From 2002 through 2011 I was an avid PalmOS phone fan, moderating a PalmOS phone forum, and moving from the Samsung i330, i500, and i550 to the Treo line after Samsung killed off their Palm phones. After PalmOS was killed off, I have been on the Samsung bandwagon since 2011, going from the Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S4, Note 4 Edge, Note 8, and currently the Note 10+.
Over that time, Samsung killed off some features that I loved, like having a user replaceable battery and an IR remote control, but they still had some unique features like magnetic payment via Samsung Pay and micro-SD storage.
But Samsung killed off those final features earlier this year and they failed to release a new Note phone this year. It’s unclear if there will be another Note released in the future, but there won’t be anything anytime soon for people hanging onto a Note 8/9/10 that want to upgrade.
Is it time to find a new bandwagon?
I wasn’t going to try a foldable device, but getting about $1,000 off a Z Fold3 via trade-in was enough to tempt me to try it out.
With a 6.2″ external screen, a 7.6″ internal screen, 5 cameras, 512GB storage, and 12GB RAM, it seems like a powerhouse of a phone.
What did I think of it?
- The good:
- When unfolded, the big beautiful display is something to behold. It has a ton of real estate that provides an excellent tablet-like experience when browsing the web or watching video.
Screenshot of the unfolded display:
- Bizarrely, my favorite feature on the phone isn’t enabled out of the box. I found it hidden in “Labs” under “advanced settings” where more people won’t find it, the ability to select “multi-window for all apps” and “pin your favorite apps” turns the phone into a multi-tasking powerhouse. Having a list of recently used and pinned favorite apps on the side screen is reminiscent of my beloved edge screen on the Note Edge. Add in Samsung’s one-handed operation app shortcuts and this is one powerful multi-tasker!
Multi-tasking done right on the Fold3:
- By folding the screen halfway, you can take top-down pictures with more ease than with any other device and the camera knows to split the screen into 2 automatically. From the upper screen you can easily see what’s the camera is looking at when the phone is pointed down without having to stand over your phone:
- The fingerprint reader on the side power button is well positioned and extremely accurate and fast.
- When you’re taking a picture of someone else in tablet mode, the subject can see what they look like from the external screen on the back of the phone. Pretty neat party trick!
- This may be a pro or a con, but everyone will ask to see what in the world you’re holding. It’s like having a smartphone in the aughts.
- There was zero noticeable lag time or sluggishness, everything was silky smooth.
- The bad:
- The front screen, while 6.2″, was too narrow for me to use. The long and skinny design is necessitated by the Fold’s large hinge. It’s extremely hard to use the keyboard to type anything with this screen and just too awkward for me to use in this mode.
- The phone is very bulky when closed, even without a case. And it’s heavy!
- As I didn’t use the front screen, this device requires 2 hands to use it in tablet mode, which meant I could never use it one handed.
- The phone only charges at 25W, slower than my Note10’s 45W. It takes an absurdly long time to get a full charge on the phone.
- Battery life was slightly better than I expected for such a resource hungry phone, but I wasn’t able to make it a full day on the battery.
- The camera quality didn’t seem to be anything to write home about, and certainly not for a high end device. It still can’t take pictures half as good as my wife’s 3 year old Pixel 3.
- The selfie camera on the large internal screen is a swing and a miss. It’s embedded underneath the screen and it’s a real eyesore compared to a hole punch when the screen is bright. Worst of all, the pictures from it are comically bad. And the Face Unlock doesn’t work very well from the camera either.
- The array of cameras in the back make the phone wobbly when placed flat down, regardless of whether the phone is open or closed.
- The Samsung Keyboard has a tablet mode that splits the keyboard into 2 sides to make it easier to use. However GBoard is a far superior keyboard, but doesn’t have tablet mode. Either way, typing on the device isn’t particularly easy.
- The center crease when in tablet mode isn’t as bothersome as I thought it would be, but it’s always still noticeable.
- Cases for the phone seem awful. There’s just no good way to protect this phone while keeping it fully useable in phone or tablet mode.
- While some apps switch nicely between phone and tablet mode, some have jarring transitions. It’s strange going from Chrome Mobile with phone tabs to Chrome Tablet with tablet tabs. And it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out how to close all tabs in Chrome tablet mode.
- While I liked keeping the phone in tablet mode when I wasn’t on the move, you need to close the tablet in order to answer a phone call without a headset or speakerphone, which is an annoyance.
- While the phone supports the S-Pen, you can’t use a Note S-Pen, you need to buy a special $50-$100 S-Pen for the Fold. And there’s no slot in the phone for it, you need a special case for it…and the cases are just not good.
- While the phone is waterproof, it is not dust proof. If dust or sand get under the folding screen, good luck ever getting it out.
I really wanted to love this phone. And I did for the massive screen that really made browsing the web much more enjoyable and for the multi-tasking. But even 3 generations in, this is a heavy, thick, and unwieldy phone with just too many drawbacks. Perhaps when they figure out how to shrink the hinge and make a truly useable external phone screen I’ll give it another shot.
I switched back from the Fold3 to my Note 10+ and a smile came to my face. It may not do any fancy tricks, but it’s uncomplicated and works well, even though it has some sluggishness and can use a new battery.
Where does that leave me in my hunt for a replacement phone? Probably with a Pixel 6 or Galaxy S22 I’d guess. Samsung has killed off all of the reasons I’ve stuck with them over the past decade, so I’ll give the Pixel 6 a ride and see how it goes.
Do you have a Fold3? What are your thoughts on it?