Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 3 certainly looks to be an impressive follow-up to the phone maker's premiere foldable phone. Our Galaxy Z Fold 3 review remains in progress, but you can't help but let out a low admiring whistle when you gaze upon the 120Hz displays — both inside and outside! — the under-display camera and the number of apps that have been optimized for the phone's foldable screen.
Throw in the promise of improved durability and the new IPX8 water-resistance rating, and you'd assume that Samsung has a winning phone on its hands.
Despite all that good news, there's one big bummer about the Galaxy Z Fold 3 that threatens to eliminate any goodwill I feel about the new foldable. And it's how Samsung opted to handle support for the S Pen.
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Don't get me wrong — it's very good that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has added support for Samsung's stylus, especially with a Galaxy Note not happening in 2021. On a screen as big as the Z Fold 3's 7.6-inch display, the S Pen really has a chance to shine and be the productivity booster that makes foldable phones a more compelling option for some people.
What sticks in my craw is that Samsung is doing the same thing with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 that it did with the Galaxy S21 Ultra earlier this year — the S Pen is sold as a separate accessory. And because there's no slot in either phone to hold the stylus, you've got to pick up a case, too.
I get that fitting an S Pen slot into a folding phone is a complicated task. You only needed to sit through Samsung's very in-depth explanation of all the work that went into adding a digitizer to the display to realize what a complicated bit of engineering any change to the Z Fold's design requires. In light of that, turning to a phone case to also hold the S Pen feels like the best solution possible.
But dear lord — don't make people pay extra for that. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 already costs a lofty $1,799. On top of that, Samsung expects you to pay extra to use of the phone's marquee additions. That takes some real brass.
Samsung offers a solution in the form of its Galaxy Z Fold 3 Flip Cover with S Pen, a $79 accessory that only brings the cost of your phone to $1,878. Because the S Pen on its own only costs $49, you're essentially paying another $30 to bundle in a case, which seems like a deal on the surface. But keep in mind you're getting the standard S Pen, the one without Bluetooth connectivity. So you'll be missing out on features like Air Gestures that people who buy the $99 S Pen Pro will get to enjoy.
Your purchases don't stop with the S Pen and the case, by the way. Because the Galaxy Z Fold 3 doesn't ship with either a charger or a pair of headphones; you'll need to add those on, too — assuming you don't have spares of either, lying around. If you're not careful, that $1,799 price on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is going to start ticking up closer to the $1,999 Samsung was charging for last year's Galaxy Z Fold 2.
This is no way to provide a premium smartphone experience. And make no mistake — that's what Samsung is trying to sell with the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Everything about the phone — its design, its dual screens, its performance — screams out luxury. With the Galaxy Z Flip 3 starting at a more affordable $999, it's clear that Samsung recognizes that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 isn't going to appeal to everyone. Instead, it's a phone aimed at users who want a premium experience.
So why not give them exactly that by including everything they need — S Pen, case, charger — right out of the box? At the very least the S Pen and case with holster should be standard.
I'm by no means a car guy. But I'm pretty sure if I were to walk into a luxury car dealer and plop down whatever astronomical sum would net me the finest sedan, the next thing the salesman is going to say won't be "Tires are extra, bub." That's what it feels like for Samsung to charge an additional fee for the S Pen and the case and whatever else you need to get the most out of an already expensive phone. That these fees are relatively nominal compared to what you're paying for the Fold itself is beside the point — it comes across as nickel-and-diming customers who are already willing to pay top dollar.
As I've said, our Galaxy Z Fold 3 review is ongoing and by the time we wrap up testing, the foldable phone's strengths could heavily outweigh the fact that you have to pony up for an S Pen. But first impressions count for something, and as far as the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is concerned, charging even more on top of the standard $1,799 price doesn't make a great one.