Foldable phones are still clunky, untested devices. But in the past three generations (with a fourth presumably on the way), Samsung has made great strides with its designs, paving the way for innovative (albeit sometimes quite expensive) alternatives to the typical glass block. And when you combine that with sales of nearly 10 million devices last year, it looks like Samsung foldables are finally starting to break into the mainstream.
But despite a number of improvements over the years, there is one aspect of the Samsung fold that still requires a lot of work: durability. Last year, after purchasing my Z Fold 2, I documented some of the problems I faced after owning it for 10 months. And after the update to the Z Fold 3 last fall, I’m here to report on how Samsung’s latest flagship foldable is holding up just under a year later.
Now, at this point, some people may be wondering why I upgraded. The bubbles my Z Fold 2’s screen suffered from were certainly annoying, but they weren’t so bad that I considered going back to a regular candy bar phone. Instead, my main goal for purchasing the model (professional curiosity aside) was to get a foldout that could better survive a newborn.
Compared to typical smartphones, the Z Fold 2’s lack of water resistance was almost guaranteed to become a problem after my child was born. I felt like I had to keep the phone in a separate room, lest some small amount of spitting or drooling would ruin the device. And it just wasn’t something I wanted to do, and that’s what led me to the Z Fold 3 and its IPX8 rating. I figured if a phone can withstand sitting in water for up to 30 minutes at depths of up to five feet, it could also handle anything a child might throw (or spit) at it.
Thankfully, I think my strategy worked, because even though it cost around $ 800 to upgrade after trading my Z Fold 2, that money has already paid off. My Z Fold 3 was peed, it was vomited and milk was sprayed all over the place, and it was fine. The phone has also been gnawed more than a handful of times to no effect. So while the addition of water resistance to Samsung foldables might not be that exciting, considering regular phones that have had it for years, it’s a huge improvement for day-to-day usability.
The rest of the phone’s body also held up quite well. There’s a relatively large scratch on its frame and a couple of scratches on the hinge, but those are all cosmetic dents. I should also mention that I’m not a person who puts phones in skins or cases, this thing has been living naked since the day I got it. So while I haven’t traveled a lot, the number of times this phone fell out of my hand or fell to the ground as I ran to grab my son after a nap is pretty impressive. Dust and crumbs were also handled by the extra bristles Samsung put inside the hinge. The big exception to the increased durability of the Z Fold 3 is once again the built-in screen protector. For this model, Samsung claims to have switched from the TPU material used on the Z Fold 2 to a new PET film while also using a stickier adhesive, designed to prevent bubbles from forming between the protector and the display itself. But in my experience, none of this has helped.
For the first six months I had it, my Z Fold 3’s screen was spotless. There were no spots, bubbles or anything. But then one winter’s day, as I was walking down the street, I opened the phone and heard a snap. At first I feared the worst, thinking that the outer cover screen had broken or that something important inside had broken. But on closer inspection, I noticed that there was a thin line running down the center of the phone near the fold, as if the cover had been pulled or stretched.
And while I’m still not sure what the exact cause was, my theory is that after taking the phone out of my pocket, the cold winter air made the screen protector unusually fragile, snapping it instead of folding when I opened it. the phone . This is a problem that many other Z Fold owners have run into, and once that initial crack occurs, it’s only a matter of time before bubbles start to form. Over the past few months, those bubbles have become a hollow space of air flowing across the entire central portion of the screen, and no pressure or attempt to smooth things out has much of an effect. Recently, some dust