A week ago Samsung served the device up to select online celebrities to capture their reactions, but given the general surreptitiousness I was surprised to find it was also in the hands of US-based journalists for review. It turned out to be very good for Samsung that it was, because issues raised by some of those journalists allowed for a last minute delay of the phone, rather than a potential release and recall.
The unmitigated disaster of the Galaxy Note7 (in PR terms, financial terms and also in terms of posing an actual physical threat) was three years ago now, but it still looms large for Samsung. Every second article about the company seems to reference it in one way or another, and there are still consumers who remember nothing about Samsung’s phones except that one model that caught fire and was banned from air travel, then was replaced and caught fire again. If there’s one thing the company wants to avoid, it’s a widespread quality issue that’s picked up too late or not fixed properly.
The issues highlighted by reviewers include a vital piece of hardware that looks like a screen protector (and can kill the phone if peeled off), and an apparent hinge issue that can cause one side of the foldable screen to malfunction. Most worryingly, one reviewer also appeared to have a piece of debris enter (or break off from) the inside of the phone and work its way up through the OLED display, creating a hole. With these broken phones now being analysed by Samsung, it can hopefully develop an inexpensive fix.
So, will the delay ultimately hurt Samsung? Probably not, at least not as much as another recall.
Samsung was only estimating to sell 1 million Folds total, so there probably weren’t that many manufactured and sent to retailers at this point. Considering a date and price was never set for Australia, it’s probably safe to assume no units were ever sent here that need to be recalled or retrofitted. Unless you count the early model Samsung apparently sent to Australian influencer Stephanie Bendixsen.
And being able to say that it found and fixed the problems before release potentially puts Samsung in a better position than just releasing the phone after some reviewers publicly called it busted. After all, several of the journalists also said they really liked having a tablet they could fit in their pocket, and consumers deserve to be confident that their $3000 phone isn’t going to fall apart.
Of course it’s concerning that faults as seemingly severe as this were not picked up earlier, if indeed they are systemic and not flukes. But assuming Samsung can pull it off, and deliver a version of the Fold that’s functional and resilient, nobody will care that it arrived a little later than planned. In three years time, Samsung hopes, nobody will even remember that its first foldable phone was almost a potential disaster.