Here's why Galaxy Fold displays are already failing

Just a couple of days after journalists, including us here at Android Central, got their hands on the Galaxy Fold for the very first time, multiple reports surfaced that initial review devices are having out-and-out screen failures. At least four different devices have major screen issues that have required fully replacing the device, which may not seem like a lot until you realize that at this point there are perhaps only a few dozen Galaxy Folds in the hands of people outside of Samsung employees.

From looking at all of the information available, and using a Galaxy Fold myself, there are clearly two distinct issues at play here: one that's fixable, and one that should very much be a concern for Samsung as the Fold gets into consumers' hands.

Problem 1: The screen's plastic covering looks removable

This is the "fixable" problem of the two.

The Galaxy Fold, as every other foldable phone, has a plastic layer on top of the OLED display panel itself that allows the entire assembly to flex. We don't yet have flexible glass, so this is just how things are going to have to be for the foreseeable future. But the problem with that top layer on the Galaxy Fold is that it looks exactly like a pre-installed screen protector we've seen on phone after phone — including the Galaxy S10 — that you have the option of removing. On the Fold, though, the layer is not designed to be removed. It's not just inadvisable to do so, it's not meant to be removable. If you remove that top layer, you've effectively done the same as removing the cover glass from your Galaxy S10 — and, at that point, the display panel itself is going to fail in very short order.

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Samsung's messaging to early reviewers explicitly reminded us that the top layer of the screen was not removable and that it would compromise the integrity of the display. But even still, the urge to remove that top layer has been ingrained in all of us for over a decade — plastic doesn't feel right on a phone, and it looks like it's removable because it doesn't reach the very edges of the bezel. Even some of the most egregious offenders of pre-installed screen protectors in the past would still technically allow you to remove the protector and have the phone work properly afterward. This just isn't the same case, even though it feels the same at first.

Samsung must make it clear to consumers that the plastic should not be tampered with.

So this part of the problem is fixable, but we don't know if Samsung plans to address it more seriously with the retail launch. Let's remember that the Galaxy Fold is already up for pre-order (opens in new tab), and will be shipping to regular consumers (albeit not in large numbers) with no hand-holding or extra information. They'll just get a phone in a box, and when you pair that up with the intense desire to want to peel plastic from new phones, you're set up for a bad news cycle of broken Galaxy Fold screens.

Thankfully, proper retail Fold units will have a small warning on the protective film covering the entire phone out of the box. Unfortunately we've all been conditioned to quickly rip off this plastic and get to using our shiny new phones, and that warning will be discarded quickly. Given the severity of the situation, it would behoove Samsung to make changes to its packaging and software to make it explicit as possible that the plastic should not be removed like any other phone — a single warning on the piece of plastic that people hastily rip off of every phone really isn't enough when the consequences are this serious.

Problem 2: The screen is just fragile, period

This is the bigger issue that Samsung inherently can't "fix" without years more development of the display technology that enables these phones to fold over and over again.

So you shouldn't remove the top layer of the Galaxy Fold's display. We know this now. But the fact that you can remove it (if you're persistent) and simply doing that is enough to completely render the display useless and quickly broken is a bad sign. At least two of the reports of failed displays came while the Galaxy Fold's top layer was kept in place and undamaged, which points to the larger discussion of just how fragile the display technology is even if you take care of it or just use it like any other phone.

https://twitter.com/backlon/status/1118573836226658304 https://twitter.com/stevekovach/status/1118571414934753280?s=20

If, as we've seen, all that's keeping the display running is a thin piece of flexible plastic, it doesn't bode well for its prospects of longterm durability. With very strong Gorilla Glass screen coverings, we've gotten used to being pretty rough on phones — and the Fold just isn't going to be able to take that much abuse. Despite lots of engineering being put into keeping the folding portion of the display operational with thousands of folds, that doesn't necessarily mean it can handle impacts and damage elsewhere.

Neither of the Galaxy Folds that Android Central has have developed screen issues, though it's very easy to see how such issues could arise. All you have to do is run your finger over the folded portion of the display covering to see how, with repeated use, gaps in the display covering could develop and eventually compromise the integrity of the unit through the introduction of foreign objects.

