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The Samsung Galaxy Fold doesn't need to beat the HUAWEI Mate X to market (Updated)
Update: Monday, April 22, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. ET: According to The Wall Street Journal, Samsung plans to delay the launch of the Galaxy Fold until “at least next month.” Read more here.
We will update this article as we learn more about the Samsung Galaxy Fold delays.
Original article: Friday, April 19, 2019 at 1:14 p.m. ET: The Samsung Galaxy Fold was already a controversial smartphone well before review units of the device were sent out earlier this week. Much was made about how the phone itself was highly expensive — nearly $2,000 — and that it had a very visible crease in the middle of its display when in unfolded tablet mode.
However, it’s safe to say none of us were prepared for the rush of Galaxy Fold screen failure reports that hit the interwebs on Wednesday. Media outlets like CNBC, The Verge, and Bloomberg, along with popular YouTube tech reviewer MKBHD, all reported that the larger inside screen stopped working after only a day or two.
While at least a couple of these units failed because a protective film on the display was removed, it looks like the screens on the Galaxy Fold units given to CNBC and The Verge failed because the displays themselves broke down. Check out this commentary from our colleague Scott Adam Gordon for more information.
Samsung has already announced it plans to “thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter.” However, it also indicated that the April 26 launch date for the Galaxy Fold will go on as scheduled. This doesn’t sound like a good idea at all. It leaves Samsung open to potentially getting a lot more of these display failures with consumer units.
It’s impossible not to think about how Samsung responded to the battery failures on the Galaxy Note 7 when you think about this current situation. The good news is the Fold doesn’t seem to be at risk of causing fires and massive destruction to property because of its display issues. However, we are still talking about one of the most expensive phones ever made for general consumers. The fact that Samsung seems to be hell bent on moving forward with the Galaxy Fold launch seems irresponsible.
A damper on the foldable phone trend?
At the moment, we only have one other confirmed launch for a foldable phone in 2019: the HUAWEI Mate X. It’s design is different than the Galaxy Fold, with an outward folding form factor. However, some people seem to prefer its design over that of the Galaxy Fold. At the moment, the HUAWEI Mate X is due for release sometime this summer in Europe, for a price that’s actually more than the Galaxy Fold at 2,299 euros (~$2,600). However, we have already seen that Samsung has sold out of its first shipments of the nearly $2,000 Galaxy Fold so the high price of the Mate X might not be a huge obstacle.
Android Authority contacted HUAWEI for comment on the Galaxy Fold issues. The company declined to offer a comment.
Breaking in new technology and design features in a smartphone can sometimes be a hit-or-miss proposition. At the moment, it looks like Samsung is trying to rush out the Galaxy Fold before it’s fully ready, just to beat the Mate X to market. (To be fair, the Royole FlexPai actually came to market a few months before the Galaxy Fold as the first flexible display smartphone, but in a very limited capacity).
The Galaxy Fold needs a time out, for now
Samsung could survive a launch of the Galaxy Fold, at least financially, if it had to recall the device later, as Scott suggested in his article. But that doesn’t mean the company should release a faulty phone.
Samsung should take a step back and reevaluate its release strategy for the Galaxy Fold. There’s no harm in delaying the launch to make sure that the faulty units sent to media outlets were outliers. If the company decides to continue with the launch, and then many more screen failures are found by regular consumers, that will give HUAWEI a ton of free PR for the launch of the Mate X later this year. It could claim, and quite accurately, that it didn’t want to rush its foldable phone out until it was ready.
This whole situation with the Galaxy Fold is a bit of a shame. Despite the high current costs and the possible design issues, foldable phones could be one of the most promising trends in this industry. Making a device that works as a smaller phone and expands to a larger tablet for more serious work is a no-brainer.
It's more important to be the best, not the first.
We have been promised foldable phones for literally years, but the practical and reliable technology to go along with that promise always seemed to be just out of reach. Samsung may have felt pressure to get the Galaxy Fold out earlier than planned due to the release of the HUAWEI Mate X. That pressure may have caused more hardware problems than Samsung could overcome at this stage.
As most people know, rushing things out before they are ready is almost never a good thing in any business endeavor. It’s sometimes a good idea to be first, but it’s always a good thing to be best.