Look closely at the image above, and you can see a small bulge in the fold of my Galaxy Fold review unit. It's enough to distort the screen slightly, and I can feel it under my finger. There's something pressing against the screen on the hinge, right there in the fold. My best guess is that it's a piece of debris, something harder than lint, for sure. However, it may be something else, like the hinge of a defective unit that presses the screen.
It's stressful to discover it only two days after receiving my review unit. More distressing is that the protrusion eventually presses hard enough on the screen to break it. You can see the lines of a broken OLED that converges where the lump is.
What happened, it certainly was not because I treated this phone badly. I have done normal things with the phone, such as opening and closing the hinge and putting it in my pocket. Yesterday, we pasted a small piece of molding clay on the back of the phone to support it in a video session, which is something we do in each phone video session. Then, maybe a small piece of that slipped into a hole in the back of the hinge and then around or through its teeth until it lodged between the screen and the hinge. It would be as if Charlie Chaplin were caught in the gears in Modern Times .
Or maybe something has gotten into another of the small holes somewhere else. Or maybe they were pieces of the hinge that broke loose and made their way to the screen. I do not know. I only know that the screen is broken, and there was no obvious immediate cause for the protrusion that broke it. Certainly I have not used it on a beach or I have shaken it in a bag of chips or something wild. Only normal use.
We have seen concerns about scratches on expensive phones and debris smashing the keyboard in expensive MacBooks, but a piece of debris that distorts the screen on a $ 1,980 phone after a day of use feels as if it were on a completely different level.
I contacted Samsung immediately to get a statement, but the company took approximately 24 hours to create one. Here it is, and the essential thing is that Samsung is investigating our unit and also warns users not to try to peel off the protective layer at the top of the screen.
Also, however, I received a Samsung replacement replacement unit. I think the first one is on a plane to South Korea so that the engineers of Samsung disarm it and diagnose it.
By the way, it seems that I'm not the only one reviewing the phone that has had a problem with the screen. Here's Steve Kovach:
Mark Gurman of Bloomberg also broke up, but maybe it's because he removed a protective layer that looks like a screen saver, but it's definitely not meant to be removed.
The phone comes with this protective layer / film. Samsung says you should not delete it. I eliminated it, without knowing that you are not supposed to do it (consumers will not know either). It appeared removable in the left corner, so I took it off. I think this contributed to the problem. pic.twitter.com/fU646D2zpY
– Mark Gurman (@markgurman) April 17, 2019
And here's Marques "MKBHD" Brownlee confirming that he, too, had to get a unit Replacement after peeling off the outer layer (which, again, was not our problem):
PSA: There is a layer that appears to be a screen protector on the Galaxy Fold's screen. It is NOT a screen saver. DO NOT remove it.
I got as far as before the screen was dazzled and turned off. It started again with a replacement. pic.twitter.com/ZhEG2Bqulr
– Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) April 17, 2019
It seems that the retail units of the Galaxy Fold will include a warning about not removing the protective layer, but the review units do not seem to have included this:
Like all the others, I said in my original practice with the Galaxy Fold that I can see the fold between the two sides of the screen. But when I use the phone, I do not notice it much. It's easy to talk about it as a small first-generation commitment you have to make for what is otherwise a marvel of engineering: a tablet that folds in half.
Another thing that worries people is the fact that the plastic screen scratches or lifts nicks easily. There are already a couple of minor hits on my unit, but they are small enough that I would not see them until our photographer approached them to show them. If you look closely at the edges of the screen, there is a kind of screen protector built into the front of the device. Samsung calls it a "polymer layer". It is and not designed to be removed. (Please do not try it if you have a Fold.)
But while the fold and the nicks look like compromises you could live with, a mysterious bulge that breaks the screen is something completely different, especially one that appears just a day after its quite normal use. It is a problem that is unacceptable in a phone that costs so much.
Every phone with moving parts will have more points of failure than a fully sealed static phone. So, it is natural to say that you need to treat it with more care than usual. Before seeing this bulge, my impression was that this phone was much more durable than I expected. The hinge always felt solid and well built. That impression of (relative) durability is obviously as broken as the bending screen now.
If I'm right and it's rubble, it means that you not only need to treat your phone with care, but you should also worry. about things that go under the screen. If I am wrong and there is some kind of defect in the hardware, well … then we are in a completely different territory. Either way: yikes.
Hopefully Samsung will let us know the results after I take out my original review unit to see what happened.
Update, 5:40 PM ET: Added another tweet that shows Samsung's warning that the outer protective layer is not removed, which, Again, it was not the problem with our review unit.
Update 10:30 PM ET : Added a link to the Samsung statement.