Samsung hit the pause button on its beleaguered Galaxy Fold after several incidents with screens last week left early-production review units unusable. Although the phone-maker said that it will announce a new release date for its first foldable phone "in the coming weeks," AT&T on Tuesday sent an email to preorder customers with a new shipping date: June 13.
CNET has fully reviewed the Galaxy Fold and our review unit has remained intact. We've been in contact with Samsung about the reported screen issues.
Samsung also emailed everyone who preordered the device -- including CNET reviewers -- saying that it will update them "with more specific shipping information in two weeks." It's possible that T-Mobile and Samsung will choose slightly different shipping dates, or that AT&T should shift its new timetable as a result of the Fold's future fixes.
Samsung isn't charging credit cards for the Fold until it ships, and the brand is also giving preorder buyers and out if they change their mind and want to cancel the order before it ships.
Foldable phones are a brand-new concept rocking the phone world. The design is supposed to give people double the screen space on a device that's small enough to carry around, unlike today's pocket-busting devices. But the enormous expense -- the Galaxy Fold starts at $1,980 -- and concerns over the durability of a bendable screen and hinge could threaten the ability of foldable phones to get off the ground.
The incidents with the Fold's plastic screen -- which include a screen bulge and flickering display -- have caused a kerfuffle among onlookers, casting doubt on the durability of Samsung's $2,000 foldable phone. While Samsung's screen woes could have been much worse, rivals might also find a way to learn from Samsung's mistakes. Huawei has also announced a foldable device, the Mate X, and Motorola is rumored to have a foldable Razr in the works.
"Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance," Samsung said in a statement. "To fully evaluate this feedback and run further internal tests, we have decided to delay the release of the Galaxy Fold."
Read: Galaxy Fold "loss" could help other foldable phones succeed
News of the phone's delayed release was reported earlier Monday by The Wall Street Journal. That report follows a tweet from Engadget's Richard Lai on Sunday about the postponement of launch-related events in Hong Kong and Shanghai that were originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.
Samsung's Galaxy Fold woes began last week, two days after it distributed a small number of review devices to reviewers, including CNET.
Reviewers discovered that peeling the plastic film off the Galaxy Fold's 7.3-inch interior screen, which is made of a thin sheet of bendable plastic rather than glass, instantly made the phone unusable.
Another discovered that the left half of the Galaxy Fold strongly flickered, and two more noticed a bulge under the screen that caused noticeable distortion in the screen's image, possibly from debris that worked its way under the display.
"While many reviewers shared with us the vast potential they see, some also showed us how the device needs further improvements that could ensure the best possible user experience," Samsung said Monday. "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."
The incidents with the Galaxy Fold are also putting Samsung under intense scrutiny as consumers and industry pundits draw parallels with Samsung's double recall of 2016's Galaxy Note 7, after numerous reports that its battery overheated and sometimes caught fire. Screen issues tied to the Galaxy Fold have "broken" the phones, but have not been reported to cause a fire or any other damage to people and property.
Samsung can address at least one recurring issue, where reviewers pulled off a sheet of plastic that wound up being an integral part of the screen. The company told CNET in a statement last week: "We are taking all necessary measures to ensure that information about protective layer is clearly delivered to our customers. Materials in the Galaxy Fold box, including the quick-start guide, will include information about the protective layer."
"Samsung.com will have a dedicated Galaxy Fold FAQ for consumers to learn more about caring for the Galaxy Fold, including information about the protective layer. Retail representatives and customer care are trained with information about the top protective layer."
CNET is keeping an eye on developments with the Galaxy Fold. While we're continuing to review the early production device, we will not assign a rating until after we test the final production phone we ordered. See how it's going with our Galaxy Fold so far.
Close up with the Galaxy Fold's original screen, notch and hingeSee all photos
Originally published April 21.
Updates, April 22 at 7:52 a.m. PT: Adds the WSJ report about the launch delay; 10:22 a.m.: Adds confirmation from Samsung; 12:03 p.m. PT: Adds Samsung preorder email. Republished at 5:22 p.m. PT and April 24 at 10:41 a.m. PT.