The Anatomy: Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 Changes The Game With A Colorful Modern Take On The Classic Flip Phone

The Anatomy: Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 Changes The Game With A Colorful Modern Take On The Classic Flip Phone

You can’t discuss the history of cellular phones without mentioning the clamshell, one of the most iconic form factors in the early days of these mobile magic machines. By far, the Moto Razr can be credited with popularizing the trend, though Motorola was simply blazing a trail that others set before it. We’d wave goodbye to the brick-like Nokias of old before then, although that’s started to regain some popularity in today’s retro-lusted world.

While clamshell phones never fully faded into obscurity, the advent of smartphones accelerated its obsolescence. Suddenly, there was no room for a hinge that equipped you with one of the most satisfying ways to end a call short of slamming an old school handset onto its ringer base.

And we’d seen smartphones with this form factor in the days since, particularly by the hands of Samsung and its early clamshell Android phones. Those rarely stretched far outside of Asia, a region that never could quite forget the wonder years due to its unique character input needs that traditional keypads were much better equipped for. But compared to something with a full-sized touchscreen—and with much of the most active sectors of the wireless market not offering one—it felt like a mere novelty.

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Fast forward to today, and the Korean electronics juggernaut is still delivering on this classic design, although now it has enough tricks up its sleeve to offer the best of both worlds for those missing the golden era, but not willing to abandon their familiar all-screen slates. The Samsung Galaxy Z Flip was the inaugural entry in a new line of foldable smartphones, which Samsung ingeniously infused with a flexible AMOLED display that allows the smartphone to fold shut. This facilitated the grand reopening of an attraction that many thought was long forgotten.

Although this was Samsung’s first crack at the form factor, it wasn’t the first at bat—Motorola beat it to the punch with 2020’s Moto Razr, appropriately enough. The Z Flip was much more compelling in retrospect.

It hasn’t been perfect. Early handsets experienced quality issues with the special protective film covering the display module having a propensity to separate itself from the chassis, and a smaller battery required you to top it off more frequently than the traditional contiguous candy bar designs offered. It was also pretty bulky, an understandable compromise considering the limitations of foldable displays that don’t allow them to crease quite as tight as, say, a sheet of paper.

Customize your Galaxy Z Flip3 Bespoke Edition


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Flip phones are back

Things have improved tremendously with the Galaxy Z Flip 3. While it still suffers from some of those same shortcomings, Samsung has achieved enough refinement in all the right areas to make a more cohesive device that’s also more durable—especially important for those looking to retrain their phone-slamming muscle memory. Speaking of that crease, for starters, you’ll no doubt feel the understated-yet-noticeable hump as your finger scrolls through a long list of items, but it doesn’t feel so pronounced anymore that it’s jarring.

The Z Flip faithful will also appreciate the bigger preview display, which is best used for glanceable notifications and previewing selfies from the main camera module. While useful, I feel it could use more functionality and third-party support to keep it from feeling like an afterthought, much like the secondary ticker display did on another innovative Samsung smartphone—Verizon’s Samsung Continuum from back in the day.

The Anatomy: Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 Changes The Game With A Colorful Modern Take On The Classic Flip Phone

This display is much more useful, though, and the main AMOLED panel was upgraded with a smoother 120hz adaptive refresh rate. The Z Flip 3 is also now water-resistant, and while that doesn’t mean carelessness should be on your menu, it does give you a little more freedom to use the smartphone in a variety of situations without having to baby it.

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 is more sleek, albeit subtly so. The difference might sound and look minor on paper, but the hand feel is much improved, and it slides in and out of even moderate-sized pockets with ease, a welcome change from having a borderline tablet bulging at the side of my leg. And with a sturdier hinge—strong enough to be used as a kickstand to prop up the top half of the display for hands-free video calling—I’m more confident that it won’t devolve into a flimsy mess a year from now.

So, not only is it a lot better now, but also a lot cheaper—the base model is down to $999 now compared to $1,400 for the original. Be sure to check out our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 review for more on the device at large.

A cult of personality

With a reimagined smartphone now available at a much more reasonable price, Samsung thought it wise to give folks the opportunity to make this modern take on a cult classic a long-term keepsake. That’s thanks to the newly launched Bespoke Edition, which lets you customize the color of the frame, front panel and rear panel with several pantone colors to fit your style.