For its part, Samsung provided Bloomberg's Mark Gurman with the following statement:

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. 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. 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.

Should this keep you from buying a Galaxy Fold?

There are many reasons why you should be skeptical of parting with $2000 to buy a Galaxy Fold, well before any of these reports of screen failures arose. The durability and longevity of a flexible display was always going to be in question on these first-generation consumer foldable devices — we just didn't necessarily expect to see it start so spectacularly or so early. And trust me, these discussions will not be exclusive to the Galaxy Fold.

If you were hyped enough about the Galaxy Fold to want to place a pre-order, or at least see it in stores at the end of April before potentially buying, it would be a good idea to remind yourself of all of these sorts of problems that can be associated with a device that introduces a brand new form factor and so many new technologies. The Galaxy Fold is not a normal phone, and it's truly pushing the envelope in ways that we haven't seen in years; that's going to come with compromises, and you should know about them all before you decide to buy.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

78 Comments
  • I’m really glad I didn’t preorder one. I’m feeling better about holding out for the S10 5G.
  • By all means buy into the 5G hype instead. Both technologies aren't ready for prime-time and won't be for a couple more years.
  • I just don't really see the point in foldable phones. I think they're cool, but I can't imagine any situation where I would need a phone that opened up to a larger screen. And that screen is definitely not gonna last very long.
  • Me neither. However, I probably "would" see the benefit of bendable phones. If I was out in the sun, or high light situations, I could see the benefit of bending your phone to block ambient light under certain circumstances, and that'd be cool. Foldable though? Not so much.  
  • I think the better way to look at this is as a foldable tablet that can operate as a phone, and as such the idea has merit. To me, a foldable phone would be more like the reported designs of the upcoming RAZR, which is of conventional size for a phone when opened, and then can fold smaller.
  • I had to look this up, and I can honestly say I've never been so excited to see a phone in action than I am with the RAZR. All I want is someone to make me a reasonably functional smartphone that fits in my pocket again (women's pants pockets are utterly useless, but that's a separate rant). It has been almost 10 years since I owned a phone that size. Enough already with the giant screens. I have other devices for that.
  • I travel with a phone and a tablet, if I owned this I would only need one. Unfortunately I wouldn't buy one until gen 3
  • I would never travel with just one device. As a minimum, two phones.
    If one phone is stolen and that's all you have, how do you remotely disable it?
  • Here's why Galaxy Fold Reviewers are already Trolling! Just because, trolling = tricking. This is actually a good article beneath a trolling headline. My guess is Samsung made the decision not to emphasize the protective screen in their promotional and instructive materials is because they figured that would draw too much attention to the necessary compromises to screen quality. Samsung should address this immediately, of course. One of the concerns I have with the Fold is the unavailability of 3rd Party screen protectors, which I have always used with my devices. So Samsung can turn this to their advantage by saying "we got you covered"! If they're smart, Samsung will not take a Jobsian arrogant, "you're doing it wrong" tone with reviewers, customers, etc. It might seem obvious to not peel off something unless you're sure it's supposed to do it, but it's often at least momentarily confusing to figure what's a feature and what's packing material. Years ago, I had customer service on the line setting up a return of a new phone (which I otherwise loved) because of a defective screen. We had set up the mailing label for the return when I had a thought, which I almost dismissed, that it might be human error. And then I realized that in my hasty unboxing I had forgotten to take off the transport/packing screen protector. It must have been a common customer "complaint" because manufacturers began to print some logos and stuff on the protective screen that made it clear that it was to be removed.
  • How is the headline trolling?
  • Actually, the new warning on the outer plastic mentions not to use adhesives on the screen either - which will rule out a fair bit of screen protectors anyways.
  • It is not about protective film. It is really bad design, this thing HAD TO BREAK. I wasn't expecting this so soon though. And yes, I am engineer by trade so I've seen stupid design choices in my life. This is one of them...
