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FAQ Foldable Phones

Galaxy Fold relaunch: Everything we know about Samsung's foldable phone

Samsung says it will now sell the foldable phone some time in September.

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Angela Lang/CNET

Samsung will get a second chance with the Galaxy Fold, a phone it put on hold three months ago after problems with the Fold's plastic screen caused the company to re-evaluate its initial Aril 26 sale date. Now, the world's highest-profile foldable phone will arrive in September. Although CNET's review unit never broke (here's our Galaxy Fold review), we're eager to see in person if the Fold redesign shores up the phone's vulnerabilities.

We now know what the major design changes are, how Samsung will keep people from peeling off a protective layer that caused the screen to malfunction, and roughly when the phone will sell. Keep reading for what we know and don't know, and a recap of what went wrong. We'll update this with more details as we learn them.

When in September will the Fold actually go on sale? 

Samsung hasn't shared a (re)launch date, but said it will in "the coming weeks".

Will we be able to see what the 'repaired' Fold looks like?

Yes, and no. Samsung shared some renders of the new Fold design, but it's pretty hard to see what's changed from the size and angles. 

What did change?

This from Samsung:

  • The top protective layer of the Infinity Flex Display has been extended beyond the bezel, making it apparent that it is an integral part of the display structure and not meant to be removed.
  • Galaxy Fold features additional reinforcements to better protect the device from external particles while maintaining its signature foldable experience:
  • The top and bottom of the hinge area have been strengthened with newly added protection caps.
    • Additional metal layers underneath the Infinity Flex Display have been included to reinforce the protection of the display.
    • The space between the hinge and body of Galaxy Fold has been reduced.

How will people know not to peel back the protective screen layer?

Samsung will say so on the phone's quick start guide, on the screen cling that surrounds the phone in the box, and on Samsung's website.

Will Samsung discount the Galaxy Fold given the delay?

 Narp. Samsung will keep the price at $1,980, selling in select countries, as planned.

When will preorders spin back up again?

Great question. That's another set of details Samsung isn't sharing yet. What we do know is that Best Buy, Samsung and AT&T all canceled their Fold preorder sales, which means that interested Fold owners would have to preorder anew. The tech giant won't charge credit cards until the Galaxy Fold ships. T-Mobile never put the Fold on preorder.

CommentaryRushing foldable phones doesn't work. Just ask Samsung and Huawei

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Samsung says its Galaxy Fold is still coming.

Angela Lang/CNET

Will AT&T and T-Mobile still sell the Fold?

That's unclear. Although both US carriers had initially committed to the device, T-Mobile is reportedly backing out. We've reached out to T-Mobile and AT&T for details.

What did the delay do to Samsung's reputation?

Samsung's Galaxy Fold delay has put Samsung in an awkward position. As the world's largest phone maker and the the first major brand to announce a foldable phone, Samsung's reputation as an innovator is riding on the Fold, especially after its spectacular unveiling on Feb. 20. 

Samsung's troubles underscore just how risky and fragile the concept of a foldable phone really is. Foldable phones represent a new type of device that's meant to maximize screen size without expanding the overall size of the device. The tech giant wanted to lead the way, burnishing its reputation as an innovator in the phone's transition to the next big thing. 

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Until Samsung and other brands can allay buyers' fears with screens that can withstand the pressures of daily use, the future of foldable phones hangs precariously in the balance. Intense criticism may hurt future sales and shake consumer confidence in the concept of foldable phones in general. 

The Galaxy Fold's chance to lead the emerging category could come under fire if buyers turn their backs on the innovative design -- this could still happen -- or opt for a rival model such as Huawei's Mate XTCL's upcoming designs or a rumored foldable phone like the Motorola Razr. On the flip side, those other companies have the chance to learn from the Galaxy Fold's mistakes.

Why caused Galaxy Fold screen damage in the first place?

Several early reviewers experienced damage to the screens on their Galaxy Fold loan devices, which made the foldable phones unusable. Photos of the damaged Folds ranged from a fully blacked-out screen to a bubbled device, and one with a portion of the screen white and the other half blacked out. 

