A Year With The Galaxy Z Fold 3

I traded in my beloved Note 20+ for the Galaxy Z Fold 3 a little over a year ago. I had some concerns about the durability and questioned the price to value ratio. I also wondered how annoying not having onboard storage for the stylus would be over time.

Let’s start with the cost. Prior to the Fold 3, I was prone to using a PC (laptop), a mid-sized tablet (Surface Go or iPad), and my phone. The tablet device is no longer part of my daily gear. For me, the Fold’s utility replaces a separate chair/home device.

I don’t use a standalone tablet anymore

Against my expectations, this thing has proven to be tough as nails. A few weeks ago mine fell from a server rack, open-face, onto bare concrete. The drop was around four feet, it hit so hard that it bounced. My heart skipped a beat and the people in the room with me audibly gasped. I was sure I would turn it over and find total destruction. There wasn’t a scratch on it.

It’s lives in my pocket, gets tossed on to desks, and has been dropped on various surfaces, but looks like new. The hinge gets opened and closed countless times everyday. I’ve written miles worth of strokes with the S-Pen. All the marks wipe off and the screen shows no signs of wear. The only issue I’ve had to address is replacing the factory installed screen protectors.

Part of the durability is no doubt due to the Spigen Thin Fit P case that it lives in. Which also happens to solve the S-Pen storage problem. The stylus attaches to a channel on the side securely. When the S-Pen is in place, it provides extra room for my thumb. Remove the stylus and the notch that is left forms a perfect place to grip the device for writing.

The case works with all my accessories; keep reading for more on those. It also doesn’t obscure wireless charging, looks great and doesn’t add much bulk. Basically, it works as advertised. Spigen offers a version for the Fold 4. If I eventually upgrade, I’ll be ordering it on the same day.

The Thin fit P is almost perfect

People like to point out that the crease where the screen folds is visible. It is. Not only that, but it can be felt, both with a finger and the stylus. It would be great if they are able to remove it in future iterations. It doesn’t detract from my overall happiness with the phone though.

I didn’t expect to enjoy gaming on the Fold as much as I do. Even after all this time, it is still my go to option for casual play. Android games and emulators are fine but where the Fold really shines is streaming. To get the best experience you need to pair the phone with a controller.

I use Gamesir’s X2 Bluetooth gamepad. It’s micro switch buttons and tiggers feel great. The sticks are small, but they are accurate and smooth. The portability is excellent, the controller will fit in a jacket pocket. I run mine in Xbox mode to get the best compatibility with the streaming apps.

Geforce Now, Gamepass Ultimate, and Steam link streaming all work on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 like they were made for it. It’s light, has no fans, has good sound, and an OLED screen capable of 120 FPS. I played all of The Outer Worlds via Gamepass Ultimate streaming. I am about to complete Cyberpunk 2077 which I’ve streamed via Gamestream.

Speaking of streaming stuff, I setup my Windows PC with Remote Desktop Services. Then use the Fold as a client for a powerful mobile productivity combination. I frequently use a portable keyboard and mouse to achieve laptop levels of productivity from items that fit in my pant’s pockets.

As a smart screen in your vehicle, the interior view is large enough to display my map and something else simultaneously. The speakers and microphones work well enough to use the Fold on its own in most cars. It also connects to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi direct easily. 

There are multiple third-party solutions for mounting the Fold 3 to your car’s dash in the open position. I cycled through a handful over the preceding months. The one that stuck is the DOODBI Wireless Car Charger Mount for Galaxy Z Fold 4/3. It uses motorized arms that grab the edges at the press of a button. I got it on Amazon. It also fits in most other vehicle mounts if I leave it closed and use the front screen.

Like most Fold owners, I wish that the battery lasted longer. It will just barely make it through an average work day without reacharging.  To get there, I leave the Powersave feature enabled. Weekend and PTO days almost always require a recharge half-way through. Again, I have gotten used to it.

A lot of people report that they would like the exterior screen to be wider, more like the size of a normal smartphone. I am not in that camp. I love how the narrow design fits in my front jeans pocket. It also lends itself to one-handed operation when retrieved from said pocket. If a larger display is needed for the task at hand, I just open the hinge.

Throughput my work day, I keep the phone open flat on my desk. Generally I have OneNote open to a blank page and use the device as one might use a paper notebook. I also find that I like to read longer emails and documents on it.

As a media consumption machine, the Fold 3 is in a league of its own. Of course, the big interior screen is great for books, blogs, Reddit, magazines, video and movies. I didn’t expect to use flex mode much. However, having the fast-forward, rewind, brightness and volume controls always on the lower screen is too good to pass on.

The cameras could be better, but in my opinion they recieve more bad press than they deserve. I’ve managed to take some fantastic pictures by leaving everything on full auto. There are three late model iPhones in my household too. I haven’t looked at any of their shots and thought, “iPhone pictures are so much better! I’m trading this folding thing in.” 

Taken with the Fold 3 on Full Auto at night

The in-display front camera is fine for Teams or Zoom. I use it almost every day and have received exactly zero reports of looking dim, fuzzy, or out of focus on video calls. Not having a notch or punch-hole breaking up my screen is just awesome. It’s better than the Dynamic Island in my opinion. 

To get the most out of my folding phone I have put some time into customizing it. My interior home screen is plastered in widgets and operates as a life-dashboard. I’ve customized all of the notifications so that only the important beeps get through. I’ve also put some work into automation with Bixby routines.

The folding screen is a big win in my book. I don’t see going back to a non-expandable phone screen. At the same time, I’m not sure the trick works as well at larger scales. I know several manufacturers are releasing their folding laptops, but they don’t seen as compelling as the one in my pocket.

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