Foldable phones are currently expensive and niche devices compared to their non-folding brethren. And as good as the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is —- it tops our best foldable phones list —- it hasn't broken that mold.
However, I've been using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 for a good few weeks and have discovered it's great for one situation: commuting.
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Thanks to the rigors of modern life, I, like many others, have a lot to do and not enough hours in the day. So that means that I try to be as efficient as possible with my working week, which means trying to work on the go.
Obviously, laptops and tablets have allowed people to do that for years; I'm a particular advocate for the iPad mini as an on-the-go productivity device. But the kicker here is commuting in rush hour in one of the busiest cities in the world: London.
For those of you unfamiliar with the London Underground map, I take the Central Line from East London to the nexus of tourism that is Oxford Circus. After I've elbowed my way past ambling tourists, it's onto the rickety Bakerloo line up to Paddington, where Tom's Guide's U.K. team is based. It's not the longest commute, but travel on the Central Line at rush hour is hellish, with everyone packed in and the opportunity to get a seat rarer than an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080.
As such, pulling a laptop out of one’s bag, even if seated, is an easy y to get a barrage of very British tuts or glares. And using a tablet isn't much easier, especially when even the iPad mini doesn't fit in much beyond very large pockets.
But using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a different story. When it's still a chunky handset, it's not taller or wider than most Android flagships when folded, meaning it's easily popped in a pocket. Then folded out it's easier to use in a cramped space than a tablet — even one handed, though that takes some dexterity.
That means when I'm traveling into the office I can spend my dull commute tapping out an article, which is exactly what I'm doing right now. That means some 45 minutes of my day aren't lost at trying to avoid eye contact with strangers and being wary of non-mask wearers.
Galaxy Z Fold 3: Great for work and play
Beyond tapping out articles, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is also pretty good at other tasks. Having a bigger view of Slack just make it easier to ponder a nuanced response or come up with very British jokes that often befuddle my American colleagues.
Organizational tools like Trello and Google Calendar are also easier to use on a screen that's big enough to get a single view of what's going on, but not so big that nosy fellow commuters can see what I'm up to.
And while it's not a feature I use a lot, split-screen view of two or more apps is just so much better on a folding phone than a standard handset. I also feel it's easier to do on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 than on an iPad; I'm not convinced Apple has nailed multitasking in iPadOS beyond on the 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2021.
Even when the call of work isn't strong, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 makes for an excellent media consumption device, especially for reading eBooks or magazines. Its folding display is more expensiveexpansiveexpansiv than normal Android flagships, yet not so much that fellow commuters can easily peek at what you're watching or reading.
But the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is also great for longer trips. When I recently visited friends outside of London for a weekend, and thus was traveling light, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 was a great substitute for my iPad mini. Notably playing games on the Galaxy Z Fold 3's main screen is a joy, especially as Samsung's phone displays are vibrant, bright and contrast rich. And the 120Hz refresh rate makes everything feel very slick; my iPad mini 5 can't compete.
I even managed to get some Xbox Cloud Gaming on the go, thanks to Xbox Game Pass and native app support on Android. Having a larger display than my everyday phone, the Oppo Find X3 Pro, came into its own here; the only catch was spotty Wi-Fi performance.
Does all this mean I can recommend the Galaxy Z Fold 3 for commuters? Well yes and no. It's still too thick and expensive for a device that doesn't quite nail either the Android phone or tablet experience. And I think Samsung and Google still have some work to do to make Android and One UI ideal for folding phones; software is one of the reasons why I noted I'd love a folding iPad.
But given another generation or two and I reckon Samsung will have nailed the formula; what will be interesting is to see if Apple enters the folding phone fray with the iPhone Flip.
As it stands the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is a really good, if niche, foldable phone. And if you want a piece of tech that feels properly innovative even in its third generation, and have cash to burn, then you could do a lot worse than Samsung’s foldable.