Repair and teardown site iFixit has likely gotten to the bottom of why Samsung’s $2,000 folding smartphone is so prone to breaking.
As a quick refresher, Samsung began sending test units of its Galaxy Fold smartphone to reviewers last week. Within just a couple of days, multiple reviewers began experiencing issues with the review units — including broken displays — that left them damaged or completely unusable.
Different reviewers saw different problems with their own Galaxy Fold units, but at least three test units began developing bulges underneath the display (which led to a broken device in one case). As iFixit pointed out in its teardown, that’s due to a rather glaring oversight on Samsung’s part.
What’s Wrong with the Galaxy Fold?
Basically, Samsung was so focused on perfecting a folding mechanism that it failed to create any type of protection against the ingress of debris. OLED panels are delicate, so that was a major gamble.
“To achieve the fold, the thin bezel that surrounds (and protects) the screen leaves a gap where the two halves meet,” iFixit wrote.
“This 7mm gap doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but it leaves the display exposed — so should something accidentally enter, it’s curtains for the screen.”
Samsung noted this itself, saying that some of the issues surrounding broken displays were associated with “impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge.”
That, of course, wasn’t the only problem. Other reviewers experienced broken Galaxy Fold displays after they removed a protective layer that looked like a normal, in-box screen protector. Samsung’s packaging gave no indication that this layer should not be removed.
And at least one Galaxy Fold review unit, the one given to CNBC, had a display that broke for no apparent reason.
The ingress of debris is just one of the many issues that foldable smartphones will need to overcome before they have a mainstream future.
As for the Galaxy Fold, the way ahead looks unclear. Samsung has indefinitely delayed the device’s launch until it can fix the reported issues. Just one day after that announcement, Samsung also said it was recalling all Galaxy Fold units that were sent out to reviewers.
Samsung said in an email to customers who already pre-ordered the Galaxy Fold that they would be notified about updated shipping information in two weeks.