Samsung‘s least expensive, new foldable phone, the Galaxy Z Flip 3, advances flexible screen technology, allowing a relatively large phone to fit into a very small space, but Samsung’s Galaxy S21+ is priced the same and comes with a tougher display, making this a difficult purchase decision. A review of the camera, processor and display specifications, along with the unique features of each might help shoppers choose between these two high-quality Samsung smartphones.
Samsung launched the Galaxy S21 series in January of 2021, a bit earlier than its usual cycle, perhaps due to the pandemic or possibly because it was eager to show off its latest creations, and they really are showpieces. All three models of the Galaxy S21 feature a beautiful design, integrating the camera array into the overall look, making it an accent rather than an eyesore. Samsung didn’t skimp on the technology either. The entire line is powered by the blazing fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor and sports a super bright, sharp 6.7-inch OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate and 1,300 nits of brightness. The Galaxy S21+ includes three rear cameras, wide and ultra-wide at 12 megapixels, and the telephoto has an incredible 64-megapixel resolution.
The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is actually quite similar to the Galaxy S21+ in many of its specifications, containing the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor and a matching screen size of 6.7 inches when unfolded. That is where the magic lies with a flexible display. The Z Flip 3 phone is only 3.4 inches long when it’s folded, but opens to 6.7 inches when unfolded. One of the obvious tradeoffs is the thickness since that increases when collapsed to its smaller size, reaching a somewhat chunky two-thirds of an inch at the hinge. This is a bit more than double the thickness of the Galaxy S21+ making it an important point to consider, as where the phone will be carried and how that works with clothing and fashion accessories makes a difference. For those that wear tight jeans, fitting a thicker phone into a pocket might not be as easy as fitting a thinner but longer phone. If the phone can be placed in a jacket pocket or a bag, the shorter length of the Z Flip 3 might be exactly what is needed. The form factor might be among the most important decisions when choosing between these two phones.
The most unique feature of Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 is clearly its foldability. Beyond that, the Galaxy S21+ beats the newer phone in many categories. How important each is will depend on how the phone is used, making this more of a personal preference. With many of the core specifications being a match, including the processor, 5G capability, memory and storage capacity, display size, refresh rate and similar peak brightness (1,200 nits for the Z Flip 3), the differences mostly come down to the cameras, battery capacity, and durability. The Galaxy S21+ uses Gorilla Glass Victus, which is among the most durable on the market, while the Z Flip 3 has a flexible plastic screen covered by a stretchable plastic film. Samsung boasts it is 80-percent more durable than the previous generation, but it won’t be able to stand up to a beating like the super-tough Gorilla Glass.
The foldable Galaxy Z Flip 3 has a 3,300 mAh battery, about two-thirds that of the Galaxy S21+ at 4,800 mAh. The hinge takes up some of the space that might have been used for a larger battery. Cameras are another blow to the flexible Galaxy phone, lacking the 64-megapixel telephoto of the Galaxy S21+ but matching its 12-megapixel wide and ultra-wide lenses. The Z Flip 3 does include a second, tiny 1.9-inch screen on the rear of the device beside the cameras, called a Cover Display. This makes it easy to see the time and scan notifications without the need to unfold the phone. Although convenient, it is not really unique since notifications can just as easily be read on the Galaxy S21+ when the phone is face up.
Overall, the Galaxy S21+ is probably the best choice for most shoppers. It wins in most categories and is only a few months older than Samsung’s foldable. There is, of course, something to be said for appearance and while both phones are quite stunning, Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 will catch more looks since folding smartphones are still quite novel in 2021. For those looking for an eye-catching phone that can collapse down to a nearly square 3.4 by 2.8-inch size, and don’t mind the double thickness, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is worth a look and is much improved over last year’s model.