South Korean electronics giant Samsung made headlines for all the wrong reasons this week, thanks to reports of its highly anticipated ‘foldable’ phone breaking in the hands of reviewers.
Journalists who received the phones to review before the public launch said the Galaxy Fold screen started flickering and turning black before completely fizzling out.
Two journalists said they removed a thin, protective layer from the screens that they thought was supposed to come off, but was meant to stay.
But reporters from The Verge and CNBC said they left that layer on and their screens still broke.
SUPER YIKES: something happened to my Galaxy Fold screen and caused a bulge. I don’t know how it happened, and I’m waiting to hear back from Samsung. It’s broken. https://t.co/p1014uB01D pic.twitter.com/3FZJkWtSKr
— Dieter Bohn (@backlon) April 17, 2019
The Verge reported that its review unit “developed a bulge that appeared to be the result of something in between the screen and the hinge, ultimately breaking the screen”.
A CNBC video shows the left side of the inside screen intermittently flashing, and the right side as unresponsive.
The phone was “completely unusable” after two days, CNBC reporter Todd Haselton (pictured above) wrote.
The long-anticipated folding phone is about the size of a standard smartphone when folded, but can open up to the size of a small tablet.
The phone is designed to work whether closed or open.
When open, the single-screen display is bisected by a crease.
Samsung promises the screen can withstand being opened and closed 200,000 times, or more than 100 times a day for five years.
The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in. Hard to know if this is widespread or not. pic.twitter.com/G0OHj3DQHw
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) April 17, 2019
The Galaxy Fold goes on sale on April 26 in the US for $US1980 ($2770), making it one of the most expensive phones anywhere – particularly if it isn’t as durable as promised.
In response to the unfolding drama, Samsung Electronics released a global statement saying that it would “thoroughly inspect” the devices to determine the cause of the reported issues.
After one day of use… pic.twitter.com/VjDlJI45C9
— Steve Kovach (@stevekovach) April 17, 2019
“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,” the statement said.
Samsung also said that it would make it clear to consumers that the top protective layer is necessary to prevent scratches, and must not be removed.
“Separately, a few reviewers reported having removed the top layer of the display, causing damage to the screen. The main display on the Galaxy Fold features a top protective layer, which is part of the display structure designed to protect the screen from unintended scratches,” the statement said.
“Removing the protective layer or adding adhesives to the main display may cause damage. We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers.”
Scandal-plagued history for Galaxy series
The Galaxy Fold isn’t the first PR headache Samsung has experienced, thanks to its flagship Galaxy series.
In 2016, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 had a disastrous debut, causing worldwide panic when the handsets began exploding, smoking and catching on fire.
The fires were later found to be caused by battery defects, with Samsung eventually forced to recall the Galaxy Note 7 that had been initially praised by critics as the best Android device on the market.
The disaster, and subsequent recall, cost the company billions of dollars in lost sales.