Granted, your overall palette choices are pretty thin, but being given the opportunity to customize several elements of your smartphone—as opposed to simply choosing from a predetermined selection of standard colors—is more than welcome. There are 49 total color combinations you can achieve, including two neutral shades for the metal frame (black and silver) and five muted tones shared by the front and rear (black, blue, pink, white and yellow).

“The concept was born from a wider trend we were seeing across all industries,” says BoWoo Park, a Samsung Mobile spokesperson. “Simply put, today’s consumers crave customization. And we credit this trend to the younger generations who want to express their individuality through everything they associate with. They’d rather choose something they can customize and if that isn’t an option, they opt for their own DIY customizations.”

Indeed, many rush to differentiate their latest gadget purchases with unique cases, decals and charms that you could nary mistake for someone else’s in the event it’s lost or stolen. Considering the smartphone is typically most people’s primary hub for doing everything, it stands to reason that it’s become a focal point of personalization.

Samsung gave me the opportunity to customize a Bespoke Edition Galaxy Z Flip 3 of my own. Given it was nearing the end of October and my birthday has always been associated with the month’s festive colors, I wanted something orange and black. Sadly, yellow was the closest thing, though my eyes were still plenty pleased once I got the loaner unit in my hands. Sure, I now look like a proud Pittsburgh Steelers fan—the horror, me being a Cheesehead and all—but there’s a certain charm to this contrast that I can’t help but love.

Seriously, some days I can’t take my eyes off of the Z Flip 3. I’m often caught staring a hole into this squared puck, and the only way to scratch the itch is to grab the the thing and fling its screen open. Next to my boring Space Grey iPhone 12 Pro Max sitting inside its no-frills Otterbox case, the attraction is night and day. Touché, Samsung.

Hye Jin Bang, principal designer at Samsung, says the company ran thousands of simulations to narrow a wide selection of these unique colors down to just a select few. It also took color coordination tips from the younger crowd among its own employee groups. For instance, Hye Jin Bang says Samsung struggled with whether it wanted Yellow in the final lineup, but decided to march forward with it after noticing its younger employees held the color in high regard.

“So far, I’m proud of where we landed with the selection,” said Bang. “It was our goal to ensure that no matter what color combos customers chose, the colors would complement and enhance the design. And from initial feedback, I think we nailed it.”

Buyer’s remorse?

But what if you simply don’t like the colors on avail? Well, Samsung is playing the tough luck card there, as it probably should. One determining factor is that it felt offering too many options would only confuse the customer, which might turn them off from going through the process of customizing and buying one altogether.

“As a designer, one issue with offering customization is the psychology theory of the ‘paradox of choice,’ which states that the abundance of options requires more effort in decision making,” said Bang. “We didn’t want to overwhelm consumers with too many options. Instead, we wanted to create a fun and simple process that added personality to something consumers use every day.”

I know more than a few folks who would scoff at the suggestion, but analysis paralysis is real. I feel there could be more options personally, but I also recognize how much of a gamble this endeavor is for Samsung in the first place. Made-to-order electronics don’t follow the same efficient assembly pathway the same way standard colors can. Samsung has to take care that each order is fulfilled to the customer’s desire, and that requires extra steps in the assembly process.

Even so, Sung Hye Yoon, who works with Samsung’s Commerce Experience group, says it takes just a few weeks from the time you place an order to receiving delivery. “The actual device manufacturing isn’t much different from the original device, but being able to deliver up to 49 different color combinations spread across seven different countries is the biggest challenge,” said Yoon.

That’s also why the color availability has to be so scarce—trying to fulfill several markets with dozens of unique parts with no prior consumer preference data would be wasteful. For instance, yellow and blue with a silver frame is said to be the most popular color combination among US consumers, while white-on-silver and pink-on-black dominate globally. Samsung says it’ll use what it learned from this first run to help inform its design choices for future Bespoke Edition offerings.

Customize your Galaxy Z Flip3 Bespoke Edition

You can order the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 Bespoke Edition right now for $1099. Head on over to Samsung’s website and start playing around with your own configuration, and be sure to share it with your design-conscious loved ones before purchase if you’re unsure of your fashion sense. Although, if you end up hating your color, you can send it back to Samsung and have the panels swapped out any time you want for a nominal $29 fee.