The Fold has a horizontal clamshell design, where hard glass halves close like a book to protect a tender 7.3-inch plastic display inside. Samsung even includes a case in the Galaxy Fold box as extra armor for the glass exterior, in case you drop the phone.

There may be a specific reason that some of the phones came to harm. Two reviewers experienced a total screen failure when they removed a thin plastic film that runs along the Galaxy Fold's screen. There's a narrow gap between this film and the bezel-edge of the display, which has led to confusion about the nature of the film. 

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It isn't immediately obvious if the plastic layer belongs to the phone or if it's the film you commonly see on devices to keep screens smudge- and lint-free during shipping and storage.

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman found out the hard way that the latter wasn't the case. He tweeted this about his review unit last week: "The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in. Hard to know if this is widespread or not."

YouTube reviewer Marques "MKBHD" Brownlee had a similar experience after peeling the layer off his Galaxy Fold review unit. 

"PSA: There's a layer that appears to be a screen protector on the Galaxy Fold's display," he tweeted. "It's NOT a screen protector. Do NOT remove it."

But the protective film isn't the only source of Samsung's early troubles. CNBC's Todd Haselton experienced screen flickering on the left side of his review device. The Verge's Dieter Bohn also had issues, with Bohn's screen forming a bulge beneath the surface. On Tuesday, YouTube reviewer Michael "Mr. Mobile" Fisher also found a bump beneath his Galaxy Fold screen.

ReadThe Galaxy Fold can't have this one useful thing

These reports of a faulty Galaxy Fold are a nightmare situation for Samsung, the first major brand to sell a foldable phone. The Fold -- which has a 4.6-inch screen on the outside, a bendable 7.3-inch screen on the inside and a nearly $2,000 price tag -- is a major risk for the tech giant.

Should I be worried?

While the reported problems make the affected Galaxy Fold unusable, they're not dangerous, unlike the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7, which was found to overheat and sometimes catch fire.

Read: Sucking up to buyers might be Samsung's best way out of this Galaxy Fold mess

What does this Fold incident mean for Google Android support?

Google's support for the category of foldable phones is unwavering. At its annual Google I/O conference on May 7, Google's Senior Android Director, Stephanie Saad Cuthbertson, said that foldable phones "open up a complete new category which, though early, might just change the future of mobile computing." 

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Android Q, the upcoming refresh of Google's mobile operating system, will focus on App Continuity, the software that helps phones like the Galaxy Fold quickly move an active app from one screen and orientation to another, say from a small screen on the outside to a larger screen on the inside and back again, without missing a beat. Since developers don't typically make their apps for foldable screens, standardized developer tools and best practices will help make these apps work better on foldable screens. 

Google's ongoing role here suggests that the Fold's issues are a pothole, rather than a roadblock, on the path to foldable phone designs.

What is this film layer thingamajiggy everyone's talking about?   

Let's address the film layer first. I had received my review unit on Monday morning, then shot an unboxing video, and worried that I had forgotten to take off this plastic layer -- what would the YouTube viewers say?! 

Turns out, what looks like a paper-thin sheet of plastic covering the foldable phone's 7.3-inch display is a protective layer that's crucial to helping keep the phone damage-free.

You can see the edges of that layer here, on my review unit:

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Look closely and you can see a thin line hugging the screen just beyond the bezel. This is the protective layer that Samsung wants to remain firmly in place.

Angela Lang/CNET

OK, so now we're clear: Whatever you do, don't peel back this film. It's part of the screen and bad things happen when you remove it.

But again, the protective layer isn't the whole story, because two other reviewers, Haselton and Bohn, said that they didn't remove the film, and still had problems that rendered the Fold unusable. So what's going on?

What's the deal with the Galaxy Fold's screen?

The Galaxy Fold has a completely different screen setup than any other phone. There's a 4.6-inch display on the outside that's covered with Gorilla Glass -- that's the same as other Galaxy phones like the S10 and S10 Plus ($834 at Amazon). But inside, the screen is made of a plastic (polymer) material that Samsung calls its Infinity Flex Display.

