It’s been dubbed #peelgate: earlier this month, South Korea’s Samsung released the Galaxy Fold, a highly-anticipated $2,000 device long-heralded as the next big breakthrough in smartphone development. It’s become more or less immediately apparent that the product was not market ready.
While Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei has been able to steal some of the allure of Samsung with the release of its own foldable device, immediate issues with Huawei’s folding technology only added fuel to the flames of interest in the Galaxy Fold. Alas, the reality was a far cry from the fantasy.
One example was the removal of the protective layer of the device, which many users mistook for being a normal screen protector. Once removed, the Galaxy Fold will begin to show signs of a malfunction. Samsung was forced to respond:
“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 is 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.”
Still, the damage — to Samsung’s reputation, let alone the Galaxy devices — had been done. The bottom line was that the device was simply not ready to be released to the public.
“It was then that I made a call, too”, says Joanna Stern, personal technology columnist for The WSJ, “There’s no point in me writing a straightforward review of a product that’s so clearly not ready…At the very least, Samsung owes its customers more explanation. Are we beta-testing a prototype here?”
For Samsung, that the Fold has been a dud represents a major missed opportunity. Smartphone innovation has plateaued in recent years, and major cell phone manufacturers like Apple are struggling in key markets where competitors with more affordable devices have started to gain a foothold. If the Fold had been a success, the statement would have been clear: there is further ground for smartphone technology to cover, and Samsung is ahead of the pack in developing it.
Samsung has already had to admit that its operating profit fell 60 percent in the first quarter of 2019, an announcement that came as a surprise to many investors. Now, the public image of Samsung as the leader in smartphone innovation takes further hits to its operating profit for the remainder of the year, unless the South Korean giant finds a way to change the narrative around the Fold’s flop.