The screen at the heart of Samsung’s new Galaxy Fold phone, which literally folds in half, has been failing in testers’ hands within days, prompting concerns about the durability of the £1,800 device.
The company distributed the new category-forming device to publications across the US on Monday ahead of its release to the public on 26 April. But within two days testers were reporting that the all-important central flexible screen started to break under normal use.
Unlike traditional smartphones, which have screens covered in rigid protective glass, the Galaxy Fold has a new flexible plastic protective layer, which can be replaced by Samsung to repair a screen scratch without having to replace the whole display.
Some of the devices failed because journalists testing them peeled off that crucial top layer leaving sensitive components of the new multi-layer screen exposed – but other devices appear to have failed through normal use.
CNBC’s Todd Haselton, who did not peel off the crucial protective film, found half the Galaxy Fold’s screen failed.
The device used by the Verge’s Dieter Bohn failed after a lump formed between the display and the hinge behind it, which is designed to support the articulation of the two halves of the phone.
In a statement, Samsung said: “A limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review. 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.”
Samsung said the phone was durability tested to withstand at least 200,000 unfoldings, or about 100 times a day for five years.
Other device testers have not reported the screens failing on their Galaxy Folds, but it is unclear how many of the phones have been distributed and therefore the failure rate of the devices.
The Galaxy Fold sold out of preorders in the US within days of going on sale, but will not ship or reach stores until 26 April. The phone, which will also come in a 5G variant, is planned to go on sale in the UK and other parts of Europe on 3 May, with preorders starting on 26 April.
Whether the devices, which Samsung said it expected to produce 1m, shipped to customers will suffer from the same issues as the pre-production versions handed to testers remains to be seen.
Sold as an ultra-premium device costing $1,980 in the US, £1,800 in the UK and €2,000 in Europe, the Galaxy Fold comes with various accessories in the box, including a protective aramid case and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds truly wireless earbuds. But it also comes with an insurance scheme called Samsung Care+, which covers replacement to the device for screen breakages or water damage. Unlike most other top-end smartphones, the Fold is not water-resistant.
Samsung’s last high-profile failure was the Galaxy Note 7, which suffered from battery problems in 2016, causing the phone to explode and leading to two recalls and eventual shelving.
The South Korean firm, which is currently the world’s largest smartphone manufacturer, will be anxious to avoid another extremely costly disaster.
Other firms, including China’s Huawei, are snapping at Samsung’s heels in pursuit of the new category of folding phones, with the Mate X expected to go on sale in the next 6 months.