Has the Samsung Galaxy Fold already failed?

Right now. Right this very minute, there are only a dozen or several Samsung Galaxy Folds in the wild, and all of them in the hands of reviewers. Of that very small number, four of them have already failed. Or, at least, the screens have.

Rather watch than read? Hit play on the video above!

Two of the Galaxy Folds, the ones in the possession of Marques Brownlee of MKBHD fame and Mark Gurman of Bloomberg were apparently the result of, or may simply have been compounded by, removing a polymer protective film that shouldn't have been removed.

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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.

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The other two, one from Dieter Bohn of the Verge and another from Steve Kovach of CNBC, just seem too have just failed.

https://twitter.com/backlon/status/1118573836226658304 https://twitter.com/robotodd/status/1118574478009626624

OK, two straight up failures and two failures that may have been prompted or exacerbated by user error.

Well, kind of error. Retail units will apparently have a warning note telling people not to remove the polymer protective layer. The review units, despite arriving in what looked like retail packaging, didn't have any such visual warning or reminder, though most if not all were verbally warned not to remove.

Also, other reviewers, who are in the majority, haven't had this problem. My friend and colleague, Danial Bader of Android Central says he never once looked at the screen and even though he should peel the film off. He's a high order nerd and he's absolutely loving the experience of the Fold.

In a statement, Samsung said: "We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers."

Mark and MKBHD aren't dummies, though. We, tech reviewers, gadget nerds, everyday customers, all of us, have been operantly conditioned to remove plastic films, even Samsung's own Galaxy S10 has a plastic film on it that can be removed. Especially when they look like they can be removed. Extra especially when, like in Mark's case, they seem like they're curling up already, almost begging to be removed.

If the film shouldn't be removed, you shouldn't be able to remove it.

Here's the thing, though: If a polymer film shouldn't be removed, it should be designed so that it can't be removed. There shouldn't have to be warning stickers, people shouldn't have to remember months from now or worry a friend or family member will see an edge curling up and start pulling on it. It simply shouldn't be possible.

If it is removed, it's also easily understandable that the screen could be more easily scratched or scuffed. Not so easily understandable that it would fail completely.

And if it is such a massive potential point of failure, you don't just slap a sticker on it so you can ship, you take it as a giant warning sign, as neon, that it's just not technologically ready to ship.

The cause or causes of the other set of failures, the ones that didn't remove the film, isn't as clear. The Verge "saw our review unit break after just a day of use when (we think) a piece of debris got lodged under the folding display and damaged the OLED panel."

I'll pause so you can make your MacBook keyboard jokes, but for something that costs more than any baseline MacBook and is already packed up and ready to ship, that's just about the last thing anyone wants to hear.

The innovation dilemma

Now, I'm on record as saying I think foldables have a promising future. Been there. Made the video. Link in the description. We humans have been folding things for eons, in the past as books and wallets and even flip phones. Now, still, as laptops. The history of foldables is the history of technology.

But that technology has to be right, not just right now.

Being first to market gets a lot of attention, especially from often jaded, cynical tech and business model who go through new devices the way most people go through paper towels.

Technology has to be right, not just right now.

We spend almost no time with most phones, moving quickly from one to the next, so we don't experience them the way most people do, living with them, for years. But, somehow, we seem to get just as bored by them. More so even. So much so that we start to crave the different even and often especially when it's not the better and may well be for the worse.

We're desperate for the new, the shiny, and sure, the foldable, and manufacturers are desperate to give it to us, and first, just so they can gobble up the attention we'll willingly throw at them.

There is absolutely no advantage to being first if the road isn't finished and you drive off the cliff.

But there is absolutely no advantage to being first if the road isn't finished and you drive off the cliff. Sure, you're a spectacle, for a hot minute, but then everything blows up and you're just a hot mess.

All in the name of innovation which we've somehow come to conflate with simple novelty.