  • Well I guess then as an engineer, you don’t think outside the box to “engineer” something that might fail. After so many failures, you will eventually succeed if your dedicated to the project. They call it R&D. No, this isn’t a stupid design choice, but it is in fact not ready for prime time.
  • That is not how R&D is supposed to work. You're supposed to do proper SWOT at all points, evaluate failure modes, and not release the product till Sales say's it's good enough for them to sell it without embarrassment, Production say they can make it, and Finance says it won't lose money long term. (It's called SOP, Sales Operation Planning.)
  • R&D is exactly what it is. Research and development. They research and develop any and all aspects of a product they wish to employ. Along the way, they will have design issues and engineering problems. They keep researching and developing until it is a finished product. I did say that it is not ready for prime time.
  • "There are many reasons why you should be skeptical of parting with $2000 to buy a Galaxy Fold," Yeah, and the first being... it costs friggin $2000. I can buy a flagship phone AND a quality tablet for less than that.  
  • LOL and that's why I stay from this type of first gen products.
  • That's why you buy the extended warranty or buy one from Squaretrade! Lol
  • Extended warranties are a scam. If you're worried, purchase insurance on the device (which is typically cheaper than extended warranties and covers more). Never purchase extended warranties. Extended warranties never work because after your manufacturer warranty, every claim from you're extended warranty provider will be declined if there's so much as a scratch on your device. Even paint warn off of your protective cover (built up over time from continued into/out-of pocket use) will nullify your extended warranty because they'll claim you dropped and damaged it yourself. Purchase insurance all you wish, but never go for the extended warranty.   
  • I agree, that is why I put the lol at the end.
  • Also, if you're not doing carrier financing but are instead planning to pay cash or with a credit card, check to see what perks your credit card(s) offer. My Amex card doubles the warranty automatically on many purchases (including phones) and they've been much easier to deal with in instances where such service is needed.
  • Yep, American Express is very good with the claim too. I've used it once a very long time agonon a stereo I purchased.
  • Not if you purchase accidental damage protection but then there's that deductable.
  • You won't need extended warranties on these phones, they won't last that long.
  • This is what happens when you are eager to be a pioneer. Now watch as Huawei gets it right.
  • ThiS Is WhAT hAPpENS wHen YoU aRe EagEr tO Be a PioNEer. nOw WatCH aS HuaWei GeTs iT RigHT
  • With a FULLY unprotected screen? Can't wait. 🤣
  • There are limited kinds of cases, but that's all you can say. If it's a good design and durable it won't matter much.
  • Thing is the Fold has a superior design with regards to limiting damage to the screen (yes i know it's failed on some units) but the Mate has the same sort of screen and material but is on the outside of the phone that comes in contact more often than not with you pockets, hard surfaces among other things. Frankly they can fold a screen just fine but we are pretty far away form having anything that comes close to the durability of a traditional smartphone.
  • No warning about removing the film? What's this then? https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D4YNYxmUwAA7Y1S.jpg ETA: Saw that posted on another site, but after watching some unboxings, I'm actually not sure of where this came from.
  • I was around for the Note 1 roll-out and decided at that time not to get one (and essentially wait for version 2). I actually really liked the concept and wanted it to succeed, but I lack the funds to have anything more than a "daily driver" and so want the glitches, bugs, and design issues a little more worked out before I jump.
    The Fold has exactly the same flavor to me, with the additional factor that it costs twice what a high-end, non-experimental phone costs. I hope to see the Fold II and may even buy one at the time, but I expect that Samsung and others will have worked out a lot of kinks (pun intended) by then.
  • Curious why the first reaction to unboxing a delicate and expensive device is to remove a protective layer protecting the most fragile part of the device. Do we all hate screen protectors that much? Lol.
  • Thanks for that.
  • Generally the SP preinstalled is of very low quality, makes the screen feel cheap, and is something the user will want to replace. Plus, as Andrew noted in the article, we're all accustomed to gorilla glass so many who buy this may not be aware that the display feels cheap by necessity of design. Though Samsung would have done better to make it look less like a shipping-protective SP.
  • My phones don't come with screen protectors, so I would have peeled it off unless there was a warning not to.
