Foldable phones are still somewhat of a niche, but Samsung is looking to change that. The company just took the wraps off of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 — two promising folding smartphones that look to improve on their predecessors with more durable designs, cool new features (like pen support) and prices that are slightly less eye-watering than before. These phones will still run you a premium at $999 for the Z Flip 3 and $1,799 for the Z Fold 3, but they’re some of Samsung’s most attainable foldables yet.
Samsung also revealed plenty of other cool new gadgets at its Galaxy Unpacked event that won’t run you a few thousand dollars. The $149 Galaxy Buds 2 feature a gorgeous and lightweight design, as well as a number of promising features for their relatively low price (including active noise cancellation). And for the wearable fans out there, the new Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic are poised to be a serious Apple Watch rival, thanks to their all-new user interface and wide range of wellness-minded features.
There’s a whole lot to unpack (sorry, we couldn’t resist) from Samsung’s big announcements today, so let’s break down the big new products you need to know about.
How to preorder the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 , Z Fold 3, Watch 4 or Buds 2
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 is up for preorder now with a starting price of $1,799, and is expected to ship on Aug. 27. If you preorder by Aug. 26, you’ll get a $200 Samsung credit for use on Samsung.com. You can also trade in a device to make the cost of the Z Fold 3 lower.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is available for preorder now starting at $999 and will also start shipping on Aug. 27. Those who preorder by Aug. 26 will get a $150 Samsung Credit. Similar to previous trade-in deals from Samsung, you can trade in up to four devices to lower the price of the Z Flip 3.
The Galaxy Buds 2 are available for preorder now for $149 and launch on Aug. 27.
- Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 in white, olive, graphite and lavender ($149; samsung.com)
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3
Our favorite foldable is finally getting a successor — the Galaxy Z Flip 3, a $999.99 foldable smartphone that opens up from a compact square into a full-size modern smartphone. In this latest generation, Samsung is delivering a build that feels sturdier with more refined design elements, a larger front screen and more processing power. And for those who care about 5G, the new phone supports both of the core standards here in the United States.
We’ve spent about an hour with the Z Flip 3, and while that’s not a lot of time, we’re walking away with an optimistic look on the folding phone landscape. The phone features a glass and aluminum build that feels solid in your hand. Opening and closing it doesn’t result in a cracking sound like on the Motorola Razr and feels more fluid than the first generation. The Z Flip 3 comes in many colors: gray, white, pink, cream, green, lavender and Phantom Black. Its rounded edges and more polished aluminum edges look pretty lovely and sophisticated in person on the lavender and cream units.
The front of the Z Flip 3, when closed, features a 1.9-inch Super AMOLED cover screen that’s much bigger than the previous generation. It supports touch and can be used as a viewfinder for taking selfies, but it’s also a lot more functional than before, with support for widgets from apps like Samsung Pay, music and even the weather. And whatever you’re using on the front seamlessly migrates to the main screen by just opening the device. Next to the screen, on the right, is a 12-megapixel wide and 12-megapixel ultrawide lens. And if these sound familiar, it’s because these are the primary lenses on the S21 and S21+. We’re expecting clear imagery out of these and it’s a real flagship set for the price.
The real story with the design is the IPX8 water resistance, which is a first for a folding device. Yes, Samsung still has the hideaway hinge to prohibit debris from going under the main display, but the Z Flip 3 can also handle some water. We haven’t tested this as of yet, but it should make it a more durable device.
Opening up to the Z Flip 3’s central 6.7-inch Infinity Flex Display reveals a vibrant and sharp AMOLED screen. The real kicker here is an improved 120 Hz refresh rate display, which makes watching TikToks, taking in an episode of “Loki” or scrolling through Excel sheets a buttery smooth experience. This is up from 60 Hz on the original Galaxy Z Flip. At the top of this main display is a pinhole notch containing a 10-megapixel selfie camera that offers an ultrawide view. This way, you can pack yourself and friends into the shot. You can still see the fold mark as well.
