Mobile phones have long surpassed the time when they were viewed as a mere telecommunications tool. Integrated into our lives like never before, these devices let us stay connected with our health, finances, entertainment, information, and so much more. Yet, despite seeing these trends, I was always personally hesitant to adopt the latest and greatest in mobile technology. And as a gamer, I never appreciated mobile gaming as a platform worthy of my time. What I needed, more than anything else, was an opportunity to jump in the deep end and experience forward-thinking mobile technology to challenge my own views. Moreover, I wanted to see if I could break down my own walls and learn to adopt and appreciate mobile gaming, an industry that seems to be growing exponentially every single year. Thank you to Samsung for giving me that opportunity. Here’s my Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 review from a gamer’s perspective.
To offer full disclosure and transparency, Samsung Australia sent us through a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 alongside a Galaxy Watch4 and Galaxy Buds2 intended as long-term loan units for review purposes. For the last few weeks, I’ve fully tested and adopted these devices in almost every facet of my life to see what I had been previously missing out on. The Fold replaced a Samsung Galaxy A21s, which was the cheapest Android phone I could purchase outright at the time. Suffice to say the Fold and accompanying peripherals provided a fairly drastic change that helped showcase the unique benefits of the device. 3 weeks later and whilst I still have some hesitations, it’s abundantly apparent that the Fold3 is a great piece of tech for gamers, binge-watchers, tech enthusiasts, and more.
Let’s start with the obvious. The Galaxy Z Fold3’s unique selling point is that the phone literally folds open to display a much larger screen than your average phone. An external screen allows you to hold and use your phone like any other, but upon flipping it open, you’ll have an internal screen with a fold running down the middle. It’s a pretty stunning example of new technology that still feels like a “wow” moment each and every time it’s opened, especially as new people ask to see the phone in action. That feeling of novelty and style will be enough to sell the device to some tech enthusiasts, but obviously, great form doesn’t always equate to great function.
“It’s a pretty stunning example of new technology that still feels like a “wow” moment each and every time it’s opened…”
The Fold3’s internal folding screen works exactly as you’d expect and the increase in flexibility doesn’t appear to decrease the screen’s graphical fidelity or provide any real downside whatsoever, save for a visible groove down the middle. The groove is quite easy to see but does fade into the background once there’s something more vibrant happening on-screen. Flick on a video or launch a game and suddenly that visible groove becomes much more camouflaged, yet never completely imperceptible. The screen still feels good and responsive to interact with, and the advantage of a larger screen becomes instantly clear. Not only does it give you a more immersive viewing or playing experience, but it also provides more options for display usage, much like a dual monitor on a PC.
Those who find themselves frequently streaming TV shows or watching videos online from their phone will no doubt really appreciate the extra-large screen. Coming in at 7.6 inches diagonally worth of screen real estate, the Fold3 finds a way to bridge the gap between a phone and a tablet without ever feeling cumbersome or oversized. Slipping right into your pocket like a regular phone, yet capable of offering a larger viewing or gaming experience. Once I paired the Fold3 with a Bluetooth controller (DualShock 4 in my case) and a video game streaming service (thank you Xbox Cloud gaming), I found I was experiencing the richest and most true-to-form mobile gaming experience I’ve ever had. Jumping into games like Scarlet Nexus and Back 4 Blood streaming straight from the cloud with only some slight hiccups, it really does feel like a new era for mobile gaming and the Fold3’s various display options only helped. The real trouble here is that in order to have that rich gaming experience I described, I’d need to be out of the house with a Bluetooth controller in hand and a quiet space to set myself up and I just don’t ever really see that happening. Playing at home works fine, but no matter how much better this mobile gaming experience may feel to past ones, it still doesn’t compare to classic PC or console gaming.