  • First thing I did with my S10. I like my Gorilla glass naked 🦍
  • Especially when the article says this: "Samsung's messaging to early reviewers explicitly reminded us that the top layer of the screen was not removable and that it would compromise the integrity of the display." So they go and take it off.
  • Maybe they can fix it with an update.....as in updated model.😭
  • But yeah...where are the "plastic is more durable" people now? It is...and it's also more prone to breaks, scratches and tears. No thanks. You can have your damn plastic. I'm never going back.
  • This piece of crap already failing makes me smile even more. Enjoy your $2,000 lemons
  • I would not have bought it anyway for a few reasons.
    1. I don't like the feel of plastic screens.
    2. Video content, unless the aspect ratio is a box, won't be much bigger than my current flagship.
    3. It's almost three times thicker than normal.
  • You can watch the video and do other stuff in other apps at the same time. If you want to do same thing on your current phone, you'll have a much smaller video... Some of us actually do things while watching Youtube
  • I still just have zero interest in owning a foldable phone. Unless it's a "flip phone" style where the fold makes it possible to have a phone open up to be the size of a normal 5 inch screen that folds in half to be that much more pocketable. This would be a great use of a folding phone. I want a small phone that gets bigger, not a big phone that becomes a tablet... Flicked via the BlackBerry keyboard on my Pixel
  • Yup. Although flipped, I would want it to be 6 inches or more. (That's what she said).
  • Nice idea but garbage. Sorry Samsung!
  • I see Galaxy Fold just like the HTC 3D screens that came out several years ago. It was a fad for the 3D screens that never took off. I see the Galaxy Fold as a fad that will soon pass too.
  • Apple will perfect this technology.
  • That's almost funny.
  • G1 product. Avoid best given that price. Let's wait for Huawei X and see gow it holds up.
  • I can't help thinking how the completely exposed Mate X will fare. Yikes.
  • The fragile Fold is worse than the burning Samsung batteries... Samsung knows the Fold is fragile and should only be handled with white gloves. How could the thin plastic screen top layer possibly stand up to repeated use? ... It obviously can't... Doomed if you scratch it.... I own a Note 8 and a 10.5" tablet. To me, the closed display on the Fold is too small, and the unfolded tablet display is also too small. The Galaxy Fold is a compromise as a phone and tablet.... Doing neither well.
  • This thing is the equivalent of building a boat made out of cardboard, and actually expecting it to float for more than 10 seconds.
  • A boat made out of cardboard would float for much more than 10 seconds
  • Indeed, people have made successful boats out of cardboard. Epoxy glue, polyurethane paint, works.
  • About a good idea as 3d TVs, VR headsets and new coke
  • Hey, this is a first generation folding phone. For sure there might be problems. Plus, some of these problems were from early review phones? And some attempted to 'deface it'? Are those 'issues' valid? I also can recall not so long ago, media went gaga over Huawei's foldable phone - where the screen is facing out? So if such tech is fragile, what about Huawei's? And it's even more expensive! Or is just about Samsung bashing? Just to hit them where it hurts right?
  • Most people refuse to risk a $2000USD problem. For Goodness sakes, read the article and take a good look at that two layer display. There is no chance that inner display layer will withstand any wear or dirt.
  • "Samsung's messaging to early reviewers explicitly reminded us that the top layer of the screen was not removable and that it would compromise the integrity of the display." Looks like Samsung told you not to take off the covering. Or is my grasp of the English language failing?
  • The fact you can easily remove the outer layer is the problem.. The Fold is a lemon. PS Not trolling, I'm a Samsung phone and tablet loyal customer... But I'm no fan boy.... Samsung has a disaster on its hands. . It's equivalent to taking a photo of the Titanic just before it hits its iceburg. The Fold has been marketed as durable.... Great hinge they said.... It will be a PR and brand disaster.... If you are a young customer (Im not) you've seen burning battery issues and this Fold disaster..... Not years of great mobile products.
  • To be fair the hinge will probably last a long time. Everyone could use a good hinge.
  • At least 2 if not 3 of the reviewers that had problems did not try and take off the screen protector so it’s not as simple as adding a warning label. It’s very poor quality control, a marketing nightmare and a Samsung should have never allowed this to happen. Love the S10 I own. But this is just unreal to me they would they and sell a 2000 phone with a crease, tiny 4.6 unusable display and a tiny tablet all into a product that lasts 48 hours. This technology isn’t close to prime time. A plastic screen feels cheap, not durable and has creases. What is there to like? Innovation? You can make a car the drives itself but if it runs into things twice a day, then where is the value in that?
