Samsung's newest takes on foldable phones, the small Flip3 and the big Fold3 should hit the online stores in a few days, lockdown permitting.
I never got to try out the earlier Samsung foldables and can't compare them, but the Fold3 that arrived just over a week ago is a technological tour de force by the Korean electronics giant.
Samsung's made a number of improvements compared to the earlier models, and the Fold3 is element-proofed and more durable.
There are two screens on the Fold3, one 6.7-inch "external" when the device is folded, with 2268 by 832 resolution, and the internal one that folds out to a tablet-like 7.6-inches, measured diagonally, with 2208 by 1768 resolution.
Both are beautifully sharp and bright, at 1500 and 1200 nits respectively, and use an adaptive 120 Hertz refresh rate for smooth action. A punch hole wouldn't look good on the plastic foldable screen, so Samsung hid the selfie-camera underneath the display.
The foldable screen works as one display, or two separate ones, and it's pretty amazingly good. After a while you start folding up the device without thinking it'll break down the middle. Samsung's build quality is top notch, as you'd expect in a premium device like the Fold3, and the phone isn't as thick as you'd think it would be folded, at 16 mm but the 271 gram weight is hefty.
It's not perfect, however. I am being a bit churlish perhaps, but the fold-crease in the middle of the screen is difficult to ignore, ditto the under-display selfie camera circle. The colour shift between the two screen halves is noticeable when the display is half folded. You can't casually flip open or close the Fold3 with one hand, and the screen does not shut tight so there is a gap when folded.
You get used to the screen idiosyncrasies quickly, and adjust to what's quite a remarkable experience. The Android 11 operating system with Samsung's One UI customisations works well with the multi-screen Fold3, and only occasionally would some apps display with the sides shaved off on the front or external display.
Due to the lockdown, I didn't receive the updated S-Pen stylus for the Fold3 because it's not an essential item, unlike phones. Older styluses shouldn't be used with the Fold3, and I do think it's worth having one with the device for notes and drawings. While it's cool that the Fold3 supports the S-Pen, you can't store it in the device and the stylus only works on the big inner screen. The Fold edition of the S-Pen is sold separately too, at $79 each.
The Fold3 has Qualcomm's quick Snapdragon 888 chipset inside that benchmarks well, albeit not up to Apple A14 Bionic levels. It completed the 3DMark graphics stress test without heating up too much, but frame rates dropped about a third towards the end.
Battery life for the Fold3 with one big foldable screen to power, and the front display as well is okay, about a day depending on use. Having 25 Watt fast charging through the Fold3 USB-C port makes it quick to top up the battery. Samsung's joined Apple and so there's no wall charger included with the Fold3.
It's impossible to overlook that the Fold3 costs $2700 for a 12 GB memory and 256 GB storage model with 5G support, even with the $300 e-voucher sweetener Samsung throws in.
That's when you start glancing sideways at the excellent Samsung S21 Ultra 5G flagship device, which retails for $2199, also for a 256 GB model with a big 6.8-inch screen, and wonder if the amazing foldable screen is worth the premium.
The 12 Mpixel three-camera photo and video system on the Fold3 isn't bad by any means. However, heading in the direction of the 6.8-inch screen S21 Ultra means you'll get Samsung's latest and greatest set of imagers with four cameras, three and 10 times optical zoom, and up to 108 Mpixel resolution, that lets you shoot 8K video at 24 frames per second.
Although the under-display camera on the Fold3 is clever, it's only 4 Mpixel and not 40 Mpixel as on the S21 Ultra.
There are other areas where the S21 beats the Fold3 for less money, like its faster chipset.
If despite that you feel a foldable smartphone is worth the extra outlay, the Samsung Z Fold3 is what you should be looking at; and, you'll like what you see.