Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Galaxy Fold: How far have Samsung’s foldables progressed?

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Galaxy Fold: How far have Samsung’s foldables progressed?

Samsung has introduced the Galaxy Z Fold 3, its third-generation foldable smartphone, and the lineup has come a very long way. When the original Samsung Galaxy Fold first shipped, screens started breaking on reviewers. The Korean firm had to go back to the drawing board to make further improvements before it even shipped.

It was far from the mature product you see before you today. Indeed, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is set to be one of the best foldable phones on the market now. That’s the benefit of being first.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Samsung Galaxy Fold Specs

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3Samsung Galaxy Fold
Processor5nm 64-bit Octa-Core Processor (2.84GHz + 2.4GHz + 1.8GHz)7nm 64-bit Octa-Core Processor (2.84GHz + 2.41GHz + 1.78GHz)
DisplayCover Screen:
6.2-inch HD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X Display
24.5:9 aspect ratio 2268 x 832, 387 ppi
120Hz refresh rate
Inside Screen:
7.6-inch QXGA+ Dynamic -AMOLED 2X Display, 22.5:18 aspect ratio, 2208 x 1768, 374ppi, 120Hz
Cover Screen:
4.6″ HD+ Super AMOLED Display (21:9), 720×1680, 399ppi
Inside Screen:
7.3″ QXGA+ Dynamic AMOLED Display (4.2:3)
Infinity Flex Display (2152×1536), 362ppi
BodyFolded: 67.1 x 158.2 x 16.00mm
Unfolded: 128.1 x 158.2 x 6.4mm
Weight: 271g
Folded: 62.8 x 160.9 x 17.1 mm (Hinge)–15.7 mm (Sagging)
Unfolded: 117.9 x 160.9 x 7.6 mm (Frame)–6.9 mm (Screen)
Weight: 276g
CamerasMain: 12MP wide f/1.8 (Dual Pixel AF, OIS) + 12MP ultra-wide f/2.2 + 12MP 2x telephoto
Front: 10MP f/2.2 + 4MP f/1.8
Main: 12MP wide f/1.5 (OIS, Super Speed Dual Pixel) + 16MP ultra-wide f/2.2 + 12MP 2x telephoto (OIS, PDAF)
Front: 10MP f/2.2 + 8MP RGB Depth Camera
Battery4,400mAh4G model: 4,380mAh
5G model: 4,235mAh
Memory12GB RAM with 256/512GB UFS 3.1 storage12GB RAM with 512GB internal storage
Water resistanceIPX8Not rated
NetworkLTE: Enhanced 4X4 MIMO, 7CA, LAA, LTE Cat. 20
5G: Non-Standalone (NSA), Standalone (SA), Sub6 / mmWave
LTE model: Enhanced 2X2 MIMO, 6CA, LAA, LTE Cat.18
Up to 1.2Gbps Download / Up to 150Mbps Upload
5G model: Non-Standalone (NSA), Sub6
OSAndroid 11Shipped with Android 9
ColorsPhantom Black, Phantom Green, Phantom SilverSpace Silver, Cosmos Black
PriceStarts at $1,799$1,980 at launch

Design and Display: The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is refined

As I said, the original Samsung Galaxy Fold was a disaster and was delayed by months as Samsung worked on improving its durability for the second revision. Now when you buy a Galaxy Z Fold 3 today, you’re not wondering if the screen will break in a week. We don’t have to ask that question anymore. If you want one giant thing that’s changed between then and now, that’s it.

Top-down view of Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and previous generations, partially folded

Galaxy Fold vs Z Fold 2 vs Galaxy Z Fold 3

Looking at the actual design, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is thinner, smaller, and lighter, although not by much. You’d have to put them side-by-side to tell the difference between the chassis themselves. The Z Fold 3 is only 5g lighter, and when folded, it’s 1.1mm thinner (1.2mm when unfolded). It’s 1.7mm shorter, and it’s 4.3mm wider when folded.

Three generations of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold on top of each other

The inside screen is a bit bigger at 7.6 inches instead of 7.3 inches. The aspect ratio is larger on the Z Fold 3 as well, so it’s significantly bigger. The refresh rate is 120Hz now, making for smoother motions and animations.

