Breaking, Literally: Samsung Has a Fold Problem

Posted on April 18, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Mobile, Android with 36 Comments

Credit: Mark Gurman

The folding displays of at least four Samsung Galaxy Fold handsets have failed just days after tech reviewers started evaluating them. Yep, Samsung may have another debacle on its hands.

Samsung made big news for itself when it announced the Galaxy Fold back in November and then officially unveiled the hybrid handset, with its folding internal display, in February. Costing an astonishing $2000, the Galaxy Fold isn’t for casual users, and while the first generation wasn’t expected to sell particularly well, this week’s reliability issues are sure to put a further damper on that.

The chief concern, of course, is that crazy folding display. But Samsung had previously tried to allay fears in the reliability of the Fold’s unique display by claiming that it will last for at least five years of normal use, or about 200,000 folds.

As it turns out, at least four early reviewers have experienced massive display failures of various kinds, in some cases within just 24 hours.

Among the victims is Bloomberg gadget report Mark Gurman, who documented the issues with his review unit throughout yesterday in a series of tweets that was almost as mesmerizing as the recent fire at Notre Dame.

“The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in,” he tweeted, posting photos of the damage. “When I tap the screen as well with the top of my finger and the fingernail hits it (very common), it also leaves a seemingly permanent indent.”

Gurman later admitted he had removed a protective layer or skin that Samsung had placed over the display, assuming it was just a screen protector. But it was apparently added by Samsung to prevent what is now thought to be a common issue with the folding display.

But it’s not just the screen protector. Other have experienced problems unrelated to that weird added layer. The Verge’s Dieter Bohn, for example, experienced a weird bulge in the folding display that eventually pushed its way through the screen protector on its own.

Samsung says that it has no plans to cancel or delay the Fold’s April 26 release date. But this situation is fluid, and as we saw with the firm’s Note 7 catastrophe, things can change quickly.

“A limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review,” a Samsung statement explains. “We have received a few reports regarding the main display on the samples provided. We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter. Separately, a few reviewers reported having removed the top layer of the display causing damage to the screen. The main display on the Galaxy Fold features a top protective layer, which is part of the display structure designed to protect the screen from unintended scratches. Removing the protective layer or adding adhesives to the main display may cause damage. We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers.”

While the display issues are troubling, Samsung isn’t alone in pushing forward to folding displays. Both Xiaomi and Huawei have announced similar—some have said “superior”—designs in the months since Samsung’s November reveal, and other smartphone makers are likely to jump into this nascent new market soon as well.

Tagged with ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (36)

36 responses to “Breaking, Literally: Samsung Has a Fold Problem”

  1. jbinaz

    Two things. The link to the series of tweets links back to this article.

    And I guess I should withhold judgment on whether they are as mesmerizing as Notre Dame burning. On the face, that seems a bit hyperbolic. Comparing a centuries old, historic cathedral burning to the latest tech gadget failing? Maybe the tweets were that good. ?

  2. glenn8878

    I didn't expect the screens to scratch so easily without the protective layer. I add the screen protector to my iPhone precisely for that reason. Usually the phones come with plastic packaging, but not the screen protectors so it isn't hard to see why the reviewers would be confused. It just seems poorly designed to not have this warning label to not remove the protection layer.

    • Chris Payne

      In reply to glenn8878:

      It actually does come with a warning label that tells you not to remove the top layer. Someone posted it online.

      • BrianEricFord

        In reply to unkinected:

        The people who removed it have stated that their devices did not come with that warning.

        • jbinaz

          In reply to BrianEricFord:

          Easy to say, hard to prove, although I guess one would wonder why they would remove something that says "do not remove."

          • BrianEricFord

            In reply to jbinaz:

            Why would they lie? Samsung could prove them wrong if they are, so there’s not a lot of upside given that it’s a horrible design decision that is bound to lead to damaged devices even assuming a small-print warning exists.

            (But, again, it did not on these review devices.)

          • Greg Green

            In reply to jbinaz:

            The do not remove is apparently in the manual, not on the film. Since many devices come with protective film to be removed it’s not a stretch to believe people would think the film is like all the others.

            samsung should’ve done some sort of heat bonding on the edges to prevent it from being moved as easily as protective film.

      • provision l-3

        In reply to unkinected:

        Not entirely. I believe what you are talking bout is the tweet from the T-Mobile creative director. He posted a picture of the label that productions units will come with telling customers to not peel it off. The test units didn't have it.

  3. YouWereWarned

    Samsung is certainly my go-to early adopter mfgr. And why do WE need this? Only because they say we do...had no idea my current rigid screen was so incompetent.

  4. chaad_losan

    What a fucking joke. This technology is far from ready for my mother to use. Much less then unwashed masses. Screens breaking because you pull off what seems to be the temp protective layer? Not good at all. This product will eventually be pulled or delayed.

  5. John Noonan

    These are cool devices, no doubt, and it will be interesting to see what eventually happens based on this. Personally, I do not see why I would want one of these, but they are cool.