To quote Horace Dediu of Asymco

There is another form of ignorance which seems to be universal: the inability to understand the concept and role of innovation. The way this is exhibited is in the misuse of the term and the inability to discern the difference between novelty, creation, invention and innovation. The result is a failure to understand the causes of success and failure in business and hence the conditions that lead to economic growth.

We live in a time where commentary is mistaken, vendors misguided, and consumers misinformed by the constant misunderstanding and misuse of the word innovation.

Some company shows off a render of a triangular or donut-shaped phone and it's hailed as new, fresh, and innovative, even if it never ships. Other companies, hell most companies, make phones with all new optics and internals but mostly look the way they did before, because that look worked, and we're all bored now.

We're literally contributing to the dumbing down of the consumer base, but, hmmm, donut shaped.

No company is perfect. Samsung had battery issues that forced the recall of the Galaxy Note 7 and even the Galaxy S10 had its face scan tricked by YouTube videos and its fingerprint sensor by a 3D printout. Google had bad OLED panels in the Pixel 2 XL. Huawei is caught up in a myriad of security concerns. Apple had antennagate back in the day and most recently chose not to ship their AirPower inductive charger because the technology simply wasn't ready. Not with packaging or a sticker that said only to use it on a fully shielded icepack, but not at all.

Foldables? They're not even out of kindergarten yet.

Because, when you're shipping consumer technology, you have to be patient. You can't just wait until the moment it can walk to shove it out the door. You have to let it mature, graduate grade-school at least before you ship.

And Foldables? They're not even out of kindergarten yet.

Could vs. should

I'm hopefully Samsung can ride this out. That film is going to be a splinter in the mind of everyone who sees it, and how well it holds up over time is going to be an open question for a long time. Likewise, if debris is getting into that gap and killing the display. All we can do is wait and see. But, if a month or two from now, no one even remembers this because we're all well onto our next couple of gates, that's great.

(Image credit: iMore)

But those two issues are among the least that currently worry me about the fold.

Even when working as designed, that protective layer is a showstopper. So is the plastic of the display and the crease down the middle. The hardware might have spent a decade in the oven already but it's still not fully baked. The concept is still too compromised. Samsung, the company that has resolutely, steadfastly refused to embrace the notch or ditch the headphone jack and SD card slot, has willingly, exuberantly done all of those things just to ship the Fold. With just about the biggest pirate patch notch ever.

Even when working as designed, the 5G modem requires so many RF windows, so much space due to the extra chip, and so much power due both to the draw and the space no longer available for battery, all for a network that still has almost no deployment and absolutely no compelling use cases. At least not yet. It's another compromise in an already compromised device and for another technology that not only won't benefit the vast majority of people, but won't even be available to them for an eternity in gadget time.

The Galaxy Fold may not be a prototype but it remains to be seen if it's a product or a very public beta.

Even when working as designed, the apps that use Samsung's version of continuity are a tiny, tiny subset of those available and far too few to be workable for any real person. And that's still only counting the few and far between apps that have usable, never mind good, tablet versions. Both Google and Samsung have developer conferences. Yet, instead of introducing the frameworks for foldables, giving developers a few months and a ton of incentives to get their apps ready for launch, the Galaxy Fold is instead launching with support from only a tiny fraction of apps.

Even when working as designed, The Galaxy Fold doesn't really work. It may not be a prototype anymore but it's also not yet a product. It's more of a public beta, and one you have to pay almost $2K for the privilege of testing. The price of two Galaxy S10s. A MacBook Pro or, like, 4 Xbox One X.

The swim back

As much as conservative aunt Apple waits a decade before shipping their first phone or tablet, crazy uncle Samsung seems happy to throw everything on the wall, as fast as possible, just to see what sticks. And that's great. That's terrific, we need a good balance of both. Up until it falls out of balance and things stop reaching the wall and just goes splat all over the floor. And your shoes.

