Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 doesn’t fix the biggest flaw

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Samsung has made a lot of improvements to the Galaxy Z Fold 3 over previous iterations of its foldable phone. The latest Z Fold is a lot more durable than its predecessors; more apps take advantage of its foldable display; and you now get S Pen support. This is undoubtably the best foldable phone Samsung has ever made.

And yet, there's one big flaw that's been there since the first Galaxy Z Fold debuted and has remained even with all the enhancements to the latest version of the phone. Even worse, it's a problem with no immediate fix in sight.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a real pain to tote around.

Having a phone that unfolds to reveal a massive 7.6-inch display means the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is pretty bulky when it's time to close the phone up and move around. A closed Galaxy Z Fold 3 measures 0.62 inches thick. The iPhone 12 Pro Max — not exactly a slender handset — is 0.29 inches thick, meaning you could stack two of those iPhones on top of each other and still not be thicker than the Galaxy Z Fold 3. You'd even have room to lay an Apple Card on top of your tower of iPhones.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs iPhone 12 Pro Max thickness

(Image credit: Future)

To be sure, it's not exactly a state secret that the Galaxy Z fold 3 is a super-sized phone. You don't get that big an unfolded display by scaling things down. More importantly, it's a trade-off the majority of Galaxy Z Fold 3 owners will be willing to make if it means more ample workspace for getting things done on the go.

But if you're new to the foldable phone game, it's a trade-off that you should know about before you plunk down $1,799 on a phone. As good as the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is, it can really weigh down your pocket.

Is that a Galaxy Z Fold 3 in your pocket?

I've been spending the past couple weeks with the phone, mostly to test out the Galaxy Z Fold 3's S Pen support but also to write about the Z Fold 3's top features and how to enable them. And in that time, I've kept the Galaxy Z Fold 3 close at hand, just like I would a phone I'd rely on for everyday use. And let me tell you — this is a phone that doesn't like being confined to pants pockets.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs iPhone 12 Pro Max profile

(Image credit: Future)

I'm used to carrying around phones of all shapes and sizes. Even with a phone as big as the iPhone 11 Pro Max, sometimes I'll forget it's there and start frantically patting myself down to figure out where the device is. That's not happened with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 — it makes its presence felt.

Then there's the harder-than-it-should-be trick of actually removing the Galaxy Z Fold 3 out of your pocket to use it. Most phones slip easily in and out with a modicum of effort. The Galaxy Z Fold 3, in contrast, requires some rather undignified contortions to free it from my pocket. My one consolation is that any pickpocket who ever tries to swipe this foldable is going to dislocate their shoulder.

As difficult as it is to carry the Galaxy Z Fold 3 in a pocket, I can't imagine how someone whose wardrobe is pockets-free, either by choice or by circumstance, is going to lug this phone around. I suppose that means a jacket, backpack or purse as the most likely way to transport the Galaxy Z Fold 3. If it's the latter, Samsung's phone will fit into a large over-the-shoulder purse, but a clutch or smaller purse could be a challenge depending on what else you're carrying.

If you do decide to stash your Galaxy Z Fold 3 in a backpack, I implore you to invest in one of the best Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 cases to protect your phone from bouncing into the other items in your backpack. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is proving to be pretty durable based on drop tests, but nothing made by human hands is indestructible.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 outlook

Again, there will be many people who will cope just fine with the challenges of carrying around a Galaxy Z Fold 3 if it means they can have a device with a bigger screen — the productivity of a tablet and the portability of a smartphone, as the pitch for foldable phones goes. But other people giving the Galaxy Z Fold 3 a first look may not be so fine with just how big this phone actually is, sticking instead to one of the best big phones if it's a super-sized display they crave.

And it's that split that I think will keep foldable phones from gaining greater acceptance as a mainstream device. As many benefits as devices like the Galaxy Z Fold 3 can tout, there's no getting around the fact that these phones aren't as portable as more conventional handsets. Maybe that's something that gets solved with future designs — such as rollable phones — or its something phone makers like Apple and Google tackle with their rumored foldables. But for now, the biggest knock against the Galaxy Z Fold 3 remains the bulk that enables it to have a folding screen in the first place.

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.

  • universeofbash
    At 157 x 66 x 14 (closed) weighing 270grams (approx. I hard to convert from inches and oz) .. its similar, to those that remember, to carrying around a Psion organiser ( 142 × 78 × 29.3 mm, 225g). I certainly am loving it .. I adopted the very first "Note" which was considered "huge" in its day and now that the zfold finally has pretty decent spen support I am suitably impressed with the productivity gains I get (it does help that my firm uses Microsoft Office 365 which Samsung phones integrate very well with) granted however that its size and weight wont be for everyone.