  6. mmcpher

    Color me impressed by the form factor and the Samsung design execution, and color me skeptical about the numerocity of the broken screen issue. Skeptical but obviously interested in development of this story. My thought was that Samsung is now regretting its decision to soft-peddle and to obscure the inclusion of a protective screen atop the Fold's display. With the display in place and intact, the reviewers I saw seemed generally impressed with the overall quality of the display. So there may not have been the critical downside that led Samsung not to make it unavoidably clear that there was a protective layer that WAS NOT TO BE REMOVED. Jobsian response: "You are stripping off material components of the device wrong!".

    There's a reason that manufucaturers now include watermarks on their temporary shipping/packing material screen protectors, so that users can clearly see that they are to be removed before use. The thing is that these new form factors necessarily raise concerns with potential customers that there will not be good 3rd party screen protectors avaialable, so Samsung should have not only made their inclusion of the screen protector prominently known, it should have made it a part of the positive promotion of the device. From what I've seen and read, there were a surprising number of these review devices handed out, so apart from those units affirmatively damaged by improper (though unknowing) reviewer use, there may have been a small number of other, and potentially serious, issues with the folding screen. We will see. I hate the price point and the way it will keep prices for non-folding, non-breaking devices high. But I am intrigued by the prospect of a large, compactable, retractable or folding screen. It is funny to read the virulent hostility towards an early iteration of device, from people who purport to have no use for or interest in such a device. I wouldn't worry so much, as it remains unlikely that Samsung will drag you to the ground, tie you up and strap a foldable devise to your hand and extract $2,000 from your wallet.

  7. Rob_Wade

    As I predicted. Ugly device, stupid idea, not ready for prime time.

  8. RobertJasiek

    Precisely as expected regardless of the manufacturer. A breakable device breaks.

  9. Pierre Masse

    If Microsoft nailed the folding aspect of a device, maybe it's time for them to push it out.

  10. anthonye1778

    Ah, Samsung. You never disappoint. Though to be fair to them it could just be the first few review units. And it was very clear from the outset that this device was sort of a first-run experiment.

  11. mattbg

    It's a bit concerning that a user can easily remove a critical display component, mistaking it for a screen protector.

  12. j_c

    I have watched several gushing YouTube videos, most from people I regularly see pumping products which is how they likely get them. From the videos the screen looks extremely cheap and flimsy and the device looks bulky and awkward. Yes the tubers rave, happy they get to soak up views and score a win with Samsung but this just seems like a half-baked monster at this point.

    • red.radar

      In reply to j_c:

      YouTube has turned into the land of infomercials.

      • j_c

        In reply to red.radar:

        I LOVE the ones where they try and explain away the massive seam in the middle of the device. "Yeah I know, you can really tell in here because it's bright. I mean, if you are in a well lit room you will notice it and feel it every time you touch it. But the rest of the time if you are in the dark and not touching it..."

        "Then... for instance. You are probably sitting in a bedroom watching a movie, right? So here, look you don't notice the seam as much. You still see it. Also when you turn it to landscape to watch a movie, well now a big chunk of the screen is obstructed because of the notch. But the seam is better now, right?"

  13. bassoprofundo

    While these particular issues are obviously huge, the tolerance for any sort of issue whatsoever goes down exponentially as the price goes up. If I'm paying this much for a phone, it had better be flawless. I already feel like that at current flagship Apple and Samsung prices, let alone at the $2k for which this thing retails. Out of pure tech lust, I tried to find any possible way to justify getting this one, but nothing about it made sense for anyone but the gold-Apple-Watch-buying crowd that has cash to burn.

    • ryguy

      In reply to bassoprofundo:

      I suspect that it's actually a curve - tolerance drops as price goes up, until it hits a point where the price is so high that tolerance actually goes up with it. I'd guess most people who actually end up buying this thing are in a situation where they don't need it, or have enough money that it's worth it just for the novelty. Like you said, the gold Apple watch crowd. Another example is supercars - if you pay $50k for a car you expect it to be at least as reliable as a $20k car, but if you buy a $250k Ferrari you're probably okay with it being in the shop more often.

  14. Yaggs

    Not sure why all these phones need to have "foldable" displays... they need to figure out a way to make a hing design that allow 2 seperate screens to meet in the middle with no visible seam... that has to be easier than making a display fold in half... plus you could still use glass instead of plastic for the screens... and they would fold closed thinner.

  15. BrianEricFord

    The biggest problem I see with a “protective cover” that isn’t MEANT to be removed because doing so complete effs up the product — but is apparently fairly easy to remove and seems confusingly like it OUGHT to be removed — is 1) people are clearly gonna do it and 2) it’s probably gonna peel off on its own sooner rather than later anyway.

  16. StevenLayton

    See, THIS is why I'm not spending £2000 on this phone. Well this and the fact I don't have £2000 to spend on a phone.

  17. steenmachine

    If this was an iPhone, the tech press would have an absolute field day, and there would be 1000 comments here within the first hour lambasting Apple for their quality issues, the exorbitant price, and losing their way with innovation...

  18. briantlewis

    I'm hoping that Zach from JerryRigEverything does a durability test. The mohs picks will probably kill it right there.