Four Samsung Galaxy Fold review units in the hands of major US tech journalists all experienced device-breaking display failures today. Steve Kovach of CNBC, Mark Gurman of Bloomberg, and Dieter Bohn of The Verge have reported major failures of their phones' display panels, just two days after receiving them. To say this is a disaster for Samsung is probably underselling it. Well-known YouTuber MKBHD claims to be having similar problems,
but hasn't posted any images (update: he has, see below). Bohn and Kovach claim their displays failed without removing the panel's protective film (Samsung says not to take it off), but both Gurman and Brownlee did remove it and hypothesized that it led or contributed to the failures.
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. pic.twitter.com/G0OHj3DQHw
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) April 17, 2019
The adhesive layer referred to by Gurman and Brownlee is meant to protect the OLED screen of the Fold, and Samsung told some reviewers not to remove it (not everyone got the message, though). But it looks so much like a simple piece of protective shipping plastic that these two did anyway, and then their displays failed. It's unclear if removing the adhesive caused the screens to fail, but it seems like a strong possibility. Here's an image from Brownlee showing how that layer peeled off, and shortly thereafter killed the screen.
PSA: There's a layer that appears to be a screen protector on the Galaxy Fold's display. It's NOT a screen protector. Do NOT remove it.
I got this far peeling it off before the display spazzed and blacked out. Started over with a replacement. pic.twitter.com/ZhEG2Bqulr
— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) April 17, 2019
Bohn and Kovach, though, did not remove the adhesive from their Folds, and still experienced major display failures. Kovach's in particular seems brutal, with one half of the display flashing blinding white. While Gurman and Brownlee may have experienced a form of user error (the Fold's documentation contains one small print warning about the adhesive, for what it's worth), these two cases are far harder to explain as anything but faulty hardware.
It's unclear whether these developments will impact Samsung's plan to launch the Fold to consumers late next week. But given how many have failed (four by our count) out of the few dozen Samsung has even distributed, this is not looking good. Samsung has yet to comment on the story, and we still don't know how widespread issues may be, or if Samsung will be able to pin them to a particular batch or known problem it may have since solved in production.
Samsung issued a statement to The Verge. In summary, they're going to look into these incidents, but aren't commenting even on whether the reviewers who removed the protective screen cover caused their displays to fail - merely presenting the possibility.
A limited number of early Galaxy Fold samples were provided to media for review. We have received a few reports regarding the main display on the samples provided. We will thoroughly inspect these units in person to determine the cause of the matter.
Separately, 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.
Not too surprisingly, we're hearing that Samsung is retrieving all Galaxy Fold review samples from journalists. This information is coming from Reuters, which cites its source as someone with direct knowledge of the matter. The Fold units were 10-day pre-production loaners that were going to be replaced with retail units afterwards, but that clearly isn't going to happen now.