Wed. May 18th, 2022

I handle a lot of phones. With most, I run them through our review process and set them aside. A few times a year, though, something grabs me enough to get my personal SIM for a few months.

The Galaxy Z Fold3 was one of those phones with such a new form factor that I really wanted to dig into. So I used it as my primary phone for more than a month and now I am switching back to the Galaxy S21 Ultra. (There was also a OnePlus 9 Pro in the middle there.)

Z Fold3 is convincing. Let me get down to what Z Fold3 can do that no other phone can:

  • Reading: I like to read comics, and Fold is the only phone that can properly display either a full Marvel Unlimited page or a full manga page in a comfortable size.
  • Gaming: I played more than 30 hours of gaming on Fold, and the experience is more immersive and no doubt more fun than it is on any other phone. I really felt like I was playing on a handheld gaming system.
  • All with a card: I’m buying an apartment right now and spending a lot of time in Zillow and Trulia. There’s just so much more room to look around on the Z Fold3.
  • Copying codes and numbers between apps: Copying a password for OneNote, copying a hotel booking reference code to an email, copying a database postcode to Slack … they are all easier in split screen on Fold3.
  • Feeling of lust: Several people commented or nodded to my smart phone. Z Fold3 is a sign of wealth.

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is much nicer to play on the Z Fold3 than on any other phone

What is wrong with that?

So why did I just switch back to my S21 Ultra? Most subtitles.

If you have read Galaxy Z Fold3 reviews, you know that Folden’s cameras are not good. I will not elaborate on it too much. They are nice, just not good. But I did not expect to have so many problems writing on the thing. The 5 inch wide unit is just too big for me to comfortably write on it, even two-handed when open. And even though it’s a nice 2.6 inches wide when closed, I still had way too many misspellings on the keyboard.

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I know there are 300 different software keyboards to try, this is Android and I’m aware that I only used Samsung’s keyboard and Gboard. But I think most people do not try keyboard after keyboard. I end up having to write a lot on my phone and typing on Z Fold3 hurt my hands after a while.

In addition, the Z Fold3’s battery life is not as good as the S21 Ultra’s battery in the real world, and it does not charge as fast. These are not deal breakers for me, but they were factors in my list of pros and cons. I found that the phone was often on 20% to 50% battery between my large consumption and not charging it long enough.

I was also not prepared for how much the extra ounce and a half over S21 Ultra matters. The S21 Ultra is already heavy at 8 ounces; Z Fold3 is 9.5 ounces and it made me noticeably less likely to want to pull it out of my pocket or bag and mess with it. I’ve been thinking over the last month that a Samsung Galaxy Watch4 would be a good companion to the Z Fold3 and tell you when you really need to get your phone out, but the Watch 4 model I wanted (black, Bluetooth, 44mm) was sold out until recently so I could not try it with the phone.

And here comes the 5G angle: I thought the “killer app” for folding phones and 5G would be video calling, as I experienced in Korea. But it turns out that I just do not make many video calls on my phone. When I make video calls, in my normal life, I stand at my desk. If I call someone from the street, it’s an audio call. So I did not find or feel the 5G boost that would make a large, foldable phone unstoppable.

I put the Z Fold3 away from me, looked at my OnePlus 9 Pro and S21 Ultra and decided to go back to the S21 Ultra (now with Android 12). The OnePlus 9 Pro is great – I spent most of last year with the OnePlus 8 Pro – but when I compare the two, the S21’s 10x camera is just too great to refuse. I will probably change my SIM card again early next year.

What have your three most recent phones been and why? Tell me that in the comments.

What else happened this week?

  • The Google Pixel 6 phones will be officially released on October 19th. I saw some dummy models in a window in NYC the other week. The biggest question for me is whether Google bothers to try to sell them, as no Pixel phone has ever gained more than a few percentage points of market share. With the lack of chipsets as it is, these can be really limited products.
  • Is there a market for midrange Android tablets? I fuss over it with the Nokia T20, a $ 249 “stock” Android tablet with great software support but a lousy Unisoc processor. Unisoc is the chipset’s equivalent of the cheap beer they bring out to college parties when everyone’s already a little full. Who really buys an $ 249 Android tablet? Who uses them? I can not quite figure it out.
  • T-Mobile lowered the price of its home service to $ 50. I have a full review, of course. The difficulty with T-Mobile Home Internet is that the company has to avoid selling it in places where consumers would have a bad experience … and some of the comments I have seen online show that it has not had that kind of restraint.
  • A spectrum auction is underway! Call this “C-band, part 2.” The 3.45 GHz band fits into the same band class (n77) as the existing C-band, so it goes very well with what the carriers bought earlier in the year. There is 100MHz total available and no operator can be larger than a 40MHz block. Also, much of the east coast is “weakened” and will have restrictions on how the airwaves can be used. I think AT&T will still go big here to compensate for its weaker showing in the first C-band auction. Here is the best analysis I have seen so far.

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