As you’d expect from a Samsung device, it’s running Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI on top of it, and not much has changed here. You’ll still swipe up to reveal the app drawer, have Edge for easy multitasking on the side and — only if you want to use it — access to Bixby. In our brief time, it felt seamless, and that’s thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor inside with 8GB of RAM. The base $999 Z Flip 3 is paired with 128GB of storage, while the $1,049 Z Flip 3 features 256GB.
Like the original Galaxy Z Flip, the Z Flip 3 has a dual battery, which is essentially split between the two halves of the phone. It combines into a larger 3,300mAh battery and it supports wired charging at up to 15 watts or wireless charging at up to 10 watts. You can even place a Qi-enabled device on the back to charge off the Z Flip 3.
All in all, the Z Flip 3 is a true successor to the original and takes several steps forward in terms of design and functionality. A more modern look is great (plus, we like the aluminum and glass build), but the real kicker is the IPX8 water resistance, which should make the Z Flip 3 more roadworthy than any other compact foldable. The larger front screen lets you do more and doesn’t leave you with wasted space on the front.
And at $999, it’s more affordable than previous models and is in line with the iPhone 12 Pro and Galaxy S21+ in terms of price. With that in mind, choosing between the Flip 3 and a traditional flagship really comes down to what you want your phone to do.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3
Samsung’s flagship foldable isn’t changing much in the third generation — the Galaxy Z Fold 3 starts at $1,799 and aims to deliver a do-it-all experience. It’s a minor refinement versus a complete redesign like we saw with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 last year. The starting price is $200 cheaper with a build that, like the Z Flip 3, feels more durable in hand and comes in new colors.
You’ll be able to pick from Phantom Green, Phantom Black or Phantom Silver. The Phantom Silver stood out as the most flashy in our brief hands-on time, while the Phantom Black and Phantom Green have a more subdued look. It’s also still a pretty hefty phone, and Samsung didn’t slim it down this year. The edges are a bit more refined, though. The front of the phone still features a 6.2-inch AMOLED cover screen and supports a 120 Hz refresh rate. There’s also a pinhole notch at the top, which houses the 10-megapixel selfie camera. It’s nearly the same setup as last year.
Opening the Z Fold 3 like a book displays the massive 7.6-inch Infinity Flex display, and there are two key upgrades for 2021. For starters, it’s a 120 Hz refresh rate, which makes viewing content much smoother and more lifelike, as the screen can refresh itself faster. And yes, there is still a crease in the middle. The other trick is making the camera notch disappear from the top right of the screen. Samsung’s hidden the camera lens under the display for the first time, which is pretty neat. It displays itself when you’re in the camera app, but otherwise it’s invisible to the naked eye. Sadly, though, it’s just a 4-megapixel lens, so we’d suggest using the phone’s other cameras when you can.
And the Z Fold 3 isn’t lacking on lenses to shoot with, as it features five cameras, including 12-megapixel wide, 12-megapixel ultrawide and 12-megapixel telephoto cameras on the back. For the price, we’re surprised Samsung didn’t include one of its 50x or 100x telescoping zoom lenses here.
Powering the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is Android 11 with Samsung’s One UI on top. It’s still a familiar experience, but thanks to Samsung Labs — which you can enable in settings — you can now multitask and multi-window with nearly any application. And no, the individual app developers don’t need to make customizations. We briefly tried this and it does effectively fix a major pain point for us on the Z Fold 2. Many apps didn’t take advantage of the big screen, but on Z Fold 3, Samsung is offering a solution. It’s all powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor with a massive 12GB of RAM, and we have no concerns on speed.
Similarly, Samsung’s Z Fold 3 now also supports the S Pen for writing and doodling as well as general control. Samsung says the screen is durable enough for even those who write with a lot of weight on the display. We’ll be eager to test this, though. A standard S Pen Pro will work here, and Samsung will sell one for $39.99. The S Pen Z Fold Edition features Bluetooth for AirCommands and other more advanced actions.
Last but not least, there’s a 4,400mAh battery cell inside, and there are two ways to charge the Fold 3. You can fast charge with a cord at up to 25 watts or wirelessly at up to 10 watts. The Z Fold 3 also supports reverse wireless charging on the back.
