Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: Is it worth $999?

is the samsung galaxy z flip 3 worth 999?
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is the most affordable foldable device Samsung's yet produced, and the first time we've had a foldable that sells for less than $1,000. That lower price tag is a key part of Samsung's strategy for making foldable phones more accessible to mainstream audiences.

But $999 is still a lot to pay for a new phone. For context, that's what Apple charges for its iPhone 13 Pro, and other phone makers charge similar amounts for their own premium handsets. Does the Galaxy Z Flip 3 offer enough to deliver the same value as those other $999 devices?

The answer depends on what you're looking for in a phone. As we found when we tested the Galaxy Z Flip 3, the new version offers a number of improvements over the original Z Flip and continues to offer an innovative, eye-catching design. But there are some aspects of the Galaxy Z Flip 3 that make paying that $999 harder to justify.

Here are the arguments for and against making the Galaxy Z Flip 3 your next smartphone.

Why the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 is worth it

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 looks as cool as ever, with Samsung taking an old flip phone design and turning it into a foldable device. Open up the Z Flip 3, and you unfold a 6.7-inch screen with a 120Hz refresh rate — the faster refresh rate being a new addition for this year's model.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3's design is more than just a party trick, though. Samsung uses it to expand the phone's functionality. The Z Flip 3 continues to feature a Flex mode, where you partially open the phone to turn half of its display into a viewing area and the other half into a control panel. That's ideal for apps like YouTube or the camera app.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 works in Flex mode.

(Image credit: Samsung)

Even better, Samsung has put some effort into getting more app makers to optimize their software for foldable devices. That means more apps that are able to take advantage of the Galaxy Z Flip 3's unique design.

The new version of the Galaxy Z Flip also includes some welcome design changes. The phone's exterior display, which can show notifications and double as a view finder for the exterior cameras, has stretched from 1.1 inches on the original Flip to 1.9 inches on the new version. That makes the outer display much more useful, and it means you won't be forced to flip open the phone unless you really want to.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 has a bigger exterior display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Like the Galaxy Z Fold 3, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 adds IPX8 water resistance. That doesn't mean you should make a habit of dunking your foldable phone in water, but if the Galaxy Z Flip 3 does get a little wet, it shouldn't be a disaster. It's part of Samsung's efforts to make its foldables more durable, reassuring shoppers who might be reluctant to splash out for expensive phones if they're afraid of the risk of damage.

New phones usually bring processor improvements and the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is no exception on that front. The phone is powered by the Snapdragon 888 from Qualcomm's top-of-the-line 8 series. That allows the Galaxy Z Flip to hold its own against other Android flagships released this year.

Even with all those plusses, assessing the Galaxy Z Flip 3's value comes down to that price. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 costs significantly less than its predecessor which debuted at $1,380 in early 2020. And with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 still commanding a $1,799 price, the Z Flip 3's lower price tag stands out even more. With a lower price and all the enhanced capabilities Samsung has introduced, it's tempting to give this new foldable phone a chance.

Why the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 isn't worth it

Still, while the relatively lower price makes the Galaxy Z Flip 3 more compelling than before, there are some issues surrounding the phone that might make you want to press the pause button on any purchase. Specifically, while the new phone makes many improvements, there are some lingering issues from the original Galaxy Z Flip that Samsung didn't address.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 opens up to reveal a 6.7-inch display

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Chief among them is the visible crease where the Galaxy Z Flip 3 screens bends. The crease isn't always easy to spot, but it can be noticeable in bright sunlight or apps that use a light background. It's also readily apparent when you drag your finger across the Z Flip 3's touchscreen. The crease isn't a deal-breaker on its own and it's likely a necessary trade-off for having a folding screen. But it's quite an eyesore to have to accept on a $999 phone.

Also unchanged from the Galaxy Z Flip are the cameras on the Galaxy Z Flip 3. You get the same 12MP wide and ultrawide lenses as before, with no dedicated telephoto camera to add value to the updated phone. Samsung's attention was clearly focused on other parts of the Galaxy Z Flip 3. But given how important mobile photography is these days, keeping the same camera from one model to the next doesn't sound very appealing. Other phones in this price range are constantly tweaking their camera hardware and software, so it's a disappointment that the Z Flip 3 didn't follow suit.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 vs Galaxy Z Flip stacked side by side

The original Galaxy Z Flip (left) and the new Galaxy Z Flip 3 (right) (Image credit: Future)

But if there's one flaw to the Galaxy Z Flip 3 that undercuts its value, it's the phone's battery life — or more accurately, the lack of battery life. Foldable phones with multiple displays draw a lot of power, and given how compact the Galaxy Z Flip 3's design is, there's only so much space for a battery. As a result, the Z Flip 3 tries to get by with a 3,300 mAh battery, which is simply not up to the task.

In our battery test, where we have phones surf the web continuously over a cellular connection, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 turned in a time of 5 hours and 43 minutes with the adaptive display enabled. That's more than 4 hours behind the average smartphone. And turning off the adaptive display (which can drain a battery) only improved the Z Flip 3's time by 17 minutes.

In anecdotal use, we had a hard time making it through the day without needing to recharge the Galaxy Z Flip 3. And my colleague Jordan Palmer has talked to other phone reviewers who've run into similar frustrations. The Galaxy Z Flip 3 simply doesn't have enough battery life for any phone, let alone one that costs as much as it does.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3: Worth it or not?

There's a lot to say about the Galaxy Z Flip 3, particularly if you've been intrigued by early foldable phones but unwilling to pay more than $1,000 for these devices. The Z Flip 3 has lowered that barrier to entry, and it's improved the foldable experience in other ways to make this type of phone less of a novelty and more of a dependable handset. The design changes to the Galaxy Z Flip 3 are particularly welcome additions on that front.

But the poor battery life on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is as close to a show-stopper as we can find. Outside of the cameras — which are not at all improved from the last version of the Z Flip — a phone that can last a while on a charge is one of the most sought-after features in a handset. If you can't promise that, it's hard to make the case to take a flier on the rest of the phone.

That's not to say that shoppers should steer clear of the Galaxy Z Flip 3. It really is a gorgeous looking phone that makes the most of its unique design. But if you do opt for the Galaxy Z Flip 3, just be aware of the trade-offs you'll be required to make.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.