The brilliant types at iFixit, who are all about taking broken phones apart and seeing what's gone wrong, have had a gander at the problems with the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and reckon they know what the issue is.
In a detailed blog post, Kevin Purdy talks to the company's Lead Teardown Engineer, the awesomely-named Sam Lionheart (what is it with iFixit and amazing names?) and discusses the reported problems with review units of the Galaxy Fold – which have all been withdrawn – to find some potential explanations.
We know the cause of one of the biggest issues, of course: people peeling off the top layer of the screen, thinking it was a screen protector. That much is obvious, and Samsung's already said it'll improve instructions on the packaging when the phone goes on sale. (It's delayed, but Samsung is still planning to release the Galaxy Fold later this year when the teething problems have been sorted out).
According to iFixit's analysis, the problems come down to:
- OLED screens being really fragile, and "prone to complete screen failure rather than localised damage"
- Whacking great holes in the architecture of the phone, letting dust and debris into the hinge and behind the screen. "These are some of the biggest ingress points I’ve seen on a modern phone," says Lionheart
- The aforementioned "screen protector" issue
- Humans folding and unfolding the display in different ways that put pressure on the screen, and weren't tested by the robots folding the phone uniformly in Samsung's tests
- The lack of a pre-scored fold line down the centre of the display to ensure it folds cleanly and always in the same way.
In short, it seems Samsung was too keen to be quick off the mark with folding phones and didn't spend enough time testing the Galaxy Fold with real people before releasing it to reviewers.
As Purdy puts it:
"Why make a device with a fragile OLED layer, so little tolerance between screen and spine, and so many ways for dirt and moisture to get in? Hubris? Testing with robots instead of real humans, with pockets and fingers and different ways of opening and closing things?"
The Fold was due to launch this Friday, but we'll have to wait and see what Samsung does to dig itself out of its current PR hole to recover what is still an innovative and exciting new category of device.
In the meantime, read the full iFixit blog post here, it's fascinating.