The Flock: Another tech podcast


More Than Zero Folds, but Not Quite 200,000

8 April 2019

“The revolutionary display that folds where others can’t.”

Samsung’s superlative-filled Galaxy Fold webpage isn’t wrong in describing the phone this way. The Galaxy Fold can be folded a few times, yes. More times than, say, an iPad Pro. But things start to fall apart — metaphorically and literally — pretty soon after that.

Samsung: “Infinity Flex Display engineered to endure every fold.”

“The hinge is tested up to 200,000 folds.”

“It’s tested and retested for everyday durability.”

Not Samsung: “My Samsung Galaxy Fold screen broke after just a day.”

One way you can break your Fold’s display is to remove what appears, at first glance, to be a plastic screen protector from it. Do not do this. That is not a screen protector; it is essential to the structural integrity of the device. If you remove it, your Fold will die.

The necessity of a preinstalled, easily removable layer to the Fold’s functionality is a serious design compromise. Sure, compromises are to be expected in a young and emerging category such as foldables, but the issue isn’t just that Samsung designed the device this way — it’s that Samsung didn’t provide adequate warning of the consequences of the compromise.

The solution is not to put a note about the screen layer in the never-read instruction manual; it’s to have a prominent, unmissable software message during setup: DON’T TAKE OFF THE PLASTIC THING.

So, this problem is “fixable.” It’s bad to have a plastic screen, but at least Samsung can make people aware of it without going back to the drawing board.

But not all Fold reviewers whose units broke had made this fatal error. So what other issues exist?

Nobody knows. What is clear, though, is that Samsung’s fawning descriptions of the Fold’s durability are very off-base. This isn’t nearly as disastrous a rollout as the Galaxy Note 7’s explosive debut, as the Fold is still essentially a prototype and not expected to sell in great numbers. But it’s still bad because it’s a broken promise.

You should not buy a Samsung Galaxy Fold. Whatever your thoughts on the inherent compromises of a foldable device, this is a product that would be better kept to the labs. The Fold has three issues: 1) it’s way too expensive, 2) its build quality is subpar, and 3) basic, taken-for-granted elements of a good user experience are being excused.

Not until all three of these issues are fixed will the Fold be ready for primetime.