Samsung Retrieving All Galaxy Fold Samples, Exposed Hinges May Cause Problems
Samsung isn’t just delaying the launch of the Galaxy Fold, it’s pulling in the review samples as well. The delayed launch is an embarrassing misstep for the company on the eve of what was supposed to be its largest product debut in years, but it’s a vastly better alternative than launching a $2,000 broken product.
The rumor, according to Reuters, is that Samsung is carefully investigating the hinges on the device. The company’s public statement, released yesterday and republished in part below, hinted at this finding:
Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance.
We will take measures to strengthen the display protection. We will also enhance the guidance on care and use of the display including the protective layer so that our customers get the most out of their Galaxy Fold.
It’s now known that although the actual retail Galaxy Folds have language warning consumers not to remove the plastic screen protector, some of the samples sent to reviewers lacked this warning. In addition, the issues Samsung has identified appear to apply to at least one reviewer, Dieter Bohn at The Verge, who wrote that debris appeared to have destroyed the display on his Fold.
Why Is Samsung Rushing?
While Samsung has done the right thing in canceling its launch event, it was clearly rushing the product to market in the first place. The company seems to have been trying to beat rivals like Huawei to the punch by making certain it was the first company with a folding screen in-market. (Huawei’s device folds in an entirely different method than Samsung’s, setting up an interesting head-to-head later this year.)
If I had to guess, I’d guess that Samsung is looking for a major product win during a tough financial year. The company reports Q1 2019 results on April 30. Late in March, it warned its quarterly earnings wouldn’t meet investor expectations for the first time in its history. The company’s current guidance is to expect a 60 percent drop in Q1 profit compared with Q1 2018. Launching the Galaxy Fold on April 26 would have been a great way to distract from some of its quarterly figures.
I don’t think this issue is entirely about quarterly results, however. Samsung has invested years and millions of dollars into creating its foldable screen capability. While Galaxy devices have debuted their share of new technologies, Samsung is rarely counted as a mobile leader in quite the same way Apple is. The Galaxy Fold is a genuine opportunity to change that perception.
The other factors in play are the ongoing court cases against 11 individuals and companies accused of stealing Samsung’s folding screen technology and selling it to China. Whether Huawei, specifically, is implicated in the eventual transfer of that technology isn’t known — but it’s easy to see why Samsung might be trying to get their hardware out the door first. They know it’s been stolen. It’s only a matter of time before somebody deploys it. It’s entirely possible that the company’s entire aggressive schedule for foldable phones was drawn up to avoid having its own launch ruined by IP theft.
Fortunately, Samsung isn’t willing to risk wrecking its product debut in the name of being first. Hopefully, the company will be able to resolve its issues and launch the device in the coming weeks. The delay is expected to have no impact on the company’s bottom line: Samsung only expects to sell 1M Galaxy Folds in 2019, approximately 0.5 percent of its total smartphone volume.