need protection?
Themes, wallpapers, Dynamic Lock screen
There’s a theme store on offer that includes wallpapers and such. That’s great, and we appreciate the choice, but it seems like phone makers who have theme and wallpaper stores focus way less than they used to on the built-in ones. While we find that more understandable for themes, the small amount of wallpapers a new phone comes with in this day and age is a bit weird. It’s much quicker to switch to a built-in wallpaper, after all, than go to the store, browse through a lot of options, then hit Download, and then hit Apply. Even if we discount the browsing part, that’s still an extra step – may be Samsung’s theme store should have an option to “Download and apply” to speed things up, but it doesn’t.
Once you apply a new wallpaper, the color palette picker shows up, because this is Android 12 with its built-in color grabbing from the wallpaper, but it’s Android 12 on a Samsung device, and Samsung couldn’t help make everything more customizable – and also more cumbersome at the same time.
The way this system works on Pixels is that it’s automatic, but here you have an extra step where you need to decide whether you like the automatic color palette based on the wallpaper, or would prefer a few alternatives. We’re all for extra customizability, but this is the opposite of “it just works”, isn’t it? Anyway, at least Android 12’s auto color extraction feature is present, even in this slightly tweaked form.
Speaking of wallpapers, the Dynamic Lock screen service is present on the Flip3 and lets you pick up to 5 categories of images, then serving you a different one each time you reach the lock screen. We’ve liked this feature ever since it was first unveiled by Huawei many years ago, but are still baffled as to why it only works for the lock screen.
This reviewer would very much prefer it to also work on the home screen, with a bit more customizability in how often the image should change. And yet, no manufacturer other than Google has so far thought to integrate something like that into its launcher? Strange.
Launcher and its quirks
The launcher itself has all the features you’d expect, and some you definitely wouldn’t if you’ve never used a Samsung before – like the fact that the app drawer doesn’t sort apps alphabetically by default or that it has folders in it by default, which don’t adhere to the alphabetical sorting of the individual apps even after you set it to sort alphabetically. This has been a quirk of Samsung’s launcher for years, alongside the horizontal scrolling, and it looks like the company has no intention to align itself with the rest of the industry in this regard.
Make of that what you wish – you can love this or hate it, or be anywhere in between. We just think the horizontal scrolling makes less sense than vertical scrolling would because the gesture you use to get into the app drawer is an upward swipe – and it feels much more natural (and quicker) to then immediately continue to swipe up for scrolling through the drawer, than switch to horizontal swipes. Then again, Samsung’s launcher still has an option for an icon to be placed on the home screen to bring up the app drawer, so if you use that, you’ll have less of an issue. Although it has to be said – that feels rather vintage in today’s gesture-based world.
We’re happy to see that you can choose to see the Google Discover feed to the left of your leftmost home screen as an alternative to Samsung Free – which is the latest name for something this reviewer has always found to be a useless, laggy mess. Your mileage may vary, of course, and in true Samsung fashion, you can pick either or none.
The Recent apps menu is the usual horizontally scrolling list of screenshots, but you get the option (on by default) to have four icons below it of apps that the phone thinks you might be trying to get to. This is based on your usage, of course, but we found the algorithm rather disappointing this time around, successfully predicting which app we intended to use about 30% of the time. That’s way lower than it used to be, with our use of previous Samsung devices for long-term reviews, so we don’t know what happened there – either our usage patterns have become more unpredictable somehow, or the algorithm isn’t as good as it used to be.
Gesture navigation is, of course, present too and works well, although not as well as in other skins. For some reason, even now, years after Samsung’s first implementation of this, we still find that we inadvertently manage to accidentally scroll down in some apps when we do the ‘go home’ gesture. This only ever happens on One UI, and it happens way less now than it used to a couple of years ago, but it’s still a complete mystery why it would occur on this skin and no other. It’s an annoyance you get used to for sure, but it’s still there, and perhaps Samsung’s developers should pay more attention to details such as this.
It’s a small thing, but when you know it doesn’t have to be like this (after using many other phones), it’s a bit weird to have to deal with it. It only happens around 10% of the time now, down from 80-90% in the ‘good old days, but we’d really like to see it go down to zero, as it is on literally all other Android skins.