Samsung Galaxy Fold

Samsung Galaxy Fold (Image credit: iMore)

But, and this is the important part, we always, all of us, have to be straight up call it as it is. If you want to beta test and have $2K to spare, crazy uncle Samsung has a partially baked foldable phone for you.

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Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

148 Comments
  • I am betting that seeing this happen today across the news made your heart tingle and fill with warmth.
  • I'm betting that seeing this article today on iMore made your heart beat very fast and fill with dread
  • Since the reviewers removed the protective film off the device, it's an issue with the utensil between the screen and the seat. Nothing more. I am not defending samsung, i think their devices are no where near what they make them out to be. However, this is a non story since the people who had issues removed the protective layer which it CLEARLY STATES "do not remove the protective layer or damage could result".
  • Actually, several are reporting screen issue without removing the protective layer after a few days useage.
  • I could care less about Samsung.
  • You cared enough to be triggered by the article
  • how was he "triggered"?
  • You can clearly see from his first comment how annoyed he was that Rene had written _another_ article about Samsung. And he commented pretty fast after the article was published as well, being the first one here too.
  • Again, I do not care about Samsung. I use Pixel (and before that Nexus). Rene has an obsession about Samsung hate as much as his love for anything Apple says or makes.
  • From what I've seen, his articles about Samsung have generally been on-point when it comes to negativity. Maybe he should have a better equilibrium when it comes to posting negative things about Samsung and negative things about Apple, although if you do love Apple products it can be more difficult to find negatives with them, the same for the guys on Android Central as well who prefer Android devices.
  • * my articles FTFY
  • Sorry, I have a habit of making proofreading errors 🙃
  • Unlike Rene who has exchanged his integrity for free demo units, AC guys have repeatedly criticized numerous android products that were not up to par.
  • Rene has criticised Apple products that were not up to par, the Butterfly keyboard is one of many examples.
  • apology articles are not the same as criticism
  • They are apology articles in your opinion, however the article did criticise the keyboard, and that's a fact.
  • Fact is, it was an apology article
  • That's not a fact unless Rene admits that himself, what your saying is up to the reader's interpretation. But a criticism is a criticism, regardless of whether you think it's genuine or not
  • Nexus One, Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus were all made by Samsung. Lol
  • VAVA, don't mention pixel, he gets TRIGGERED by that word too apparently. Check out the 7 months in "tossfest".
  • lol what? I never said anything bad about the Pixel. You talk some real ****
  • In the eyes of an apple fanboy and appoligist, everyone else is triggered ha ha ha.
  • "ha ha ha", the sound of fake laughter. Besides, I already explained why I thought he was triggered
  • Your explanation is not needed. The trigger is actually when someone criticizes apple and Rene.
  • If he wasn’t triggered, he wrote a kneejerk reaction comment. Pick one
  • Again, look in the mirror.
  • ɿoɿɿim ɒ ni ϱniʞool ˎmmH
  • You could NOT care less. If you can care less, that means you care.
  • Danny we all know that you are Rene. You are ridiculous.
  • I'm actually not, but VAVA Mk2's comment was far more ridiculous, he has no idea what Rene is thinking
  • You do however, right?😉
  • Nope, I wouldn’t make any assumptions
  • SURE YOU WOULDN'T.
  • I wouldn't, and it looks like you left caps lock on.
  • That was tried dummy.
  • Don't know what you mean by "tried", but this is a non-argument anyway
  • Smdh! Nice way to try to make yourself look intelligent. I used caps to drive home my point. Since vocal tones do not work in printed matter.
  • Caps just makes you look angry in what should be a normal discussion
  • Caps are whatever I want them to be. If you think it's angry, that's your problem, and you are wrong.
  • I think it's ang"er", and I think when you're angry, you make spelling/grammar mistakes like that
  • Sorry. That's how we talk in our part of the world. But again. You don't leave your mom's basement so you would not know anything about that.
  • Says the guy who said I was racist because I used a word that you misunderstood…
