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Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2 — what's different?

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs Galaxy Z Fold 2
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

EDIT: Today is the day of Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event, where we expect the Galaxy Z Fold 3 to be announced. Here's how to watch the event, and our Galaxy Unpacked liveblog

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 has been revealed to the world today at Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked event. While many will be comparing it to more recent phones, it's also worth examining what it keeps and changes from its predecessor, the Galaxy Z Fold 2.

There have been some major exterior changes to the Z Fold 3's design, display and possibly its software. However some things, like the cameras, have not. While some details like an under-display camera and S Pen support are interesting, it doesn't seem as large a generational leap as the Galaxy Z Fold 2 was from the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

Read on for a feature-by-feature breakdown of what the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Z Fold 3 have, and how they compare to one another.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2 specs

Galaxy Z Fold 3Galaxy Z Fold 2
Screen size6.2-inch cover, 7.6-inch interior6.2-inch cover, 7.6-inch interior
Refresh rate120HZ (both displays)120HZ (inner display), 60Hz (outer display)
CPUSnapdragon 888Snapdragon 865 Plus
RAM12GB, 16GB12GB
Storage256GB, 512GB256GB
Rear cameras12MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP telephoto (2x zoom)12MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP telephoto (2x zoom)
Front cameras10MP (cover) 4MP (interior, under-display)10MP (cover), 10MP interior)
Battery size4,400 mAh4,500 mAh
S Pen supportYesYes

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2 price and availability

Currently, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Fold 2 are the same price: an eye-watering $1,799. However the Z Fold 2 started out at $1,999. It shows that while still far more expensive than the standard premium flagship Samsung, the price of foldable phones is slowly coming down.

The Z Fold 2 is on sale now, but the Z Fold 3 is only up for pre-orders for the time being. It goes on open sale on August 27.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2 design and display

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review rear camera selfie

(Image credit: Future)

Both Z Folds look similar, but Samsung's been doing a lot of unseen tinkering to make the Z Fold 3 much tougher. It features IPX8 water resistance, something the Z Fold 2 doesn't offer, and the combination of an "Armor Aluminum" body, Gorilla Glass Victus outer screen and a new PET layer on the inner screen means the Z Fold 2 should be much more resistant to scratches and drops too. The Z Fold 3 is even a little slimmer and lighter than the Z Fold 2 as well.

Both phones use the same sized displays - 6.2 inches on the outside and 7.6 on the inside. The exterior screen on the Z Fold 3 has a slightly higher pixel count of 2268 x 832 on the front (from 2260 x 816 pixels), and it's also been upgraded to have a 120Hz refresh rate, instead of the basic 60Hz on the Z Fold 2.

Within, the selfie camera punch-hole on the upper right of the interior display from the Z Fold 3 has gone, replaced with an under-display camera that is only visible when in use. The two displays are otherwise pretty much the same specs-wise, but Samsung says the Z Fold 3 is also brighter than the Z Fold 2 with the use of new Eco display technology.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2 cameras

The phones' rear cameras are perhaps the one area with no obvious changes. Both phones use 12MP main sensors, 12MP ultrawide sensors and 12MP 2x telephoto sensors. The front cameras are also the same 10MP resolution.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review cameras

(Image credit: Future)

It's the interior camera that's changed notably. Not only has it moved from a punch-hole notch to under the display, it's decreased from a 10MP resolution to a 4MP resolution. We have yet to test out the Z Fold 3's cameras, but it will be particularly interesting to see whether the move to an under-display camera has weakened its photography abilities compared to the older phone.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2 performance

Unsurprisingly, Samsung has used a Snapdragon 888 in the Z Fold 3, the successor to the Snapdragon 865 Plus used in the Z Fold 2. The newer Z Fold still offers 12GB RAM and 256GB storage by default, but unlike the Z Fold 2 it also has an option for 512GB storage.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2 battery and charging

Samsung's been a small step backwards according to the specs. The Z Fold 2 offered a 4,500 mAh battery capacity across its two cells, but the Z Fold 3 offers 4,400 mAh instead. Let's hope Samsung has some other optimizations in place to reduce battery draw, otherwise it could end up making the new phone's battery life worse than the old one.

Both phones support Samsung's 25W wired fast charging standard. They also offer up to 10W wireless charging and 4.5W reverse wireless charging if you need it too.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2 software and S Pen

You get Samsung's One UI on both phones, except while the Z Fold 2 shipped with Android 10, the Z Fold 3 ships with Android 11. This version is optimized for the foldable form factor, offering special versions of apps that fill up the interior display and offer additional functionality. Both phones offer Flex Mode, which lets you stand the phone up with the hinge at 90 degrees for video calls or video watching, and Multi-Active Window, a feature that lets you open three apps at once and quickly move between them.

There is one hidden change to the Z Fold 3's abilities though: the option of a static Taskbar. This is hidden away in the Settings app, but doing so lets you have permanent access to your most-used apps, similar to a PC or Mac desktop.

The biggest change to the Z Fold 3's user experience actually comes in the form of S Pen support, with two versions (S Pen Fold Edition and S Pen Pro) available as optional extras. These offer retractable tips to avoid damaging the fragile flexible screen, with the S Pen Pro offering extra Bluetooth-powered remote features like the basic S Pen on the Galaxy Note series.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review Gmail app

(Image credit: Future)

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 vs. Galaxy Z Fold 2 outlook

The jump between the Z Fold 3 and the Z Fold 2 isn't quite as big as the one between the Z Fold 2 and the Galaxy Fold, but Samsung still has added lots of meaningful changes to the newer foldable. The highlights include the S Pen, the increased durability, and the improvements to both displays.

Aside from the inevitable drop in the price of the Z Fold 2 now that it's getting replaced, there are a couple of reasons why it might be better for some users compared to the Z Fold 3. The main cameras haven't been altered at all, and the change to an under-display interior camera on the Z Fold 3 may actually be a detriment to photo quality overall. The battery life could be slightly better too since the Z Fold 3 has a smaller capacity while offering a higher refresh rate on the front display. Also we might assume that excluding the stylus support, the software experience will be identical on both phones once the Z Fold 2 gets its Android 12 upgrade.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.