One UI has Link to Windows integrated, trying to make things easier for owners of Samsung devices who also use Windows, and this has been a staple for a while now. There’s also a Samsung-specific Continue apps on other devices feature that syncs data across Samsung products in real time but only works with a subset of apps like the Internet browser and the Notes app. We never bothered installing either of those (since they were optional installs offered to us when we set up the phone), but we hear the feature works as intended if you have more than one Samsung device in your life.
The adequately named Call & text on other devices is also there, and we did give this a shot on our Galaxy Watch4, taking calls on it even if it wasn’t connected directly to the phone via Bluetooth – but it had to be connected to a Wi-Fi network of course. These are all nice to have features, although we’re unsure of how many Samsung phone owners are even aware of their existence, let alone use them day by day. And that’s one of the problems with the Korean company’s approach of throwing everything but the kitchen sink into Settings and letting people pick and choose what they want to use – a lot of people may never actually know the full extent of what they can do, just because possibly useful things are buried among countless other features with doubtful appeal.
This, however, has always been the company’s user experience philosophy, and it’s one that’s as far removed from Apple’s “we know what’s best for you” as it can be. In the end, more choice is always better, Samsung seems to be saying, and it’s all up to you to decide what to use and how. This is great if you need a very specific feature and know where to find it, but not so great if you always go with the defaults and never have the time to look through Settings for a few hours and see what you can find.
On the other hand, on Apple’s side of the fence, if you really need a feature the company deemed unnecessary, you’re generally completely out of luck, so as you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
In early 2022, you’d expect a top-of-the-line device to feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, and the Flip3 doesn’t. In its defense, though, it was launched before that chipset was even available, so it’s got the next best thing from Qualcomm’s stable: the 888, 2021’s top dog. On paper, this seems like a problem if you’re the spec-hunting type, but in real life, day-to-day use, it’s literally no issue at all.
You won’t see any difference between the 888 and the 8 Gen 1 for anything you do, with the possible exception of heavy mobile gaming. Though, with its weird aspect ratio and bad battery life (see the next section for more details), we’re having issues believing anyone would actually buy the Flip3 for gaming. This device is definitely intended for a different market, one that values unique looks and an overall fashion-forward appearance above all else.
Obviously, the Flip3 delivers on that front, but it also delivers when it comes to performance. Sure, benchmark results will say otherwise, but that’s why they’re called synthetic benchmarks. We’ve spent many weeks with the Flip3 for this review, using it as our one and only smartphone, and we were never left wanting when it came to performance. Not once. This handset is as fast as any other high-end model; it never disappoints (note, however, that we’re not heavy gamers, so we can’t really speak as to how it would work in that scenario, unlikely as it may be).
Chip makers have gotten us used to new top of the line releases every year, which bring performance improvements on paper, but ever since the Snapdragon 865/865+/870, we’re having difficulty actually identifying those gains in real life use cases. Basically, for what you’re going to do on this phone 99% of the time, the Snapdragon 888 is indistinguishable from an 8 Gen 1 or an 870, for that matter. So don’t worry, performance is very adequately covered.
Smoothness has been an issue with Samsung high-end devices traditionally, as they’ve never quite matched some of their competitors in this inherently subjective assessment, and the Flip3 is no different. But it’s getting really, really close. From all the phones we’ve reviewed long-term, we’d definitely call this the smoothest Samsung yet, even outdoing the Galaxy S21 Ultra. And yet there are still competing devices from Chinese brands that deliver ever so slightly more smoothness. However, if you don’t have any of those to compare to directly, you are unlikely to be disappointed by what the Flip3 provides.
If there’s one area where the Flip3 has been a constant, consistent disappointment throughout our usе for this review, it’s battery life. And really, that’s no surprise at all. Just look at the spec sheet: a 3,300 mAh battery powering a device with a top-of-the-line chipset and a 6.7-inch screen? That’s just not going to cut it.