  • No. That is racist. There are people. That's it. Labelling a certain group of people is a form of racism. No matter what. Again, maybe getting out of your mom's basement will open your eyes and brains to the ways of the world.....then again, maybe not.
  • It's not a label, it's just describing someone's apperance. If you think I'm racist, you're on your own as I've never been called that in my life.
  • Just like I'm the only one who thinks you are an apple shill right? There's always the first time buddy. Read the comments above!
  • If you truly think I'm racist then you're a far worse human being than I originally thought.
  • Ditto there dannyjjk.
  • Whatever. I’m not taking you seriously anymore
  • thats right. take your ball and go home. Just like anyone who loses an argument on the interent. The famous, "im not talking to you anymore. Be my guest. Please, stop responding!
  • I've not lost the argument, you just derailed it. Give me something to respond to.
  • Dude seriously we know DannyJJK is just a psydonymn. Just admit you are Rene. You unquestioningly defend anything Apple just like Rene does and you defend him tirelessly in the comments.
  • I don't defend anything Apple does, I have criticised them on many things. Touch ID was one of them, didn't work reliably enough for many people including me and my friend. I've always criticised Apple on their pricing which has pretty much always been too high. Antennagate was embarrasing, and I'm hoping that the iPhone SE makes a return as I think Apple would be wrong to get rid of that phone size. The first and second generation butterfly keyboards were bad, and Apple took too long to adopt OLED, and they should've included dark mode at the same time as including OLED as that offers power savings for OLED screens. There are lots of things I criticise Apple on, if you look at all my comments
  • Cough *bullshit* cough!
  • You will only believe what you want to believe. Try being open-minded for a change
  • Ha ha ha. Says the master of closed minded apple fanboys.
  • I've used Windows Phone, Android and iPhones. As well as on Desktop I've used Windows Linux and macOS. I'm hardly closed-minded, each one has its pros and cons.
  • Sure you have.
  • Well, I have? How the **** am I supposed to respond to this bullshit comment?
  • I'm betting you haven't.
  • There are better things to bet on, things you can somewhat predict, rather than stab-in-the-dark assumptions
  • No "stab in the dark assumptions" there bud. I can say I drive a ferrari too, but that don't make it TRUE!
  • It doesn't make it true, although only because I can't prove it because I don't know you. The same way you don't know me.
  • Again. It does not make it true.
  • It also doesn’t make it false
  • Well one of us are correct, and I am betting it's me. Considering I don't fanboy out on anything like you do.
  • Of course you're going to bet on yourself, anyone would bet on themselves.
  • As I said before Rene Jr, it's not just me that thinks like myself. Check out the comments from more than me. You are a crazed fanbaby.
  • You and one or two other people. There have been some "new" accounts which have had just one post directed at me, and then never came back again. Plus you seem to have replaced that Steve Adams guy who disappeared as soon as you came in, so I wouldn't be surprised if some of the other people were just your alt accounts
  • Not really, I knew it was slanted with a clickbait title since it was because people removed a film they weren't supposed to, but some people wanted to remind everyone of the Note7.
  • Read warpedgeoid‘s comment above
  • Rene’s article is right on. Samsung is now “delaying” the release.
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/samsungs-galaxy-fold-smartphone-release-del...
  • Why not Samsung PR spin like you do for Apple?
  • I don’t see any spinning here, there’s no need for it, this is a major screw up by Samsung. I’m guessing this device will not go on sale as planned, it will either be canceled or delayed.
    Samsung just nicely made us all forget about Apple’s cancellation of AirPower. You can always count on Samsung to come up with a bigger screw up.
  • If the best option, as suggested by Rene, is to wait until the tech is "just right," explain how Apple went with the notch. That's clearly not what they want long-term, so why do it? Here, Rene spins it as something Samsung declined to "embrace."
  • Rene is allowed to criticise another company even if Apple has made a similar error, and you're right, Apple didn't wait until it was just right with the notch, which was bad on their part as well.
