iDB yesterday ran a story detailing Samsung’s screen woes that forced it to delay the planned launch of its first foldable smartphone until further notice and now teardown specialists over at iFixit have taken matters into their own hands, having pried open the Galaxy Fold in search of a possible design flaw that might be causing these embarrassing screen failures.
The big takeaway, according to iFixit:
This thing is Fragile with a capital ‘F’. As expected, there are a ton of entry points for dust and other foreign matter to make their way inside and there are so many different ways for the screen to break.
Unlike your regular (mostly sealed) smartphone, the Fold has lots of potential entry points for specks of dust, debris and moisture. Its interior bezel lip running alongside screen edges is very slim and, when peeled up, barely covers two millimeters of display. The bezel is held only by light adhesive, prompting iFixit to take an issue with that particular design decision.
Normally we overwhelmingly prefer a light touch when it comes to adhesive. And yet, in this case, we can’t help but worry these bezels may peel over time, exposing the screen to damage.
Another problem: the super-slim bezel leaves a 7mm gap at the top and bottom where the two halves meet, which does expose the screen to tiny particles of dust and dirt.
You don’t notice it until you notice it. And then you can’t help but ‘test ingress.’ Don’t try this at home.
Aside from the fact that OLED screens are very, very fragile, the Fold’s hinge is another major source of screen problems, according to the teardown wizards.
When closed, the screen is protected—but the spine is flanked by massive gaps that our opening picks hop right into. These gaps are less likely to cause immediate screen damage, but will definitely attract dirt.
The gaps in the spine are needed because the thin bezels clearly aren’t flexible enough to cross the fold. “It’s been a while since we’ve seen a phone with this many gaps, with the industry trending away from moving parts and towards sealed slabs,” iFixit wrote.
“It’ll be interesting to see how future folding designs overcome these weaknesses.”
And here are your teardown highlights:
- There are two batteries in the Fold, and not just a dual-cell battery like in iPhone X but two completely separate batteries good for a total of 16.87 Wh of juice (8.22 and 8.65 Wh, respectively, or 2135 mAh and 2245 mAh).
- Two sliding hinges, a central geared hinge and four spring-loaded clasps “put the fold in this Fold.” The display’s own rigidity provides the springy feeling when opening the phone.
- The phone features one 7.3-inch dynamic AMOLED Infinity Flex display at 2,152 × 1,536 pixels at 362 ppi and one 4.6-inch Super AMOLED display on the cover with a 720 × 1,680 pixel resolution at 399 ppi.
- The Fold packs in a total of six cameras. From front to back: 10 MP “closed” selfie camera, 10 MP “open” selfie camera, 8 MP RGB depth camera, 16 MP ultra-wide rear camera, 12 MP wide-angle rear camera and 12 MP telephoto rear camera.
- The smartphone is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 64-bit octa-core processor paired with 12 GB RAM and 512 GB internal storage.
- The 3.5mm headphone jack is nowhere to be found.
Wondering about the crease? “The phone ships un-folded—but fold it even once and that crease becomes pretty easy to spot if you’re looking,” iFixit adds.
I like the idea behind the Fold, but actual execution leaves a lot to be desired. The entire thing is just too bulky—just look at that obscene hinge! I’m also disliking the fact that the screen doesn’t fold completely flat. iFixit writes that the Fold closes more like a binder than a book, making contact only at the outer edge, and it’s completely true.
The mobile industry’s first mainstream foldable device was slated to make its US debit this coming Friday with a price tag of nearly $2,000 but the South Korean firm, citing the problems reported by reviewers, delayed the rollout until at least next month. The company will announce a new release date for the Fold in the coming weeks.
“We are conducting a thorough inspection into the issues reported by some of the reviewers of early Galaxy Fold samples,” a Samsung spokeswoman said. “We will share the findings as soon as we have them.”
Many tech reviewers have praised Samsung for doing the right thing by delaying this phone until all of the issues have been fixed, but some observers beg to differ, like Daring Fireball’s John Gruber who opined that this is a sign of deep dysfunction within Samsung.
Somewhere along the line Samsung decided it was good enough to ship as a $2,000 device. To function at all, it requires a plastic screen protector that numerous reviewers assumed was meant to be peeled off. And they decided that was fine.
But the whole thing is so unreliable that the folding aspect completely breaks after a day or two of normal use. It’s not just that some minor aspect of it breaks—it’s the aspect that is the central reason behind the device in the first place. It’s a folding phone that breaks at the hinge.
It’s flatly ridiculous that they shipped these units to reviewers and intended to start selling them to customers this week. Either they knew about the problems and went ahead with shipping anyway or they didn’t know.
I’m guessing they knew, in the sense that their quality control team flagged the issues and their concerns were ignored by a marketing team obsessed with being first to market with a folding phone, but if anything, it’d be worse if they weren’t even aware of the problem.
The more I think about it the more obvious it seems that at some level of the company, they knew the Fold didn’t work. Engineering, production, quality control. They had to know. And either that message didn’t make its way up the chain, or it was ignored.
Samsung, of course, is the company that had a multi-billion recall for the exploding Note 7.
Here’s hoping they figure out a way to seal up that hinge.
What do you make of iFixit’s findings?
Let us know by leaving a comment down below.