And indeed, it doesn’t. This phone has provided us with the worst battery life we’ve ever seen on any device we’ve reviewed long-term. It’s just atrocious. If you are anything but the lightest of phone users, buying a Flip3 will mean you’ll need to think about charging it all the time.
The Flip3 has never made it to the end of a day when we used it as we normally do for long-term reviews, with around 12-16 hours off the charger, of which the majority is spent on Wi-Fi, about an hour or two on mobile data, around 30 minutes to an hour of GPS navigation via Waze or Google Maps, location and Bluetooth always on, about an hour or two of listening to music or podcasts via Bluetooth, and about an hour or two of phone calls, again mostly via Bluetooth.
On the busiest of days, with loads of mobile data and GPS usage, we’ve even topped it up twice during the day just to get some peace of mind that it wouldn’t power off when we needed it the most. On our lightest use days, of which we’ve had a few, the Flip3 barely made it to our bedtime on one charge, with incredibly low screen on times, as the screenshots you see below can attest.
The fact that charging takes an hour and a half from empty to full is also unacceptable at this price point, when other companies are churning out mid-rangers costing half the price, which take 20 minutes to charge much larger batteries. Oh, and those mid-rangers also feature the fast charging brick in the box, a “wasteful” approach in Samsung’s view, which chose to save the environment by making some extra cash off of charger sales. Because that obviously makes sense, our sarcasm-filled selves feel the need to note.
Seriously, there’s no overstating this point: battery life on the Flip3 sucks, charging times suck too, and the fact that you have wireless charging as an option is nice to see but expected at this price point, and it doesn’t really help alleviate the aforementioned issues in any way. Not to mention that at 10W, that will take hours to fully replenish the battery when it’s dead.
Battery life is definitely the worst thing about the Flip3 as we’ve already mentioned. The camera system is probably the second worst then. There’s still some distance between these two, because the cameras on offer here aren’t bad per se, they’re just not in any way comparable to the ones featured on any other phone at the same price. But that’s the price you pay for the folding, isn’t it?
First off, there’s no telephoto zoom lens on the Flip3, and that’s hard to overlook in this day and age. Second, the two cameras that are there – a wide and an ultrawide – are okay, without wowing us in any shot we’ve taken on them.
The main snapper produces pleasant images during daytime, with that signature Samsung look with vivid colors and high contrast. Dynamic range is good but could be better, and detail levels are about what you can expect from a 12 MP sensor. Some textures look overprocessed though, and there is some noise creeping in if you pixel peep, especially in the sky. Overall, these are good images, but almost every other similarly priced device out there will beat them. Still, for most people only snapping things in order to share them on social media, this could be good enough.
The ultrawide shots during daytime follow a similar story: good, but not as good as they would be if this were any other phone costing about the same amount. The edges are softer than we’d like, although the center remains sharp. The colors are, for lack of a better word, Samsung-like – meaning pleasing to the eye even if not entirely accurate to the scene. The color science is also pretty well matched to what the main camera produces, which is always good to see (because it’s still so rare in the Android world). Dynamic range once again isn’t as great as on any of the top camera phones of the moment, unfortunately.
At night, the main camera does an auto-Night Mode dance if you leave Scene optimizer on (as it is by default and as we left it). This results in pretty quick shots, which have excellent color reproduction (if on the punchy end of the spectrum, of course), great dynamic range, and good amounts of detail – but we’ve definitely seen better. Noise will be visible too if you look for it, and pretty easily at that.
If you choose to employ the manual Night Mode, captures get ever so slightly longer, and the results may be worth it most times, as shadows are lifted and more details show up than in the Auto mode images. In fact, there isn’t really a downside to using Night Mode at night aside from the shot-to-shot time, so we’d recommend this as the default when the lights go down.
The ultrawide struggles in the dark as we would’ve expected it to, but still manages to produce shots with decent dynamic range and pleasing, saturated colors. But there’s a lot of noise, and this is very obvious.
There’s no auto-Night mode for the ultrawide, but you can use the manual one. If you do so, then you’ll get improved results, once again with lifted shadows and generally more brightness, but without extreme overexposure of highlights. If you look for it, you’ll see some pretty heavy-duty sharpening across the board, but even so, these shots are much better than the ones captured with Auto mode. So like for the main camera, if you have the time to let it do its thing (and stable hands), then we’d recommend using Night Mode by default on the ultrawide as well.