One big change with this year’s model is S Pen support. With a big mini-tablet-sized screen, it would seem that the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and the S Pen are made for each other, making for a nice, easy way to take notes or draw. It took some time to get the pen right for the softer display though, so you have to get either the S Pen (Fold Edition) or the S Pen Pro.

Another significant change in the display is the external/cover display, the one you see when it’s folded. It’s 6.2-inches now at a 24.5:9 aspect ratio, compared to the 4.6-inch 21:9 screen that was seen on the original Galaxy Fold. This screen is always going to be your first interaction with the device, and while we like to talk about the big internal folding screen, the external screen is going to be the one you see any time you use it without unfolding it.

Front view of Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 with previous generations

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 comes in new colors like Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Green, the former two of which have already been seen on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. You remember Phantom Black, right? That’s the one where the company went into detail about how it came up with a shade of the most common smartphone color in existence, black. Notably, the original Galaxy Fold only came in Space Silver and Cosmos Black. More colors are a sign of a more mature product since it’s not experimental anymore and Samsung understands what kind of supply it needs.

Camera, Performance, and Battery: All incremental improvements

As you can see from the spec sheet above, most of the improvements in these departments are about what you’d expect. Indeed, when it comes to a device with a foldable display, the thing that matters is, you guessed it, the folding display.

The camera updates are pretty incremental, keeping up with the rest of the Galaxy lineup. The resolution of the main sensor is still 12MP, but it’s bigger and should be better in low-light. It’s about what you’d expect from two generations of Galaxy cameras. There’s still an ultra-wide sensor and a 2x zoom lens.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Fold 2, showing cameras

Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Galaxy Z Fold 3

The battery is 4,400mAh now, just a bit bigger than the 4,380 mAh in the 4G model of the Samsung Galaxy Fold. Of course, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has 5G now, something that was only an option two years ago. Now, every Snapdragon 888 smartphone comes with a Snapdragon X60 5G modem.

Speaking of the Snapdragon 888, there’s a massive performance bump there. Keep in mind the Galaxy Fold came with a Snapdragon 855, so like there are two generations between the phones, there are also two generations between the chipsets. The Snapdragon 888 has the new Cortex-X1 core, which is powerful and comes alongside the Adreno 660 GPU. You can combine that with the Hexagon 780 for the Sixth Generation Qualcomm AI Engine. Along with the massive performance gains, there’s also the Spectra 580 ISP, which is the first triple ISP in a Qualcomm chipset. That means the ISP can handle taking pictures from three sensors at once.

But again, all of this is incremental. That two-generational journey is nearly identical to plenty of other devices. The camera keeps up with modern devices, the battery is almost the same size if not slightly bigger, and the chipset used is the one from this generation.

Conclusion: How far has Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold lineup come?

Most of the changes have been moderate and incremental over the years. That’s no surprise; welcome to the world of smartphones. For a few years now, foldable devices have represented the most exciting change in the smartphone landscape that we’ve seen in a while. Everywhere else, we just have a rectangular slab where every year, we get a slightly better display, a slightly better camera, slightly better performance, slightly better battery life, and so on.

Three generations of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold on top of each other

But since this is the third generation of the foldable screen device, now what? Indeed, it’s time for those incremental changes to happen. To be clear, incremental changes are fantastic; they’re just not as exciting.

To revisit my original point, the biggest thing that’s changed is this is a mature product. After the original Galaxy Fold fell apart in the hands of reviewers, I wouldn’t have bought it in a million years, even after it was fixed. That’s not a concern anymore. The foldable OLED screen technology, once a cause for concern, is now tested and true. You can buy the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 without worrying if you’re wasting a couple of thousand dollars now, and that’s a big difference.

    Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
    The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the flagship foldable smartphone from the Korean firm, now packing an IPX8 rating and a 120Hz display

About author

Rich Woods
Rich Woods

Managing Editor for XDA Computing. I've been covering tech from smartphones to PCs since 2013. If you see me at a trade show, come say hi and let me ask you weird questions about why you use the tech you use.