Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip was billed as the first folding phone with a glass display, but thanks to a "protective layer," the top-most surface you actually interact with is only as durable as a plastic screen protector. In a testing video published earlier today, Zack Nelson of JerryRigEverything showed off how easily the phone's display scratches, in the end, literally poking holes in it.
In his initial tests, the display scratches at a Mohs' level 2, indicating that the top-most surface has the durability of plastic. The screen also later takes indents from a fingernail, for a more real-life example of wear. Those of you with long nails may need to be careful if you pick up a Z Flip. Finally, he pokes actual holes through the glass display using a harder Mohs' pick — not something you're likely to run into in day-to-day use, but an indicator this is still a lot less durable than the non-folding glass phone you're probably reading this on.
During his testing, Zach speculates that Samsung may be using a "hybrid" material, like a plastic loaded with bits of glass to enhance durability. The more likely explanation was revealed by Samsung during its event, and repeated today in a statement made by Samsung to The Verge: The thin glass screen is topped by a less durable "protective layer."
To everyone who watched the durability test of the Galaxy Z Flip from @ZacksJerryRig :
Samsung is using glass on the Galaxy Z Flip BUT the glass layer has an extra polymer layer on top of it. For what? Idk.
But it definetly uses glass aka UTGhttps://t.co/BjOqe96Vzb pic.twitter.com/EglsU1jDvI
— Max J. (@MaxJmb) February 16, 2020
Samsung's full statement to The Verge is just below:
"Galaxy Z Flip features an Infinity Flex Display with Samsung’s Ultra Thin Glass (UTG) to deliver a sleek, premium look and offer an immersive viewing experience... Samsung’s first-of-its-kind UTG technology is different from other Galaxy flagship devices. While the display does bend, it should be handled with care. Also, Galaxy Z Flip has a protective layer on top of the UTG similar to Galaxy Fold."
Samsung also tells The Verge that Galaxy Z Flip customers can pay for a one-time screen replacement for $119, with one free replacement of that protective layer also available as an option.
Samsung remains adamant that the $1,380 Z Fold's screen is actual glass — there's already one report showing it can crack like real glass, too — and the explanation so far about there being two layers to the display makes sense. It is glass, just very thin glass, topped by a protective "polymer" layer. Still, it's much less durable than we had hoped. I'm already a little concerned for my own purchase, set to arrive on Monday. Samsung could have done better to manage expectations.
Poking holes through polymer and glass with ease.
Whatever the explanation or reasoning, there's one thing Zach says in his video that we can agree with: "It's dangerous to let people walk around with that false sense of security Samsung gives them when they call it glass."
Zach came back to his battered Z Flip and tore it down, looking for the UTG glass beneath the protective plastic layer as well as the bristles that are supposed to protect the hinge from dust and particles. You can see his findings in the video below, but keep in mind that he was focused on the hinge and missed the bristles along the inside edge of the frame. You have to you look closely around the 8:44 mark to see them in the video.