Galaxy Fold: The issues and the 'fix'

TechRepublic reporter Karen Roby spoke with ZDNet's Adrian Kingsley-Hughes about issues with the Samsung Galaxy Fold before its April 26, 2019 launch. Kingsley-Hughes explains the screen and hinge problems reviewers have experienced in further detail and offers insights about how Samsung plans to handle them. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

Karen Roby:The highly anticipated Galaxy foldable phone is running into some roadblocks. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has been looking into this for us for ZDNet [a sister site of TechRepublic]. Adrian, this is not great news for Samsung, just days ahead of their US launch.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: That's true. I think when you're launching a $2,000 smartphone, I think you expect things to be smooth as butter. When you have an early crop of reviewers who say that the screen didn't last a day, I think that's certainly going to make people think twice about buying something. It's not good news.

Karen Roby:There were some journalists that were given the phones. Tell us exactly what happened to them. Is it in the hinge? Talk about exactly where the cracking is going on.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: It seems to be two issues at play here. Some of the reviewers seem to have peeled off a vital protective layer of the display-thinking that it was some kind of layer that you peel off to protect the screen in transit. That seems to have caused some of the issues that people have had-the screen went funny when they did that, the screen went a bit weird. Other people say they've not touched the display, and they believe that what's happened is that some stuff, some debris got in between the hinge mechanism, and that's actually kind of caused damage to the display in the back.

Basically, what all this seems to have resulted in is a crop of earlier reviewers with essentially catastrophic screen damage from using a Galaxy Fold for little more than a day.

SEE: Galaxy Fold screens breaking after a day: Who is to blame? (ZDNet)

Karen Roby:When they first announced this-of course, an innovative product when it comes to smartphones-was the durability something that Samsung talked about with this design?

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes:Durability was something that was rather brushed under the carpet at the time. It was interesting because I looked closely at some of the photos taken of some of the units that were on display at the launch event. Zooming in on some of those, it was clear that the screens on some of them were suffering some sort of bubbling, and damage around the hinge-even the ones that were on display. That did make me think, "hmm, I wonder how that's gonna get sorted out between now and launch time." But this seems to be a real problem, that the displays wouldn't last a day.

Karen Roby:Yeah, especially with that kind of price tag. Now Adrian, as far as Samsung responding to this, have they come out and said anything yet?

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes:They've come out with a statement saying that they're gonna look into it. They've also come out with a statement saying don't peel off this protective layer, and they're going to be telling people who buy it, "don't peel off this protected layer." To me, this feels like a little bit of a dodge. I think if you've got something that can peel off, human nature is to peel it off. And, I think if nothing else, once it starts to peel off, what kind of damage is that going to cause down the line?

Samsung has a history of trying to use instructions to keep itself out of problems that are engineered into its products. I remember back with the Note 5 and the S Pen, you could put it in the wrong way, but if you did, you would damage the retaining mechanism permanently. Samsung's response to that was to add in the manual, "don't put the pen in backwards because you'll break stuff." That doesn't seem like an ideal solution to me, and it definitely doesn't seem like an ideal solution to something that costs $2,000.

SEE: BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policy (Tech Pro Research)

Karen Roby:No doubt. When you talk about Samsung's history, they suffered quite a bit back in 2016, after they were forced to halt production of the Note 7 because some of those batteries were catching fire. So when it comes to public relations, Samsung is no stranger to some real problems like this.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes:Yeah, Samsung seems to also want to drag out issues much further than maybe a clear statement would. The battery issue took a long time to clear up, and it turns out, in the end, that it was an engineering issue from putting a battery into a device with tolerances that were too tight, and it was resulting in the battery being pinched. It's not good that we're seeing this endless flow of design flaws from Apple and products that are flagship products-products that are selling for a lot of money. I think this one is gonna make people think twice about spending $2,000 on it.

Karen Roby:Finally, Adrian, though they are going ahead-as far as we know-with the launch.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes: Yes, that's the statement we got the other day, that they're gonna work into something, which I think is just telling people don't peel the display off. I think if there is something to the idea that debris can get into the hinge mechanism and cause problems, I think Samsung could be backing themselves into a corner again, and it could be another PR nightmare for them.

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