Samsung created this with a new process and specific adhesives to withstand the screen's bending and flexing without breaking. The screen protector layer is meant to remain in place to prevent damage to the display below -- that's the thing that actually makes your "screen" light up. Without the hardness of glass to cover the delicate display, the Fold is more vulnerable, something that's become vividly apparent.

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What it's like to watch Netflix on the Galaxy Fold

Angela Lang/CNET

Is there something different about the review phones?

Yes. Reviewers received early production models. That means these aren't the final review units, and could be prone to certain issues that Samsung might have the opportunity to fix before the Fold reaches buyers' hands.

For example, I was told that my review unit is an unlocked European version that doesn't support US services like Bixby Voice, Samsung Health and Samsung Pay. Likewise, I was warned that call quality might be compromised because the phone isn't optimized to US bands.

While I'm fully testing this review unit of the Galaxy Fold, I am withholding a rating until I receive the final production model CNET ordered.

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Did Samsung say you're not supposed to remove the film?

It isn't clear if Samsung thoroughly briefed every reviewer who received a phone about the screen protector layer. There was no instruction in my box -- no literature at all, in fact -- but also no other indication, like a pull tab, that you should remove it.

I almost did anyway. As a reviewer, I like to experience the phone as "clean" as possible. That means everything I can peel off is going to come off. I emailed Samsung for more information about this layer on Tuesday. A spokesperson responded, "Galaxy Fold is manufactured with a special protective layer. It is not a screen protector -- do not attempt to remove it."

The company further elaborated its position:

"A few reviewers reported having removed the top layer of the display causing damage to the screen. The main display on the Galaxy Fold features a top protective layer, which is part of the display structure designed to protect the screen from unintended scratches. Removing the protective layer or adding adhesives to the main display may cause damage. We will ensure this information is clearly delivered to our customers."

Samsung added this statement as well: 

"The protective layer is part of the display structure designed to protect the screen from unintended scratches. The main display of the Galaxy Fold is made with a new, advanced polymer layer and adhesive that's flexible and tough enough to endure repeated folding actions. Because the main display is made with polymer, the extra protective layer is in place to guard against impact. It's built into the display which is why it should not be removed by force. Consumers who notice that the protective layer is not integrated on the display should contact Samsung customer care at 1-800-SAMSUNG as soon as possible to avoid any additional damage to the display."

Desmond Smith, director of creative content and a tech evangelist at T-Mobile, tweeted that the carrier's final production models will come with a warning on the wrap that goes over the Galaxy Fold's screen:

But peeling off the Fold's screen layer isn't the only issue 

While removing the plastic film caused a problem for some, it isn't entirely clear what the protective film does or how its removal relates to the screen's behavior. Remember that two of the reviewers kept the protector on. Bohn and Fisher suspect that a piece of dust or debris may have become lodged under the screen to create the bulge he felt, and a slight distortion on the Fold's surface.

Haselton, meanwhile, observed a persistent screen flicker over the left half of the screen. We know that two batteries, one on each side, work in concert to form a single power source. I'm not an electrical or chemical engineer, but I wonder if that could indicate a battery issue. Hopefully we'll all find out one way or another.

At any rate, the Galaxy Fold's risky design has created some inconsistencies that could damage its early production phones and its reputation.

Why are bendable screens made of plastic in the first place?

Right now, glass doesn't bend so well. That's something that Corning -- the maker of Gorilla Glass, which covers most high-end phones -- is working on. Don't expect bendable glass to save second-gen foldable phones, though. It won't be ready for some time.

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Published April 17, 2019. Updated most recently May 31 and June 7, June 10, 2019 at 8:05 a.m. PT: Adds Samsung's confirmation that it will still announce a timeline for the Galaxy Fold release. Update, July 25, 2019: Adds Samsung's plan to relaunch the Galaxy Fold in Sept.