The Z Fold 3 feels more like a refinement of the Z Fold 2 and one that we’re eager to spend a bit more time with. We’re excited to try the new software features that should let any user make the most of big-screen multitasking. At $1,799, though, this isn’t a device for every mainstream user. It still sits in the upper echelon of mobile phones.
Samsung Galaxy Buds 2
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds family keeps growing, this time with the new $149 Galaxy Buds 2 (available for preorder now and shipping Aug. 27). These new earbuds are the most affordable entry in Samsung’s current audio lineup, and pack a variety of promising features into a stylish design that’s also the company’s smallest and lightest to date.
The Buds 2’s ovular, egg-shaped look is more compact and subtle than what we’ve seen on the Galaxy Buds Pro and beanlike Galaxy Buds Live, and they come in four attractive colors: graphite, white, olive and an especially gorgeous lavender. These buds pack active noise cancellation (ANC) for blocking out noise when it’s time to focus as well as an adjustable Ambient Noise feature for when you need to better hear your surroundings.
Other handy extras include an earbud fit test for finding the right fit (à la AirPods Pro), customizable controls and onboard machine learning tech that’s designed to make you easy to hear on calls. The only catch is that many of these features are locked to the Galaxy Wearable app, which is currently exclusive to Android users. Despite some small caveats, we found these beautiful buds to be a great pick for the price – check out our full Galaxy Buds 2 review for more.
Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Galaxy Watch 4 Classic
Samsung and Google have been working on the new Wear OS for a bit, and for the first time in forever, the latest Galaxy Watch lineup might be real competition for the Apple Watch.
The Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic not only feature a new interface and support for third-party applications, but double down on health with a new 3-in-1 sensor. The Watch 4 is replacing the Galaxy Watch Active as a bezel-less slim design that looks pretty modern. Samsung’s Watch 4 Classic keeps the moveable circular bezel around the display and opts for a timeless look, though rest assured that with a bevy of watch faces, both can indeed show you the time and sync with a Galaxy smartphone.
Both of these watches are running Wear OS powered by Samsung and One UI Watch — we’d agree these aren’t the best names, but they do aim to deliver software enhancements. Settings from the connected phone and compatible apps will automatically come over to your Watch 4. Both of these support many of the base apps from Samsung and Google (aka base Android) along with a laundry list of third-party apps like Spotify, Calm and Strava. We imagine this list will continue to grow as well.
You’ll still swipe across or turn the circular bezel to the right to move around the different faces. This way you can see the time jump to view fitness stats and even jump into starting a workout. It seems much more natural, and we’re very pleased Samsung kept the bezel controls. During our brief hands-on time, it all felt smooth and quite responsive. The Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic are powered by an Exynos 1.18 GHz processor with 1.5GB of RAM. This should be plenty for a smartwatch. Both Galaxy Watches feature AMOLED always-on displays with a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass for durability. The Watch 4 comes in 40mm and 44mm sizes, while the Watch 4 Classic is bigger with 42mm and 46mm options.
On the subject of battery, Samsung is promising up to 40 hours of battery life, thanks to the faster processor and software enhancements. You can also expect 10 hours of battery life from 30 hours. We’ll be putting this to the test.
The new health features come in the form of a 3-in-1 BioActive Sensor, which includes an optical heart rate, electrical heart and bioelectrical impedance analysis sensor. This is a lot of fancy tech that a lot of smartwatches feature. Here, it means that the Galaxy Watch 4 line can measure heart rate, Vo2 levels, AFib detection and your body composition. The latter pulls together a range of data like body fats, body water and muscle mass among others. Samsung promises that it can deliver this measure within 15 seconds. We haven’t been able to try these as of yet, though.
The Galaxy Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic could deliver a big boost to the Wear OS space, and the smartwatch space as a whole. We’ll be back soon with two reviews, but if you’re sold, the Watch 4 and Watch 4 Classic are up for preorder at $249.99 (starting for Bluetooth) and $349.99 (starting for Bluetooth), respectively.