With Galaxy Fold back on track, Galaxy Home needs its own comeback
Samsung’s foldable phone isn’t the only new device that's been delayed.
Shara TibkenFormer managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Samsung on Thursday said it didn't have anything to add at this time.
While a smart speaker may not be as flashy or as novel as a phone with a folding screen, it's a device that has more universal appeal. People would be more likely to buy the Galaxy Home this year than the Galaxy Fold. The foldable device -- soon to be the first like it on the market -- is more experimental and expensive than other phones, limiting its appeal largely to early adopters. Smart speakers are becoming so common even children know how to use them. Amazon in June said it's launching an Echo Dot aimed at kids. The company, with its Alexa voice assistant, dominates the smart speaker market in the US, followed by Google.
Global smart speaker sales should reach 147.7 million units this year, up 71% from 2018, Strategy Analytics predicted in May. Amazon and Google will each control nearly a third of the market, while the rest will be split between more than a dozen other voice OS platforms, including Apple's Siri, Alibaba's Ali Genie, Baidu's Duer OS and Xiaomi's Xiao AI, the research firm said. There was no mention of Bixby.
"I struggle to see Samsung really succeeding in bringing an alternative," Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi said. The situation might have been different a year ago, she said, "but seeing how little progress they've made from a Bixby perspective makes me really doubt that they will ever be able to compete with Alexa in the US."
Samsung may be starting to develop a reputation for delayed products. Even my un-tech-savvy parents in Iowa know about the Galaxy Fold's delay.
The Galaxy Fold has a 4.6-inch display when folded, and a separate 7.3-inch display when unfolded into a tablet. It starts at $1,980 (about £1,500 or AU$2,800) and comes in four colors: cosmos black, space silver, martian green and astro blue. Users can start using apps like Flipboard on the small, front display and then pick up where they left off when moving to the big, inside display.
Close up with the Galaxy Fold's original screen, notch and hinge
Samsung originally said the Galaxy Fold would launch April 26. Now it will hit the market in September.
Waiting to release a product until it's essentially perfect is the right move for customers and for Samsung. In times in the past, the company rushed to sell devices before the bugs had been worked out, all in a quest to be first. It has taken a more measured approach in recent years, but Samsung still gets ahead of itself. The Galaxy Fold is evidence of that.
After using the device for only days -- or, in some cases, hours -- during a short review period in mid-April, several technology journalists had issues with their devices. Some peeled off a thin top layer on the display, which was an essential protective coating, not a removable screen protector. Others had detritus get under the screen itself, causing bumps and bulges. Samsung canceled the release date to explore what happened.
On Wednesday, 89 days after the Galaxy Fold was to go on sale, Samsung said it has addressed the issues experienced by those reporters. It extended the screen's protective top layer beyond the bezel, "making it apparent that it is an integral part of the display structure." It added "reinforcements" to keep debris from getting under the screen, while new "protection caps" strengthen the top and bottom of the hinge area. Samsung also added reinforcements beneath the Infinity Flex Display, likely to make the plastic screen stiffer, and it reduced the air gap between the Fold's body and hinge.
Samsung doesn't need another big delay or more problems with the Galaxy Fold. It said it took "the time to fully evaluate the product design, make necessary improvements and run rigorous tests to validate the changes we made."
Samsung has repeatedly said that it's learned from that experience. Presumably the tests it's conducting on the Galaxy Fold, which are ongoing, will head off any issues people could see with the device. We won't know, though, until reviewers and consumers get their hands on the revamped phone.