Teardown specialists iFixit think they know how Samsung Galaxy Fold screen failures happen. We’ve so far seen six review units fail, with Samsung reportedly taking them all back before any more can happen.
The company says it has identified four potential reasons for the failures, in addition to the screen-protector which isn’t …
In a blog post following its teardown of the device, iFixit begins with a roll-call of review unit failures so far.
And just this morning, we’ve spotted one more, from ‘Mr Mobile’ Michael Fisher.
Sigh. A little grain of something found its way beneath my Galaxy Fold display. Like the saying goes: “not surprised; just disappointed.” Sending this back to Samsung hoping they figure out a way to seal up that hinge.
iFixit says the first issue is an unavoidable one with any folding display: ‘OLED screens are really fragile.’ So as soon as you stop covering them with glass and repeatedly fold and unfold them, you immediately create major vulnerabilities.
Second, given that OLEDs are easily killed by debris and moisture, a 7mm gap allowing debris access beneath the screen is just asking for trouble.
To achieve the fold, the thin bezel that surrounds (and protects) the screen leaves a gap where the two halves meet. You don’t notice it until you notice it … And then you can’t help but “test ingress.” Don’t try this at home.
This 7 mm gap doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but it leaves the display exposed—so should something accidentally enter, it’s curtains for the screen. (Oops.)
This appears to be exactly what we see with the Galaxy Fold screen failures experienced by The Verge and Mr Mobile. It also happened in another case, but in that one the debris escaped before the screen was damaged.
Third, iFixit believes there’s a simple explanation for Samsung’s robot folding the device 200,000 times without incident, and the rapid failures by reviewers: humans are not robots.
What’s the difference between robots built by Samsung, Lewis from UnboxTherapy, and Dieter Bohn from The Verge? They all close the Fold with different gestures. Samsung’s robots, which the company states folded test devices 200,000 times, are pressing with perfectly even pressure across the phone’s outer plates, and opening with a similar even-force grace. In most situations, Dieter and Lewis press somewhere inside the display, on the display, to push the hinge out of its stay-open state and close the phone, then opening the phone up like a book, with their thumbs. Dieter tends to press near the bottom center of the Fold’s left panel, while Lewis, in opening and closing the Fold 1,000 times, hits a few different points in the middle and bottom. Yet another reviewer, Soldier Knows Best, closes the phone with a press in the upper-left of the inside display.
Finally, Samsung prioritized aesthetics over practicality.
The Fold doesn’t seem to have a pre-scored line down the middle of the display to guide the screen when it folds. This is likely a benefit to the aesthetics of the device, so the screen resembles one big display instead of two distinct panels. But without a scored line, the pressure from folding is applied in many different places, instead of down one uniform line.
iFixit says it is curious why Samsung didn’t prevent any possibility of people peeling off the top protective layer from the screen.
What’s curious is how it looks so similar to the pre-installed screen protectors that ship with Galaxy S10 phones. Why not extend this layer under the bezels to hide it from peel-happy folks like us? In all known cases (including ours!), removing this layer kills the display.
But screen failures aren’t the only issue with the Galaxy Fold: the firm is also concerned about the longevity of the ribbon cables connecting the electronics in the two halves of the device.
Routing flex cables through hinges is a serious reliability concern over the long haul. This one looks designed to hold up—but if it doesn’t, at least the cable itself is modular, unlike some others we’ve seen recently.
iFixit ends by adding its voice to the chorus recommending you don’t buy one.
Like a beautiful butterfly, our Fold’s life was tragically short. Also like a butterfly, this thing is alarmingly fragile. Hopefully it can metamorphose into something a bit more robust to avoid the windshield of fate.
As for the rest of the teardown, iFixit found pretty standard-looking Galaxy parts inside – aside from the number of cameras.
You probably could have spent your $2,000 USD on a pretty nice DSLR or mirrorless camera, so it’s slightly appropriate that this phone folds six cameras into its frame. Consolation prize? The only other time we’ve seen this many cameras in a smartphone is Huawei’s latest, the P30 Pro.
We line up the unblinking eyes: Rear-facing 12 MP telephoto and 12 MP wide-angle cameras. Rear-facing 16 MP ultra-wide camera. “In-the-fold” 10 MP selfie cam (top) and 8 MP RGB depth cam. “Folded” front-facing 10 MP selfie cam.
Check out the full teardown here.
Samsung has indefinitely postponed the launch of the Galaxy Fold following the screen failures.