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Foldables are tempting, but Samsung's iffy warranty is keeping me away
For nearly a year now, I’ve resisted the temptation to buy a foldable smartphone. Like many others, I’ve realized that a lot of my initial misgivings about the form factor have now disappeared. Modern foldables seem a lot more durable at first glance, complete with reinforced hinges and official water resistance ratings. And to top it off, Samsung’s latest offerings are no longer outlandishly expensive either, at least in the context of other premium smartphones.
Nothing is perfect, however, and that applies here as well. While researching my potential purchase, I found that Samsung’s foldable durability claims don’t always hold true in the real world. Still, that’s not a problem, right? With a one or two-year warranty, you should be insulated from manufacturing defects and potential foldable design flaws. Well, that’s seemingly not always the case either, as some unlucky foldable owners have found out.
Foldable smartphones: Are they really durable?
A common problem with last year’s Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Fold 3, and older models for that matter, was some owners reporting that the factory-installed screen protector either peels away or bubbles up after a few months of use. You can choose to get rid of this layer entirely, but given the risk of damage to the Ultra Thin Glass, Samsung recommends against it.
In most regions, Samsung will replace your foldable’s protective film for free if the device is under warranty. However, this isn’t set in stone like it once was with the Galaxy Fold Premier Service, which included a discounted one-time screen replacement for first and second-generation foldables. If you want more comprehensive cover today, you’ll need to fork out for Samsung Care Plus.
Samsung will replace your foldable's screen protector for free under warranty unless it thinks you damaged the phone.
Samsung’s standard warranty covers manufacturer defects, with the usual exceptions for user damage, but it’s not always clear-cut where the line between manufacturer and user fault falls with foldable displays. In markets where foldables aren’t as common, getting a replacement or any form of support can be quite difficult. A few repair centers have even reportedly asked customers to replace the entire display assembly with a new one at their own expense.
Related: How much does it cost to replace a foldable phone’s screen?
I’ll admit that a peeling screen protector isn’t exactly a major issue on its own. At the very least, I wouldn’t base my purchasing decision around it. Unfortunately, however, the list of problems doesn’t appear to end there.
A small (but non-insignificant) number of users have also reported their foldable’s display cracking along the crease. The severity of this problem can range from a minor eyesore to a completely unusable smartphone. If you’re especially unlucky, the display can also develop a row of dead pixels around the affected area. Check out the gallery below of some examples from users posting on Reddit:
Spontaneous display failure within a few months of ownership would be cause for concern on its own. But what’s worse is that Samsung has reportedly told some users to pay $350 to $500 for an out-of-warranty repair, usually blaming the issue on user damage or mishandling. In some cases, users claim that minor paint nicks and incidental scratches on the exterior disqualified the inner screen from warranty coverage.
Minor scuffs and scrapes have seemingly been enough to invalidate Samsung's warranty
Within just a few minutes of searching, you can dig up hundreds of angry user complaints across North America, Europe, and Asia. Their posts on Samsung’s own forums appear to have mostly fallen on deaf ears. One frustrated owner even went as far as to frame their broken three-month-old Galaxy Z Flip 3 alongside a copy of Samsung’s warranty refusal email.
We reached out to Samsung for comment on this matter, citing the multitude of forum threads and frustrated users, and didn’t hear back.
Warranty woes: Is buying a foldable worth it?
It’s these reports that have dissuaded me from buying a foldable. Some may be only willing to pay upwards of $1,000 because of Samsung’s assurances that the device will withstand 200,000 folds or several years of normal use. Not being covered for display issues that Samsung assures us are very rare certainly doesn’t seem very consumer-friendly.
Of course, it’s likely that the vast majority of foldable owners have never faced any problems with their devices. Or even if they did, Samsung’s warranty took care of it. In the US at least, Samsung’s repair partner uBreakiFix seems to replace failing displays with little to no drama. However, as a prospective buyer outside Samsung’s well-established markets, picking up a Samsung foldable feels like a gamble.
Have screen warranty issues put you off buying a foldable?
In my opinion, Samsung hasn’t done enough to address these long-standing issues between foldable generations. According to the company’s marketing materials, this year’s Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Fold 4 feature a stronger and more resilient inner screen, with a stronger adhesive on the protective film. However, it’s unclear whether the spontaneous cracking and display failure issues have been remedied or addressed at all. The crease is still there, after all.
I’d be willing to buy a foldable if Samsung’s latest releases manage to escape controversy. But by the time we’re sure of that, the next generation will likely be on the horizon. As it stands, Samsung’s warranty is inadequate for me to take a risk on such an expensive purchase.
Buying a Samsung foldable outside the US feels like a gamble.
Ultimately, the only way to safely own a Samsung foldable is to pony up for Samsung Care Plus or a similar third-party accidental insurance. But that makes the Galaxy Z Flip 4 more expensive than the competitive $999 price tag would suggest. Samsung recently lowered its foldable screen repair deductible to match that of a standard screen, so it could cost as little as $29 (plus an $8 monthly fee), but that’s a notable cost over the standard warranty. Still, the peace of mind is priceless, especially if you live someplace with weak consumer protection laws like me.