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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 release date, price and rumored features

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
(Image credit: Future)

It's pretty early to start thinking about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3. After all, the Galaxy Z Fold 2, which debuted in September, still has that new foldable phone aroma. But try telling the people who circulate phone rumors that we're a long time away from seeing the successor to Samsung's impressive — and pricey — foldable device. All you're likely to hear in reply is more Galaxy Z Fold 3 rumors.

So yes, the first hints of what to expect from the follow-up to the Galaxy Z Fold 2 are starting to percolate, even if we're a little less than a year away from finally clapping eyes on this anticipated phone. The good news for Samsung: because it so swiftly corrected the flaws that marked the original Galaxy Fold with its foldable sequel, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will likely focus on enhancing what's already there rather than overhauling the device.

Here's a round-up of everything we've heard about the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, including when to expect Samsung to release this upcoming phone.

Samsung Z Fold 3 news (Updated December 15) 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Release date

Samsung typically holds one of its Unpacked events in the first half of the year, where it shows off the latest Galaxy S flagship device, along with any other products that are ready to ship. Galaxy S21 leaks suggest an early launch date than usual — possibly as soon as January. Could we also see a Galaxy Z Fold 3 at that time?

Don't count on it. Given that Samsung just took the wraps off the Galaxy Z Fold 2 — it was previewed at the same time as the Galaxy Note 20 before a September release — showing off a follow-up phone in the first half of 2021is too quick of a turnaround.

Instead we're supposed to be seeing the Galaxy Z Fold Lite in the first quarter of the year, while the Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 2 are set to follow in Q3. That means roughly a 12 month gap between The Z Fold 2 and its successor, and hopefully is the start of a more typical annual release. Not like the 18 month gap between the launch of the Galaxy Fold and Z Fold 2.

galaxy z fold 2

Samsung shows off the Galaxy Z Fold 2 earlier this year. (Image credit: Samsung)

While the Z Fold 2 launched in September, it's possible we may see it slightly earlier this time round. The Galaxy Note 20 launched in August, and since word is we're getting the Z Fold 3 instead of a Galaxy Note 21, it makes sense that Samsung might reuse the Note's old launch window for foldables from now on.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Price

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 costs a hefty $1,999, making it Samsung's most expensive phone by far. We're too early in the rumor cycle to hear much about the phone maker's pricing plans for the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but barring any radical change of direction in what Samsung includes in this foldable phone, we'd expect the price to remain high.

Samsung may try another tack when it comes to offering a more affordable Galaxy Fold — come out with a lighter version that trades off on some features for a lower price. We had been hearing rumors about a Galaxy Fold Lite before the Galaxy Z Fold 2's release, but that phone never materialized. And now it's rumored that Samsung may have a cheaper Galaxy Z Fold lite lined up for early 2021.

Samsung also could take a page out of the Galaxy S20's book and style it as a Fan Edition that has most of the same features as the more expensive standard version, save for one or two compromises. The Galaxy S20 FE, for example, costs $300 less than the $999 Galaxy S20, and only asks shoppers to make do with less memory, a less powerful telephoto lens and cheaper materials.

Indeed, a Galaxy Z Fold FE could be in the works, at least if leaker Max Weinbach is to be believed. Tweeting the names of Samsung flagships he expects to see in 2021, Weinbach mentioned four different Galaxy S21 versions, sequels to the Galaxy Z Fold and Z Flip... and a Galaxy Z Fold FE.

For what it's worth, Samsung is planning to expand its line of foldable phones in 2021. That's according to Samsung Electronics president TM Roh, who previewed the company's smartphone plans for next year. One of the ways Samsung intends to do that is make foldable phones more "accessible" — that is, offer less expensive versions. A Galaxy Z Fold FE or Galaxy Z Fold lite would be in line with that strategy.

To that end, a report claims we'll see two versions of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 — a full-featured version alongside a more affordable option. That same report from Korea's ETNews says that Samsung will do the same thing the Galaxy Z Flip 2.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Design rumors

Don't expect Samsung to make too many design changes from the Galaxy Z Fold 2. After all, that model smoothed out many of the missteps of the first Galaxy Fold by improving the hinge and making other changes with an eye toward bolstering durability. Samsung also introduced welcome changes like increasing the size of the exterior cover display and getting rid of the notch to slightly expand the interior panel to 7.6 inches. If the design isn't broke — as it clearly was with original Fold — then why fix it?

That said the most recent report says that the Z Fold 3 will have a 7-inch interior display and a 4-inch exterior display. those are both significantly smaller than the ones on the Z Fold 2, especially on the outside, and we're going to have to wait and see how Samsung intends to justify that.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 unfolding

How the Galaxy Z Fold 2 opens — and how the Galaxy Z Fold 3 likely will too (Image credit: Samsung)

Still, we could see some improvements to the Galaxy Z Fold 3, with The Elec claiming it will be the first Samsung phone to gain an under-display camera That follows on from a tip from Ice Universe. Some had thought this feature might debut in the Galaxy S21, but that's apparently not going to happen, putting the Fold on deck to adopt it instead.

An under-display camera is different from the cutouts Samsung currently uses to house front cameras on its phones. Unlike those cutouts which are always visible, an under-display camera is transparent most of the time, hiding behind the screen until it's needed. Use the camera to snap a selfie, for example, and the camera lens would suddenly become visible on the display. (Think of it as a variation of the in-display fingerprint sensor, where the guidelines for the sensor only appear when you need to unlock your phone.)

