Galaxy Fold: There's just one thing standing in the way of its perfect accessory -- the screen

Commentary: The foldable phone's 7.3-inch screen needs to bake a little longer before it can fulfill its destiny.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Editorial Director, Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Thought Leadership, Speed Desk and How-To. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica led CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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3 min read
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 To date, the Galaxy Fold's well-known screen problems come down to the design of its plastic Infinity Flex display. Without a bendable glass topper, the delicate screen surface is too fragile for all but the lightest touch, an unfortunate circumstance that caused five early production reviewer units to suffer breakdowns. That's a shame, because without a sturdy screen, the Fold won't be able to fulfill its true potential. See, this device is crying out for a stylus. 

Bendable glass would open up this new stylus opportunity for the Fold, an add on that seemed blindingly obvious to me after about five minutes of using the Galaxy Fold. 

A stylus is the Galaxy Fold's perfect accessory. With its 7.3-inch inner screen, the Fold's hybrid phone-tablet design has roughly 11.5% more display space than the  Galaxy Note 9's  6.4-inch screen, a phone that's entirely defined by its S Pen stylus. When you're already paying $1,980 for a "luxury" device, getting the ability to do more would only increase the Fold's value.

Everything you'd do on a phone like the rumored Note 10 you'd also want to do on the Fold, from navigating around and annotating items, to drawing or writing on the larger surface. Samsung already has this technology down pat, and extending the S Pen to the Fold could help Samsung further differentiate itself from other brands and win more Note fans.


Think of how much more you could do with a pen.

Angela Lang/CNET

The Galaxy Fold is the first foldable phone from a major player. Phones that bend signal a bold new direction for Samsung and other brands that could double your phone's screen space while remaining small enough to carry around. Samsung's early problems highlight how a more complex design can increase the risk for something to go wrong.

Although my own Galaxy Fold review unit worked flawlessly until Samsung asked for it back (this was scheduled from the start), I did notice first one screen dent and then another and a third, all accrued during my 10-day review period. While I've been known to scratch "regular" glass-topped phones in my purse or -- yikes -- the pavement, I had been babying the Fold. 

A device you worry about marring with your fingernail isn't one you needle countless times a day with the plastic tip of a digital pen.

The argument in favor of a Galaxy Fold stylus has precedent. Apple made the  Apple Pencil  for the  iPad Pro  and Microsoft's Surface Pro has the Surface Pen. Unlike these two devices, Samsung sees the Fold as a phone-tablet mashup and not a tablet-laptop hybrid, but both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro come with optional, aftermarket pen accessories aimed at power users. The Fold seems like a natural gateway for Samsung to explore a more grown-up Fold down the line, especially if foldable devices took off.

While an S Pen for the Fold wouldn't necessarily tip the balance toward the Galaxy Fold or erase buyers' fears (a rewards program and concierge support would go further there), an extra accessory might give Fold fans more to love. At the very least, it could help make the Galaxy Fold feel more complete. 

When that time comes, some of Samsung's current phone screen problems might vanish, like debris working its way beneath the display, damage due to pressure and easy screen scratches. 

ReadAfter Galaxy Fold fiasco, Note 10 may be the hero phone Samsung needs

Close up with the Galaxy Fold's original screen, notch and hinge

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Samsung said, "We cannot speculate or comment on this."

Samsung is no doubt scrambling for a feasible workaround to reinforce the screen, pushing back the launch of Fold preorders until June at least. But foldable phones aren't projected to get bendable glass for another year or two. 

Until future foldable phones start using bendable glass, or at least harder polymer materials to protect the display, I'm tossing thoughts of another S Pen on ice. Because while a digital stylus for the Fold falls into place, there's just no place for a stylus on today's fragile Fold.

Read: How the Note 10 could be the hero phone Samsung needs now

Article originally posted May 4 at 4 a.m. PT.