  • So where is Rene's criticism of Apple's notch?
  • What about the critisims of apples move away from design symmetry on the bottom of the iphones. hmmmm? please. He rambled on for years about how other phones are not symmetrical and now Iphones are not.
  • Why criticize the notch? What’s wrong with it? Do you have a better solution? FaceID is specific to iPhones and that tech needs to be put somewhere. Apple’s solution is fine, though not perfect, but that’s what design is about, compromise.
  • Where is the criticism of the so called security of apple phones. Let's ask all the celebs who had their private data posted for all the world to see shall we?
  • Where is the criticism of farce Id. They are working on getting it to work efficiently with pay and other Things. Too bad they had a perfectly good system with touch id which was more functional than than farce Id
  • More functional in your opinion. Face ID is easier to pay for things for me, as with Touch ID I sometimes had embarrassing moments where I had to put my PIN in because my fingerprint wasn't recognised
  • wipe your finger before you use it. Simple faster than farce id, your one in a million that has sweaty hand syndrom. Maybe it's because you get so hot and bothered over everything apple. FACT, touch id is more useful than face id.
  • Yes because I want to wipe my fingers every time I want to unlock my phone, how silly does that sound? I want it to "just work", and that's what Face ID does. My face can be sweaty or dirty for whatever reason, I could even paint my face and Face ID will still work. I can put glasses on, Face ID continues to work. How is having to wipe my fingers every time I want to unlock/pay for something more convienient? Tell me this.
  • "The images were initially believed to have been obtained via a breach of Apple's cloud services suite iCloud, or a security issue in the iCloud API which allowed them to make unlimited attempts at guessing victims' passwords. However, access was later revealed to have been gained via spear phishing attacks."
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICloud_leaks_of_celebrity_photos Nice try
  • Applogise and deflect. the famous apple fanboy move! FACT. These people had their private images stolen from their IPHONES! FACT. They beleived that they were safe because apple crows about PRIVACY and SECURITY. FACT. Apple is NO BETTER than the rest!
  • A security company can give you all the tools to keep you secure, but if you use them incorrectly then the onus is on you. If you click a phishing email telling you to input your iCloud password, there's no way Apple can stop you doing that. What they do do however, is tell you that the website isn't secure, and clearly show you the domain at the top which you should be able to tell is not from Apple.
  • I remember when a lot of tech writers keyboards were failing on their MacBook Pros then Rene’s finally failed he had to put it into “context” that it was one out of three of his machines(?). Once this phone gets out in the wild we will see how bad this problem is
  • Because Apple pays Rene with review units and trips to the spaceship in return for being a good lapdog and crony. This site would have so much more credibility if he left to go write his fanboy rantings on his own like Jonathan Gellar "left" Engadget to start his joke of a blog BGR.
  • Trips to the spaceship? E.T. iPhone home?
  • Exactly VAVA. When you get paid (with either money, trips, product) you will jerk the corporate gods any way you can. Simple. His incessant droneing on "vector" about how everything apple is ALMIGHTY, and everything else is crap, speaks volumes. He is not a journalist, he's an advertiser for apple. Apple has great products, but some are just crap...but not in the eyes of two certian groups, paid shills and rabid fanboys. Both can be found here.
  • Trolls can be found here too
  • We all know Rene is subsidized/paid by apple. It's sort of amusing though to read these articles and compare his angles/arguments to his defense of apple's numerous screw ups.
  • The mental gymnastics is most entertaining apahol. I use apple products, but I am not a shill to them. Unlike Rene, Dannyjjk and a few others here. They are to funny for words. But quite entertaining to watch them try to bend their minds to make everything apple AMAZING and "the best".
  • I have never said that everything Apple is amazing or the best. You spread more lies than trump
  • NOPE. You tout EVERYTHING apple has done as the be all end all...just like your alter ego Rene!
  • I like Apple products, but I accept their faults as well. But at the same t