Unlike the scenario described above, you’re much more likely to use your Fold3 as a gaming device for more traditional mobile games or games with touchscreen controls. Jumping into Dirt 5 and playing using the touchscreen controls felt initially uncomfortable, but I eventually learned to enjoy it. One of the most annoying elements of touchscreen controls, outside of the inaccuracy and lack of physical feedback, is that your fingers are just getting in the way of the action on screen. With the Fold3’s considerably larger screen, this issue became less of a problem with much more real estate remaining viewable behind my fat fingers. Location tracking games like Pokémon GO felt alright on the Fold3, though the novelty quickly wore off with few benefits to a bigger screen and I went back to utilising the external screen much like a regular phone. What ended up being the most promising gaming experience was simple swipe games like Fruit Ninja or drawing games like those found in Jackbox Party Pack releases or a recent favourite of mine, Gartic Phone. Add a stylus like the S Pen Pro and suddenly your advantage in these drawing games becomes especially obvious when paired with that larger screen. It’s just too bad my actual drawing skills still stopped me from attempting anything other than stick figures.
Ultimately, as a gamer, I’m actually quite happy with the Samsung Galaxy Fold3. Sure, the device isn’t built as a gaming device specifically. The specs here won’t rival gaming-specific portable devices at a similar price. But having those options at your disposal to swap between the wider screen and the regular screen or to fold the phone in such a way that it props itself up gives you the most flexibility in mobile gaming I’ve ever experienced.
As accessibility continues to become a more deservedly notable feature, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out this additional benefit to the bigger screen. It’s not something every tech-head will likely think about, or even come across through use. Although when I first showed the Fold3 to my parents it was the most apparent benefit to the bigger screen. My mother, bless her soul, uses a tablet to take photos because it’s easier for her eyes to take in the wider screen and see all the details. My father, who’s been short-sighted for almost his entire life, always has his text font so big that a couple of lines take up the entire screen. Both of them love to adopt the awkward pose of holding their phones directly up to their line of sight at a fixed distance from their face. And both of them would benefit greatly from a device like this one. It’s a cool facilitation of accessibility, whether intentional or not, though I’m not convinced my parents are good representations of the hip and trendy tech audience Samsung is looking to capture.
“It’s a cool facilitation of accessibility, whether intentional or not…”
The Fold3 and Galaxy Watch combination also made for a rather useful exercise tracking tool. It’s good motivation for physical health to have this data available on your wrist, able to provide real-time stats and record your daily movement routines. It’s not something every gamer will care about, but with fitness trends intersecting with gaming and tech more and more frequently over the recent years, it’s definitely an exciting prospect.
I have to give a quick mention to the lack of AUX port/headphone jack on the Fold3. It’s a notorious sore point for new phones across both the Android and iOS range and my first experience with a phone lacking one. I have to assume it’s done for a reason, but I can’t pretend it wasn’t a nuisance. The workaround here is to use the expensive Bluetooth Buds that for my taste cause more problems than they solve, or do what I did and purchase a USB-C to AUX adapter. It’s an admittedly rather small hassle but a hassle nonetheless.
I do have one reservation for the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 and it’s the only reason I may struggle to recommend one to your average phone user. In order to utilise all of the phone’s functions including pairing with the Watch, Buds, and Pen, the Fold becomes quite an expensive gadget. Retailing at AU $2,499 for the phone alone, the Galaxy Z Fold3 instantly prices itself out of anything but an enthusiast pricepoint. Whilst this may seem obvious for a forward-thinking piece of tech such as this, I can’t help but feel that the people who would most benefit from a Fold is the everyday person. The gamer, the Netflix binge-watcher, the artist, those who like to read ebooks – there are so many obvious benefits to the Fold’s design for these groups of people. But who knows, perhaps if the Fold is adopted enough, we’ll continue to see development in this area and more affordable options across the board.
The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 no doubt showcases one of the most interesting new innovations in mobile technology. There’s no denying the fascination and reverence created by that internal folding screen. The benefits of that functionality is also immediately apparent. It makes for a more engaging and engrossing viewing and playing experience, and I undeniably prefer playing most types of games on the Fold rather than on a more traditional mobile phone. Ultimately, what this device is able to do is provide flexibility and options that will benefit a surprisingly large amount of people. Could the device be more convenient for your average phone user with an AUX port and a more affordable price? Absolutely. But it’s hard to deny what a wondrous showpiece Samsung has created.
Disclosure: At time of writing, Checkpoint Gaming’s Editor-in-Chief Luke Mitchell works as a part of Samsung Australia’s PR agency. Checkpoint Gaming operates completely independently, and no special consideration is given to Samsung announcements or promotions for coverage.