Selfies taken by the inner camera always come out sharp during daytime, with good amounts of detail, but the colors are weirdly muted compared to what the other cameras produce, and shockingly so when you consider this is a Samsung, and “muted colors” isn’t on the list of things associated with its cameras generally. Anyway, there’s also a bit of noise in the selfies, and sometimes the camera struggles with exposure in bright lighting conditions, while dynamic range isn’t great either, resulting in dark faces in backlit scenes.
Portrait Mode shots come out good, with adequate subject separation. At night, things understandably go downhill, and we recommend only shooting when there’s still some level of ambient lighting around you, or using the screen flash function – or ideally, both. You can of course also capture selfies with the main camera array, using the outer display as your viewfinder, in which case you’ll get much better shots as you might expect. The quality would be, unsurprisingly, on par with all the other shots that the main camera and the ultrawide produce.
We went into the camera experience expecting this to be one of the areas where the Flip3 wouldn’t shine, and that’s exactly what ended up happening. The cameras on offer here are fine, but hopefully, you aren’t planning on getting this phone for the cameras.
To sum up our time with the Galaxy Flip3, we’d say it’s a great and novel phone with atrocious battery life and a camera system that, while decent, simply can’t compete with the best of the best in any way. And then there’s the foldable elephant in the room. Sure, folding your phone still feels new and cool, but the fact that the Flip3 folds presents less of an advantage than in the case of the Fold3, where quite a few disadvantages are neatly being offset.
Hear us out: the Fold3 gives you an inner screen that’s almost small tablet-like, but you get no such thing on the Flip3. In fact, the only upside is that, when folded, it’s smaller on two axes. Not all three, though, which of course means it gets significantly thicker (a fact not aided by the hinge which isn’t gapless). So if you’re considering this device, the main question for you is: is this shrinking in two of three dimensions when folded actually worth everything you’re paying for it?
We don’t just mean ‘paying’ in terms of money, but also all the other things that had to be ‘adapted’ to the form factor, like the very small battery capacity, the small (and thus not great) camera sensors, the lack of a telephoto camera altogether… We can’t answer this question for you but, based on the Flip3’s record breaking sales (for a foldable), we assume a lot of people are actually willing to live with these downsides. Whether that’s because they think folding phones are cool, or because the Flip3 has somehow become a fashion statement, we don’t know, but the numbers don’t lie.
On the other hand, for anyone who considers themselves a power user of any sort, this would definitely not be the phone we’d recommend. Battery life used to be a huge issue in the mobile world many years ago, and in recent times has ceased to be that. Well, with the Flip3 you can relive those days when you were always anxious about longevity, and always had chargers everywhere. That’s not a world we’d happily go back to, and the slow charging doesn’t help things either.
But, for the mere coolness factor alone, the Flip3 is definitely intriguing. It was more of a conversation starter during our time with it than any other phone we’ve reviewed long-term, so if you want to stand out from the crowd, it’s a surefire way to do that. You just need to be fully aware of what the tradeoffs are, and we’ve tried to lay those out for you in great detail in this long-term review.
We don’t want to end on a note that feels like we’re bashing the Flip3 – indeed, we quite liked our time with it. It does have a great screen which is legible even in bright sunlight (although the top plastic layer feels like a really cheap screen protector); the build quality is excellent, although the hinge could definitely use some work for future iterations; the speakers are incredible given the size of the device (but speakerphone calls were bad for the people we were talking to), the vibration motor is excellent, the fingerprint sensor is the best side-mounted one we’ve ever used, performance was always excellent, and smoothness was the best we’ve encountered on a Samsung (while still trailing some competitors, but only just).
There’s definitely much more good than bad here, but the unfortunate reality is that the bad parts might just outshine those good ones, even if they’re severely outnumbered. And yet, if you can live with all of the not-so-perfect bits, the Flip3 definitely provides a unique user experience in a smartphone world that has become increasingly boring in recent times.