Samsung introduced a layer of Ultra Thin Glass to the Galaxy Z Fold 2, improving that phone's durability. Ice Universe expects the follow-up model to adopt a new version of the glass that's a little bit thicker, further bolstering the phone's design and making it less fragile.. Likewise The Elec says that this thicker glass will enable S-Pen support without damaging the flexible glass screen.

A patent hints that Samsung is considering whether to add an additional display to go with the interior and exterior screens. The third display would be an indicator that runs along the hinge of the Fold, similar to the slender 1.1-inch strip on the front of the Galaxy Z Flip. The screen provide a place for notifications to flash, and Let's Go Digital has draw up a render of how the extra display would fit on the Galaxy Fold.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 concept

Galaxy Z Fold 3 concept (Image credit: LetsGoDigital)

Another patent filed by Samsung describes a design that features a single array of cameras that act as both the front and rear shooters depending on how you hold the phone. The Huawei Mate X uses a similar approach, but since this setup would require a dramatic redesign of Samsung's foldable phone, it seems unlikely to be used in the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Rumored features

If the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is going to replace the Galaxy Note as Samsung's productivity-focused device of choice, then it's going to need an S Pen of its own. Ice Universe includes that among the likely features in a tweet on what to expect from the upcoming phone. The Elec also confirms that S-Pen support is coming, as Samsung readies the Z Fold range as a solid Galaxy Note successor.

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra S Pen 9 ms

The S Pen has been a mainstay of the Galaxy Note, but it could be headed to Samsung's foldables. (Image credit: Future)

Samsung's TM Roh added fuel to the S Pen speculation with a post in December that previewed his company's smartphone plans for the coming year. In it, he said Samsung had taken note of "people’s favorite aspects of the Galaxy Note experience and are excited to add some of its most-loved features to other devices in our lineup." That would seem to confirm the S Pen is coming to more devices like the upcoming Fold as well as the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The current S Pen might not work with the Galaxy Fold's display, necessitating a redesign, according to The Elec. That Korean publication reports that Samsung would shift away from the Electro Magnetic Resonance-based design in the current stylus to one that uses Active Electro Static (AES) technology. That approach is better suited to not damaging the screen on a foldable phone, which is softer than the glass used for traditional phones. It would also require the revamped S Pen to include its own battery.

However a more recent support says Samsung will also be using a thicker flexible glass to protect the display from the pressure of the stylus. While this doesn't discount the fact that the S-Pen's tech may also change, it does mean Samsung is serious about offering stylus support and making sure it doesn't cause any damage.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 concept

Galaxy Z Fold 3 concept with S Pen (Image credit: Let's Go Digital/WIPO)

It's unclear whether an S Pen would be too big to insert into the phone itself, but Let's Go Digital has a render showing how a stylus could fit within a foldable phone.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: Rumored specs

We'll have to wait for the rumor mill to provide us more details on Galaxy Z Fold 3 specs, but we can make some pretty good guesses about the future foldable based on what Samsung included in this year's version.

Since the Galaxy Z Fold 2 runs on a Snapdragon 865 Plus, we can assume that the new version will feature whatever Qualcomm's top-of-the-line mobile processing platform will be in the second half of the year. Presumably, that's the Snapdragon 875, if Qualcomm sticks to its naming conventions. We'll have to wait to see if Samsung packs in any more RAM than the 12GB found in the Galaxy Z Fold 2 or if storage expands beyond 256GB.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review battery life

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 gets a charge (Image credit: Future)

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 uses a 4,500 mAh battery, which actually turned in a respective time on our battery test — a little more than 10 hours. While that's slightly better than average, it's especially impressive given the fact that the Galaxy Z Fold 2 has two screens to power plus 5G connectivity. Of course, since we got that time by testing the phone with its display set to a 60Hz refresh rate and not the more demanding 120Hz rate, it would be a good idea for Samsung to figure out a way to include more battery in the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3: What we'd like to see

Samsung checked off many of our demands when it came out with the Galaxy Z Fold 2, just by making a more durable phone. So "more of the same, please" would certainly sum up the vast bulk of our requests. Still, if the company is serious about having its foldable phone take the place of the Galaxy Note, we think there are a few things Samsung should square away with the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

  • More Multitasking features: Samsung's off to a good start here, letting you run three apps at once and adding a Flex mode that turns different halves of the main display into control and viewing areas. We'd like to see more apps support Flex mode, and we hope Samsung can come up with ways that take advantage of the Fold's extra screen space — ideally involving the S Pen if that's truly coming to the Fold.
  • Even better durability: We're happy to hear that the Ultra Thin Glass is likely to be strengthened on the Galaxy Z Fold 3. We'd be even more ecstatic if Samsung figures out a way to give this phone some water resistance. The current Galaxy Fold offers nothing in this regard, which is a big miss on a $2,000 phone.
  • A cheaper version: Foldable phones cost a lot — we get it. And there are some people who will be willing to pay top dollar for a truly polished foldable device. Still, if Samsung can find a way to shave some of the Galaxy Z Fold 3's price down, we'd welcome that change. And a Galaxy Z Fold FE that lowers the price even more would take a great idea even further.

Can Samsung deliver on these ideas? We'll find out as we get closer to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 launch sometime in Q3 2021.