Samsung Galaxy Fold delayed over screen nightmare [Update]

Samsung will delay the release of the Galaxy Fold, it's reported, with this week's expected debut of the innovative folding smartphone pushed back after a rocky start to the review process. The near-$2,000 Android handset was originally intended to launch at the end of this week, on April 26, in the US.

It was an unexpectedly aggressive roadmap. Samsung revealed the Galaxy Fold alongside the Galaxy S10, kicking off its launch event for the flagship series with the clamshell smartphone. More surprising still was both the premium price tag and the fact that Samsung was confident enough to attach a release date to the device.

That confidence appears to have let Samsung down now. The company seeded a limited number of Galaxy Fold devices with early reviewers, undoubtedly hoping that the form-factor would help offset any teething pains around apps and other functionality. Instead, though, it got just a couple of days into the process before Galaxy Fold screens started failing.

Multiple reviewers reported that the flexible plastic AMOLED displays that make up the large inside panel of the smartphone were glitching or simply breaking outright. Some of those errors were down to reviewers attempting to peel off what looked like a plastic screen protector from the interior panel. However, as Samsung later confirmed, that plastic layer is integral to the foldable panel itself, and is not intended to be removed.

Simultaneously, however, other issues arose. One handset first developed a mysterious bump under the screen, which ended up breaking the Galaxy Fold and forcing a replacement. Other users reported screen issues without having inadvertently peeled off the protective layer.

Samsung countered that it would make abundantly clear to buyers of the Galaxy Fold that the plastic was not intended to be taken off. However it insisted there was no plan to change the release schedule. In the background, however, it's clear things have been shifting.

Over the weekend, for example, it was reported that Samsung had cancelled at least one Galaxy Fold event which had been scheduled for this week. Rumors from inside the company suggested that employee training on the smartphone had been put on hold, too. Now, according to the WSJ, the release date is being set back.

The newspaper's sources say that Samsung now expects to release the Galaxy Fold "in the coming weeks." However there's been no fixed date set, it's suggested. As for the issues, an internal investigation is still said to be ongoing, unsurprisingly, but the purported cause is suggested as being down to the hinge design "and extra pressure applied to the internal screen" as a result.

Samsung's hinge for the Galaxy Fold couldn't be as straightforward as flip-phones of old. While the flexible AMOLED panel is designed to be bent, it can't handle a sharp crease. Instead, Samsung designed a double-hinge system, creating a more forgiving radius for the flexible screen. Trying to accommodate that mechanism, while also supporting the Galaxy Fold display and allowing it to move when the phone is opened and closed, is a tricky endeavor.

Samsung claimed it had put the Galaxy Fold through a comprehensive stress test, releasing a video showing the mechanized process by which the phone is opened and closed multiple times. "This test, which examines whether the Galaxy Fold can outlast 200,000 folds and unfolds (or around five years of use, if used 100 times a day), takes a full week to complete," the company said at the time.

Unfortunately for Samsung, fixing these early issues in the Galaxy Fold's release look set to take a little longer than a week. Early-adopters with deep pockets may have to wait a little longer to get their hands on the phone.

Update: Samsung has confirmed that it is delaying the release of the Galaxy Fold, though will only say that a new release date will be confirmed "in the coming weeks." A full statement to SlashGear by a Samsung spokesperson is below:

"We recently unveiled a completely new mobile category: a smartphone using multiple new technologies and materials to create a display that is flexible enough to fold. We are encouraged by the excitement around the Galaxy Fold.

While many reviewers shared with us the vast potential they see, some also showed us how the device needs further improvements that could ensure the best possible user experience.

To fully evaluate this feedback and run further internal tests, we have decided to delay the release of the Galaxy Fold. We plan to announce the release date in the coming weeks.

Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance.

We will take measures to strengthen the display protection. We will also enhance the guidance on care and use of the display including the protective layer so that our customers get the most out of their Galaxy Fold.

We value the trust our customers place in us and they are always our top priority. Samsung is committed to working closely with customers and partners to move the industry forward. We want to thank them for their patience and understanding."