A folding phone is already intriguing, but still impractical

Samsung Z Fold 3 review.

In its advertising, Samsung says that the Fold is two devices at once:
when folded, it is a smartphone with a 6.2-inch screen;
in the open-a tablet.
Because of this positioning, we are forced to compare the Fold with both a “normal” smartphone and a” normal ” tablet-here, of course, there are problems.
What has changed
The new generation has become thinner and lighter compared to the Fold 2. However, in the palm of the hand, the device feels folded as before — a cross between two smartphones under each other and a cell phone from the 2000s with a “thick” rectangular case. It is unusual and strange — even after two weeks of working with the device.
The gap between the halves remained, but this time it is difficult to find fault with the build quality. Fold behaves like a solid and even monolithic smartphone — no backlash or parts that bend under pressure.
Visually, the Fold seems heavier than when you take it in your hands. It is hardly possible to feel the difference in weight between the Fold 3 and an ordinary “big” smartphone like the Note.
The display, which is responsible for the” smartphone ” part of the Fold, now occupies almost the entire external surface.
It received support for the image refresh rate of 120 Hz and in general, the characteristics are not inferior to the flagship “awkward” models. Smooth animation, excellent color reproduction and contrast. Everything is great, except that they absolutely do not want to use it.
Firstly, because despite the increase in size, the screen still remains small — all 6.2 inches of the display “dissolve” in a long and unusually narrow surface.
Application interfaces on such a screen are squeezed in width, and it is difficult to get into the letters on the keyboard-unfortunately, even a keyboard with swipe support does not help.
Secondly, why test your patience and limit yourself when there is a large screen hidden inside the case, with which you can comfortably and quickly solve any task. Awareness of this fact develops a habit that is impossible to get rid of: in 99% of cases, I immediately open the smartphone, ignoring the external display.
I noticed that even when a notification arrives and my second hand is busy, I still do not respond to messages on the ” small “screen, but wait for the opportunity to respond on the” big ” one. The form factor played a cruel joke with the” smartphone ” part of the Fold — it loses in usability to any clumsy phone.
Prepare for the worst
Over the past decade, smartphones have got rid of half of the physical buttons and extra connectors, received protection from dust and water, got strong (almost) glasses and cases that can survive a fall. If you take the battery life out of the brackets, a modern smartphone without complaints can be enough for five years of work.
I personally did not have the feeling that folding phones are a step forward. And it’s not just about the unsuccessful start of the model, when the test copies of the first Fold broke down with journalists. The format of folding smartphones itself implies the presence of moving parts that sooner or later run out of resources — this feeling lies somewhere in the subcortex of consciousness.
Samsung is aware that this is a weak point, so it is working on the reliability of the design in each new generation. So, the Fold 3 received a case made of a special alloy and got IPX8 protection — this means that the smartphone can be immersed in water to a depth of one and a half meters for 30 minutes. At the same time, along with the test device, the company sent a letter in which it was written in red font: “It is forbidden to immerse the smartphone in water.”
Judging by the video on YouTube, the experiences of the press service are in vain — the device copes with water, and I have not yet found evidence in social networks to the contrary.
The main thing is what’s inside
Now about the good things. The internal screen is impressive every time I open it. It occupies the entire surface, from edge to edge, supports a refresh rate of 120 Hz.
With confidence, you can forgive the presence of a bump between the two halves of the device — you pay attention to it only in the light, when glare appears from it.
You can also get used to the film on the internal screen. It is still noticeable and it is still impossible to remove it (although I really want to). Samsung claims that the internal screen is 80% stronger than the last generation, however, I found a couple of dents on the film after a few days of use.
A selfie camera is “hidden” under the right half of the display. It was not possible to completely hide it, so in a light image it turns into a miniature hole with thinned pixels, somewhat resembling a ventilation grate. Due to the density of dots, the camera ripples in the eyes every time a white interface appears on the screen.
I usually complain about the software in Samsung reviews, but everything turned out fine with the Fold 3. It is worth starting with the fact that the square Fold screen is a good balance between size and functionality.
Most Android applications simply stretch their interface to the full width of the screen and most often it looks organic.
There are a few exceptions. For example, the Instagram app, which leaves black bars on the left and right. For such cases, Samsung suggests using the Labs setup. It forcibly stretches the interface of non-adaptive applications to work with a large Fold screen.
This works well for photos in the feed, but the “Stories” when adapting to a square screen have to be heavily cropped at the top and bottom — often together with the content.
In TikTok, the Lab function adapts its interface to the screen, but the content remains with the frames, which looks quite strange.
Fold supports working with multiple windows on the same screen. For example, you can place two full-fledged applications side by side. Or even three, dividing one of the halves into two more parts (although it is still unclear for what cases such a configuration may be useful).
Windows work stably and flexibly: you can change the order, width, and save desktops.
Unfortunately, for a pleasant work on the big screen, you will have to pay with a battery charge. So, after sitting down for a while in a chair with a fully charged Fold, flipping through Reddit and Telegram, reading the comments on TJ and vc.ru, I suddenly discovered a loss of 30% of the charge. The Fold battery runs out faster than you expect.
The future has not yet arrived
Samsung is confident that by 2023, the demand for folding smartphones will increase tenfold, and the Fold will become the main device for those who now buy expensive flagship models with large screens.
But so far, the Fold has only one argument in front of “ordinary” smartphones and tablets — it takes up less space in those moments when you don’t use it. And for this advantage, you have to pay for a less reliable design and a high cost.
Now the Fold 3 can be recommended for purchase only to early technology adherents. In 2021, it is still perceived as a demo that works stably and is impressive when used, but has not yet found a practical form and meaning.
Briefly, if you read the text diagonally:
I don’t want to use the external Fold screen because of its narrow format.
Despite all the improvements, it is impossible to get rid of the feeling of unreliability of the design.
A successful format of the internal screen and a well-thought-out multi-window mode.
There is still a demo of a technology that does not have enough arguments against “ordinary” smartphones and tablets.

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