If you’ve ever wanted a mini tablet that you can shrink to phone size and take everywhere, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 is a must-have marvel of tech cleverness.
Ever since Samsung came out with an eye-catching (if a bit impractical) curved-edge screen on their 2014 Galaxy Note Edge, the company has been experimenting with ways to manipulate their phone’s screens to create something new and desirable. The popularity of “phablets” like the Galaxy Note series was always very much due to their huge screens, but that also meant a big physical form factor that wasn’t the most convenient thing to carry around in a pocket.
So, Samsung’s venture into foldable screens was a big deal – even though it had a rocky start, as groundbreaking technologies often do. Folding an AMOLED screen in half is simple in theory, but there was a learning curve when it came to how to do it reliably in a device people would be opening and closing all day.
The big deal with the third release of Samsung’s flagship foldable – the Galaxy Z Fold3 – is something nobody expected.
This is a foldable phone that carries an IPX8 water resistance rating, which means it can be completely submerged in up to 1.5 metres of water for up to half an hour, and still come out fully functional.
The design magic Samsung’s had to work to make this possible is incredible, given that there’s no way to make a hinge waterproof.
That hinge, by the way, is a work of engineering art, seamlessly unfolding the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 into a mini handheld tablet with an eye-filling 7.6-inch AMOLED screen that’s at a perfect aspect ratio for productivity; any widescreen movies or shows you watch on it will have letterbox bars, but when you’re doing day-to-day stuff like web browsing and email, that extra vertical space means you can throw several apps up on screen at once and be able to see all of them.
Samsung has worked with Google (as well as other app developers) to adapt the phone’s Android 11 OS, as well as popular apps like YouTube and Chrome, to recognise the unfolded display and support new display modes that, for example, put the video feed on one half of the screen and the description and comments on the other.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3’s big party trick is its under-screen camera – a first for the Fold series. Instead of a cut-out in the screen putting a big black dot at the edge of everything you’re viewing, this 4-megapixel camera is hidden behind a tiny circle of less screen pixels, allowing it to see right through the screen and capture an image. The quality is more suited to video chat and Zoom meetings, but it works brilliantly.
When folded, the outside “cover screen” display makes the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 look like a regular, if extremely skinny, phone. Both this and the main foldable display support 120Hz for silky-smooth user interaction (and mobile gaming!). And the seamless transition from the cover screen to the main one, if you unfold the phone while using an app, feels very much like you just bought a ticket to the future.