  • The value in that is that hopefully you learn from your mistakes on your way to creating something great. If you don't risk failure...blah blah blah...you know the story. You can look at the Fold and the Mate X and tell the ambition is ahead of the actual tech itself. But they'll keep trying until they get it right. Luckily, the prices for these devices are so sky high, they are nothing more that party tricks and tech geek fascination at this point. Everyday people will read about these and that's about it.
  • Anyone who buys one of these is a chump. Even if it didn't have these issues, the Galaxy Fold still looks home-made and horrible, it reminds me of that nightmarish Chinese thomas the tank engine toy where 6 of them are morphed together to form a battle mech.
  • In addition to a warning, I would put an actual protective film of plastic on the screen with a tab to easily peel it off for those who inevitably won't read the warning. Virtually no one is going to think there is a second plastic "film" that needs removed.
  • cmon Samsung... don't use the purchaser as your beta tester...
  • They haven't (yet). No one with a fold right now paid for it, the only ones who have them (outside employees, but this applies to them too) are members of the press, whom were given them for free to review
  • I can hardly blame Samsung or any other manufacturer for devices that fail in an entitled culture that has become far too comfortable abusing their devices. If you don’t have the ability to take care of an expensive portable device then you shouldn’t buy one. There are plenty of eminently capable cheap devices and rugged cases out there with your name on them.
  • Wow, you guys are really milking this. Back at the top of the app news feed, with no additional information. SMH.
  • It's a slow news week... Tomorrow's headline... The Galaxy Fold is a failure!
  • They've brought Daniel Bader's Fold failure article back up, too. Jesus Christ this is pathetic.
  • My wife actually works for Samsung in mobile and they've had units in the office for at least two months now. They're getting passed around, used by over a dozen different people and no issues with any of them. None at all! Same at the Dallas office. Heavy use with no issues. So either the pre-production models they've got are very different or the users are doing something they shouldn't (besides pulling that plastic film off!).
  • My reasons not to buy fold 1. No S pen support for bigger screen
    2. Small outer screen
    3. Small batteries
    4. Fragile inner screen
  • Even though this display/device has been in development for 8 years. No amount of testing in a lab by engineers is going to account for every eventuallity. At some point it had to be put in the public's hands to iron out the extra issues that were inevitably going to crop up. If you buy this first gen device you are signing up to be a test subject, the faults that are reported will be fixed in the second, third, forth and so on gen devices. As long as Samsung offers a good replacement policy to look after these early adopters with possibly a full refund option I don't see a problem after all not every device will fail and the R & D feedback will be worth a lot more to Samsung in the long run.
  • Everything you say is true, but it sounds like if they just had 10 people test the phone BEFORE going to market, they would have seen these issues pop up. I don't think they did adequate testing. I think they had a deadline to hit, and they were going to release it no matter what. In the end, Samsung will be hurt the most by this due to numerous replacement devices. I predict that they will pull the phone within the next few months to keep from losing even more money.
  • Just as I suspected, it isn't ready for prime time. Samsung wanted to make this phone just to show that they could. It doesn't matter if it is useful or durable. They just wanted to be the first to make a foldable phone. Rushing a phone to market already has consequences such as software glitches. But, software can be fixed with an update, a damaged screen cannot. I will stick with a good ole' flat (NOT CURVED) display that can be adequately protected by a case.
  • Given that some techies took it upon themselves to peel the layer of protective plastic off the display , I'd say that is naive ,
    Sorry , but it is, common sense would dictate that a plastic display will not have the same durability as a glass display.
    And having watched some YouTube "techies". Slamming the phones open and shut hard over and over again to see if they break , obviously if you treat them like that , they will eventually , just like a normal phone.
  • 2000EUR for a plastic screen prototype...nope! no thanks
  • It may push the envelope but it did so too early... it is just an overpriced « working » prototype...