Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2: Upgrade Time?


The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the third generation of Samsung’s flagship foldable smartphones, and it continues to pioneer the form, without real rival. Each iteration of the Z Fold refines the hardware for greater durability, performance, battery life, and comfort.

Once again, with the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the company has revised the hinge, screen tech, and chassis. With the Z Fold 3, foldable phones are a product people can take seriously, representing the advance of a new market that Samsung has single-handedly created, featuring new waterproofing, S Pen support, and a lighter, slimmer case. We have a look at design, performance, batteries, cameras, software, and price to see how far this new model has come in comparison with last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 2.

Specs

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2
Size Unfolded: 128.1 x 158.2 x 6.4mm (5.04 x 6.22 x 0.25 inches)

Folded: 67.1 x 158.2 x 16.0mm (2.64 x 6.22 x 0.63 inches)

Unfolded: 159.2 x 128.2 x 6.9 mm

Folded: 159.2 x 68 x 16.8 mm

Weight 271 grams (9.56 ounces) 282 grams (9.95 ounces)
Screen size 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X and 6.2-inch Super AMOLED 2X 7.6-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X and 6.2-inch Super AMOLED 2X
Screen resolution 2,208 x 1,768 pixels (374 pixels per inch) and 2,268 x 832 pixels (387 pixels per inch) 2,208 x 1,768 pixels (373 pixels per inch)
Operating system Android 11 Android 10; One UI 2.5
Storage 256GB, 512GB 256GB, 512GB
MicroSD card slot No No
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay, Samsung Pay Google Pay, Samsung Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 Plus
RAM 12GB, 16GB 12GB
Camera 12-megapixel ultrawide, 12MP wide-angle, and 12MP telephoto rear, 4MP under-display, 10MP cover 12MP wide, 12MP telephoto, 12MP ultrawide rear, 10MP cover
Video 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps, HDR10+ 4K at 60 fps, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps, HDR10+
Bluetooth version 5.0 5.0
Ports USB 3.1, USB-C USB 3.1, USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, side-mounted Yes, side-mounted
Water resistance Yes, IPX8-rated No
Battery 4,400mAh

Fast charging (25W, charger not included)

Fast wireless charging (10W)

Reverse wireless charging (4.5W)

4,500mAh

Fast charging (45W)

Qi wireless charging (11W)

Reverse wireless charging (4.5W)

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support All carriers All carriers
Colors Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, Phantom Green Mystic Bronze, Mystic Black
Price $1,800 $2,000
Buy from Samsung, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart Samsung, AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart
Review score Hands-on review 4 out of 5 stars

Design, display, and durability

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 open wide.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Ajay Kumar/Digital Trends

The two most recent generations of Galaxy Z Folds look similar from the outside, but there are plenty of structural features that improve the newer device, both under and over the hood. The Z Fold 3 is a wee bit slimmer and lighter than the Z Fold 2, and the hinge is updated for a less bulky look, and it protrudes less than the older phone. The new model also features IPX8 water resistance, which can tolerate submersion in 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes, something missing from the Z Fold 2. A combination of Armor Aluminum body, Gorilla Glass Victus outer screen, and a PET film layer on the inner screen is designed to better protect the Z Fold 3 against scratches and drops. The aluminum is a lighter, more durable metal compared to the previous foldables. The weight of the new model is 271g, noticeably lighter than the 282g on the Fold 2.

Both models sport the same display size — 6.2 inches outside and 7.6 inside. However, the outside screen of the new Z Fold 3 has a higher pixel count of 2,268 x 832, as opposed to 2,260 x 816 pixels, and has a 120Hz refresh rate, doubling the 60Hz of the Z Fold 2. Moreover, the Z Fold 3’s new Eco display technology promises to boost screen brightness by 29%. The new model’s selfie camera punch-hole on the upper right of the inside display has been replaced by an under-display camera that is visible only when you use it.

