UPDATED 13:35 EST / AUGUST 11 2021

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New Samsung foldables: Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3 make their debut at Unpacked 2021

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. today debuted two new foldable Android devices at its Unpacked product event: the flip phone-inspired Galaxy Z Flip 3 and the Galaxy Z Fold 3, a small tablet that uses a hinge to turn into a smartphone.

Both devices are built from new materials, including a patented aluminum alloy, that Samsung says will make them considerably more durable. The durability improvements could help the company win over new customers that were until now hesitant to buy into its foldable device lineup because of hardware reliability concerns. 

“Samsung continues its march to lead in foldables and I think the company did a good job removing objections that consumers and businesses have had,” said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “The new line is more durable, more powerful, more usable with more optimized apps and less expensive. I can guarantee that the company will double or triple current sales, which are low.”

Galaxy Z Flip 3

By default, the new Z Flip 3 functions as a standard smartphone with a 6.7-inch display similar to Samsung’s flagship Galaxy S21. But a hinge located in the middle allows the device to fold horizontally into a compact rectangle that fits more easily into the user’s pocket. When the Z Flip 3 is folded, the user can still interact with the device through a 1.9-inch external screen that lends itself to simple tasks such as viewing notifications.

Designing a handset to fold can in some ways make it more susceptible to screen scratches and other technical issues affecting the display. To reduce the risk of malfunctions, Samsung says that it has made the Z Flip 3’s display considerably more durable than its predecessor, last year’s Z Flip.

The device’s screen is made of Gorilla Glass Victus, the newest iteration of Corning Inc.’s popular mobile display glass. The material is described by Corning as having twice the resistance of the Gorilla Glass 6 launched in 2018 and can withstand a drop from a height of up to 6.5 feet. For added measure, Samsung has overlaid the glass with a protective film that it says is 30% more durable than the technology it used in earlier devices.

The phone’s frame, in turn, is made up of an internally developed and patented aluminum alloy that Samsung calls Armor Aluminum. The alloy is reportedly about 10% stronger than earlier materials used by Samsung, which the company says makes the frame more resistant to dents. Armor Aluminum’s strength indirectly also increases the durability of the Gorilla Glass display, the phone maker claims.

The frame houses a speedy Snapdragon 888 processor, Qualcomm Inc.’s flagship system-on-chip for mobile devices. The Z Flip 3 uses the Snapdragon 888 to power one selfie camera, two rear lenses and a 5G module for connecting to fifth-generation carrier networks. Paired with the Qualcomm processor is an eight-gigabyte memory drive and either 128 or 512 gigabytes of flash storage depending on the configuration. 

The Z Flip 3 will be available from $999. 

Z Fold 3

Samsung today also debuted a second foldable handset, the Z Fold 3, which more closely resembles a tablet than a flip phone both in design and price. The $1,799 device features a 7.6-inch primary display and a hinge that allows it to fold like a book. When folded, a 6.2-inch secondary screen activates on the exterior that enables consumers to use the Z Fold 3 like a standard smartphone.

The Next Chapter in Mobile Innovation: Unfold Your World with Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Galaxy Z Flip3 5G

The Z Fold 3 is based on many of the same technological building blocks as the Z Flip 3. Like its flip phone-inspired counterpart, the device features a new protective film designed to increase durability. But whereas the film covering the Z Flip 3 display is described as 30% more durable than earlier technology, the material on the primary screen of the Z Fold 3 is 80% stronger.

Samsung has also incorporated its Armor Aluminum alloy into the Z Fold 3 to reinforce the frame. Thanks to the improved case, the device has an IPX8 water resistance rating, meaning it can be submerged for up to 30 minutes without experiencing a malfunction.

Another similarity between Samsung’s two foldables: The Z Fold 3 uses the same Snapdragon 888 processor as the Z Flip 3. Introduced in December 2020, the chip features an eight-core central processing unit consisting of a “prime” core supported by seven less powerful secondary cores. The CPU is 25% faster than the one in Qualcomm’s previous top-end mobile processor. There’s also an onboard graphics processing unit that is 35% faster and 20% more power efficient than its predecessor.

In the Z Fold 3, the Snapdragon 888 is paired with 12 gigabytes of memory, twice as much as the 6 gigabytes offered by the Z Flip 3. Samsung is also offering more storage capacity: customers can choose between buying the Z Fold 3 with either 256 gigabytes or 512 gigabytes of flash.

On the device frame itself, Samsung included a selfie camera above the main display, another camera embedded into the corner of the external display, and lastly, three rear lenses. The Z Fold 3 also features support for Samsung’s popular S Pen stylus. 

New wearables

At Unpacked Samsung introduced two wearables alongside its new foldable devices: the Galaxy Buds 2 and Galaxy Watch 4. The Galaxy Buds 2 are wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation technology that Samsung will make available for $150. The Galaxy Watch 4 starts at $249 and runs on Android rather than the custom operating system that Samsung shipped with its earlier smartwatches.

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The switch to Android is perhaps the most significant of the improvements that Samsung announced for its wearables lineup today. Samsung says that customers will now have easier access to popular Google LLC apps on their smartwatches thanks to the operating system refresh. Additionally, syncing settings between a user’s smartwatch and mobile device will become simpler as well.

Future competition from Apple

Samsung’s top rival, Apple Inc., has long been rumored to be developing a foldable device of its own. A recent report suggests that the handset could arrive within two to three years. Apple’s entry into the market could create more competition for the Galaxy Z line, but potentially also benefit Samsung by generating more overall consumer interest in the foldable devices.

Samsung’s decision to give Z Flip 3 a starting price of $999 could also help boost demand for foldables. The previous-generation Galaxy Z Flip was priced at $1,380, while Samsung’s first foldable, the Samsung Galaxy Fold, retailed for $1,980 when it launched in 2019.

Images: Samsung

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