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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Foldable Phones Are Here … or Are They?

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The bigger screen you’ve always wanted was almost in the palm of your hand. When will it come back?

Samsung broke hearts all over America. It announced a real, big-screen foldable phone. The company put out a release date, teased us with marketing images and slapped on a price that many would pay for the revolutionary gadget. Older adults thought that finally someone was paying attention to their blurry eyesight and inability to tap out text on keyboards tinier than their thumbs.

With rollout only days away, foldable phones were sent out to reviewers across the country. And they broke, and flickered, and sprouted curious bumps. Samsung called a halt to the release.

What happened?

Samsung is the world’s biggest phone maker. The company nails it when it’s improving iterations of other developers’ phones, but this isn’t its first flop trying to unveil a first generation product of its own. Anyone remember the Galaxy Note 7 that could spontaneously burst into flames? At least the Galaxy Fold hasn’t hurt anyone.

The Fold has hard glass halves that close like a book to protect an inner 7.3” plastic display inside. The clamshell device comes with a hard-shell case to protect the exterior of the $1,980 gadget, a price tag that dwarfs even Apple’s latest iteration of the popular iPhone. It’s the first bendable phone to (almost) come to market.

But it does appear to be a “piece of junk” with “shoddy workmanship and horrible build quality,” according to reviewer Zach Epstein. First came the mysterious film covering the inner screen. Several reviewers noted that it looked just like the thin film that often covers the glass of new phones as a screen protector and peeled it off. Mistake. Their phones immediately went dead, even the one where the user lifted off just an inch or two.

The phone of CNBC’s Todd Haselton began flickering on the left side of the inner screen. Reviewer Dieter Bohn of The Verge noticed a bulge beneath the screen of his model, and YouTube reviewer Michael “Mr. Mobile” Fisher found a bump under his Fold screen.

Fixes Coming

Samsung has made it clear that fixes are coming. After indefinitely postponing the device’s relaunch, it has issued messages advising customers that preorders would be automatically cancelled unless customers resubscribed.

To prevent future users from peeling off the inner layer, Samsung has promised that packaging will include bold warnings that were missing from reviewers’ boxes, which came without any instructions.

"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,” Samsung said in a statement.

The unusual film that confused some reviewers is actually a protective layer for the 7.3-inch inner screen that is integral to its function. While the outside screen is made of Gorilla Glass just like other Galaxy phones, the inside is a plastic polymer. Dubbed the Infinity Flex Display, it’s made to take thousands upon thousands of folding and unfolding motions. To prevent damage from this movement, Samsung integrated the screen protector into the material below … just not enough to make it impossible to notice or remove.

It’s likely only a matter of time before Samsung can fix the Fold. Certainly, Google doesn’t have any doubts that foldable phones are coming. Support for Android foldable units is ongoing. Google’s Senior Android Director, Stephanie Saad, says foldable phones "open up a complete new category which, though early, might just change the future of mobile computing."

The upcoming refresh of Google’s mobile operating system will concentrate on app continuity, the sort of software that stimulates quick orientation transitions from one screen to another. It’s just the sort of responsiveness demanded by a foldable device to transfer images back and forth from the smaller outside screen to the larger inner one.

Other Foldables Coming?

It’s hard to say when you’ll be able to get your hands on a Galaxy Fold, even if you don’t mind shelling out the big bucks. But it does appear that other folding products are on the way, according to an article in Korean-language industry news site The Bell.

Samsung appears to be working on another foldable phone and what is likely a foldable tablet, judging by the reported 8-inch and 13-inch sizes. The smaller device has a “G type” folding screen, which features wings to either side that fold into the middle of a larger center screen. The larger device is rumored to have an “S type” screen that makes a fold like the letter “s.”

Maybe by the time these new products are released, Samsung will have finessed foldable devices. And we can all hope that as emerging technology, the units will start to come down in price.


Blog posting provided by Society of Certified Senior Advisors

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