Complex Made Simple

Is Samsung’s $2000 foldable phone dead on arrival?

Samsung isn't making the best case for foldable screen technology.

Multiple review units broke in the hands of tech journalists Samsung is investigating the "cause" of the problems It seems that it was not made clear to users that a certain protective film that comes with the phones should not be removed, which led to the breakages

As you’ve probably heard, Samsung’s foldable smartphone isn’t too hot right now (Note 7 pun unintended). The Samsung Fold was sent out to reviewers among the press, and many are reporting that their review samples have broken or malfunctioned in some way or form.

This spells big trouble for Samsung, and a big opportunity for competitors. As the manufacturer, you don’t want the public’s first impression to entail defective or ill-designed units. As the competitor, you are taking notes and improving your own foldable offering, in hopes of eventually overtaking Samsung, which seems to have beat rivals to the punch. 

Investors have naturally been rattled. Samsung stock dropped 1.86% during the past 7 days. 

Samsung has had to delay the Galaxy Fold’s release date. While it was originally set to release on April 26th in the US, Fortune reports that the release date has now moved to June 13th.

While Samsung is not the first phone manufacturer to debut a foldable smartphone by any stretch of the imagination, it is the first big name to do so, followed closely by Huawei. How the Samsung Galaxy Fold performs could make or break the future of foldable smartphones. 

So what went wrong?

There seems to be an issue of miscommunication between Samsung and reviewers (and eventually, would be customers). A majority of the issues reported concern a protective film that the phone comes with. Some reviewers removed this film, which was the root of many of the malfunctions they reported. 

“The phone comes with this protective layer/film. Samsung says you are not supposed to remove it. I removed it, not knowing you’re not supposed to (consumers won’t know either). It appeared removable in the left corner, so I took it off. I believe this contributed to the problem.

A Samsung spokesperson told Buzzfeed News in an emailed statement that the company will inspect the units to determine the “cause” of the problems.

The spokesperson also addressed the removal of the device’s protective layer, which at least one reviewer reported doing: “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.” 

Other issues brought up by reporters involve defective hinges that could break the screen. 

Is it over for foldable smartphones before they even started?   

While foldable screens might seem like a failed technology right now, I’d like to remind you that not long ago, touch screens were a similar fad in the smartphone industry. It wasn’t until the breakthrough success of the iPhone through Apple’s marketing and design genius that they finally broke into the mainstream in 2007.

Now, in 2019, the same could be said for foldable screen technology. The tech is very exciting, but major manufacturers are still taking their baby steps in developing and eventually perfecting it. 

At the moment, premium pricing remains a major obstacle for mass adoption, but this is certain to change in the coming years. 

If Samsung fails now, Huawei can pick up the torch. If Huawei fails, then maybe Apple will once again be the pioneer of another smartphone technology. What matters right is that the torch is lit. It doesn’t matter who carries it. The ultimate winner is the consumer.