Winner: Z Fold 3

Performance, battery life, and charging

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Samsung giveth and Samsung taketh away. Here’s how. Samsung equipped its new Z Fold 3 with a Snapdragon 888 processor, an upgrade of the Snapdragon 865 Plus processor in last year’s model. The new model still features 12GB RAM and 256GB storage, but additionally offers the option for 512GB storage. That’s the giveth part. However, in terms of battery power, the new Z Fold 3 is less powerful than its predecessor, though not by much. Whereas the Z Fold 2 features a 4,500mAh battery capacity across two cells, the Z Fold 3 offers 4,400mAh. It remains to be seen whether other optimizations in the new phone, especially the new eco display, outpace the slight battery spec loss. Both models support Samsung’s 25W wired fast charging and offer up to 10W wireless charging and 4.5W reverse wireless charging, as well.

Winner: Z Fold 3

Camera

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 back view.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Ajay Kumar/Digital Trends

The Z Fold 3’s rear three-camera array consists of a 12-megapixel ultra-wide camera, 12MP wide-angle camera, and a 12MP telephoto camera. That’s fairly consistent with the previous model. The front cameras are also the same 10MP resolution. But it’s the interior camera that’s changed. Not only has Samsung moved from a punch-hole notch to under the display, but it’s also decreased from a 10MP resolution to a 4MP resolution. We have yet to test out the Z Fold 3’s cameras but will watch for whether the move to an under-display camera diminishes its photo capabilities compared to the older phone.

Winner: Z Fold 2

Software and updates

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 closed.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 Ajay Kumar/Digital Trends

Both the Z Fold 2 and the Z Fold 3 feature Samsung’s One UI, but the Z Fold 2 ships with Android 10, while the Z Fold 3 ships with Android 11. This software is optimized for foldable phones and features special versions of apps that fill the interior display and facilitate additional functionality. Both phones offer Flex Mode, which allows the phone to stand vertically with the hinge at 90 degrees for video calls or video viewing, while a Multi-Active Window feature lets you open three apps at once and move between them. Another cool item is a static Taskbar option, which, while buried in the Settings app, gives you permanent access to your most-used apps, just like on a PC or Mac.

Winner: Z Fold 3

Special features

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 with stylus.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 with stylus. Ajay Kumar/Digital Trends

The most significant change to the Z Fold 3’s user experience is the added S Pen support. S Pen for Z Fold 3 offers two options — the S Pen Fold Edition and S Pen Pro 12. Both feature a retractable tip with force limit technology to protect the Z Fold 3’s screen. The S Pen Pro offers extra Bluetooth-powered remote features like the basic S Pen on the Galaxy Note. The S Pen stylus doesn’t disappear inside the Z Fold 3’s body; rather, it will get stored in a special case if you want to tote it around. The S Pen is a fairly small addition, but one that really works with the larger screen.

Winner: Z Fold 3

Price and availability

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 unfolded.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Currently, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Fold 2 are the same price at $1,800 — though the Z Fold 2 started out at $2,000. The Z Fold 2 is still available now, as the Z Fold 3 is currently available only for pre-order. The new phone goes on sale August 27, and Samsung is offering a $200 pre-order credit for the Z Fold 3. In the U.S., Verizon will offer a free Fold Cover and S Pen as a bundle with the new item, and a similar starter pack will be available with the phone in the U.K.

Winner: Z Fold 3

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3

Samsung listened to its customers when it set to the task of upgrading last year’s Galaxy Z Fold 2. The result is an upcoming phone with waterproofing, S Pen support, and a lighter, slimmer casing. With its new aluminum that’s 10% more durable — apparently the strongest material ever used on a smartphone — plus folding Gorilla Glass Victus over the screen and a protective film that’s 80% more durable than before, the new Z Fold 3 is a more viable daily-use possibility than its predecessor, and at the same price as the Z Fold 2. Thus, the Z Fold 3 gets the nod as the best Galaxy Fold for the moment. Stay tuned for our full review.

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