Complete Samsung Galaxy Fold teardown reveals major design flaws (and a strong point)

Complete Samsung Galaxy Fold teardown reveals major design flaws (and a strong point)
Seeing as how Samsung spent the better part of a decade researching and developing foldable smartphones, which were unanimously hailed by companies and analysts as the mobile industry's next big thing, it's certainly disheartening that so many of the first review units broke literally after a couple of days of use. That should obviously not happen with $200 or even $20 devices, let alone game-changing gadgets that went up for pre-order at close to $2,000 a pop.

To Samsung's credit, the commercial rollout of the Galaxy Fold was postponed at the last minute (not that there was much choice), although the tech giant's vague statements regarding the cause of the catastrophic damage sustained by a handful of theoretically finished devices left us wondering if mid-June is indeed a realistic new ETA. While there's still no way to know that for sure, the repair specialists over at iFixit may have some explanations for this apparent fiasco.

A tough hinge does not a durable phone make


One of Samsung's boldest marketing claims leading up to the (failed) launch of the Galaxy Fold was that the innovative device could survive an incredible 200,000 folds and unfolds, which the company equated to "around five years or use, if used 100 times a day." But to reach that conclusion, a lab test was naturally performed, and unfortunately, controlled environments don't always replicate the stress and abuse endured by a phone in real life.

This state-of-the-art hinge mechanism almost justifies the $2,000 price point

This state-of-the-art hinge mechanism almost justifies the $2,000 price point


What's interesting is that iFixit is indeed impressed by the hinge system on the Galaxy Fold, which seems very well-designed, incredibly robust and complex, containing four spring-loaded clasps devised to lock the display in the "open" position, two "spine"-secured hinges, and one center hinge that essentially ensures the two halves of the phone open "synchronously."

Basically, the hinge mechanism itself looks flawless from an engineering standpoint at a first glance, but the issues are glaring and impossible to ignore when it comes to the way the hinge and screen are protected against dust and other tiny pieces of debris. In a nutshell, they're not protected, with a 7 mm gap found at the point of contact between the two halves of the large 7.3-inch display.

That's a lot of room for trouble

That's a lot of room for trouble

 

Technically, there's a gap at the top and one at the bottom of the unfolded device, each of which can pick up dirt in the long run. That's exactly what already happened with a couple of review units, which remained functional but looked awful. Worse yet, iFixit argues that the smallest foreign objects stuck between the robust hinge and fragile screen could become a "fatal pressure point when the phone is unfolded", which may have caused the damage on at least one other review device.

The not-a-screen-protector problem


You're probably well aware by now that Samsung sent its first batch of Galaxy Fold units to a handful of tech journalists, bloggers, and influencers with a plastic sticker glued to the display. While it looked incredibly similar to the pre-installed screen protector on devices like the Galaxy S10, its removal resulted in another couple of destructive incidents.

If it looks like a screen protector and peels like a screen protector... stop!

If it looks like a screen protector and peels like a screen protector... stop!


According to iFixit, that's not because the display is unable to function in the absence of this infamous "advanced polymer protective layer." Instead, the reason you should absolutely not try to extract it is that it is so "tightly adhered and the display so fragile" that removing the layer will almost definitely and almost always apply "display-breaking pressure."

Clearly, Samsung needs to do a better job of informing future Galaxy Fold owners (and testers) of this restriction. In case you're wondering, yes, modern high-end phones are covered by virtually unbreakable glass, but as explained by Corning a little while back, that's not an option yet for folding devices. It's also worth highlighting that Samsung has vowed to "strengthen the display protection" ahead of the Galaxy Fold re-release, although it's not entirely clear how the company intends to do that in just a few weeks.

Such a complex design, so many early issues

Such a complex design, so many early issues


The first thing that needs to be done is a lot simpler, as extending the protective layer under the bezels should signal pretty clearly to users that this is not something to be removed. Unsurprisingly, the Galaxy Fold earned just 2 out of 10 repairability points in iFixit's rigorous teardown inspection, which however feels like the least of the phone's problems.

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22 Comments

1. monkeyb

Posts: 386; Member since: Jan 17, 2018

“That should obviously not happen with $200 or even $20 devices” This is very important and not being said often. No one should try defending a $2000 phone with lame excuses.

9. Well-Manicured-Man

Posts: 663; Member since: Jun 16, 2015

I don’t like to be the hair in the soup but Samsung will not release this phone in 2019. there is no fix ready within 2 weeks which can iron out such issues.

17. monkeyb

Posts: 386; Member since: Jan 17, 2018

I read a different post where ATT is emailing customers that the tentative date might be June. But I wonder how, many customers are okay with Samsung having their money for few months.

18. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1306; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

Agreed. The Galaxy fold appears to be an Alpha build at best yet Samsung thought it was a finished product.

2. monkeyb

Posts: 386; Member since: Jan 17, 2018

“modern high-end phones are covered by virtually unbreakable glass” Are we talking about Samsung Galaxy Active screens or am I missing something here?? Because most modern smartphones are breaking much more easily than older generations thanks to the no bezel and glass-back trends.

3. MEeee

Posts: 400; Member since: Oct 19, 2011

1. If the protective polymer layer is glued to the display, only iDiots would removed this layer. 2. When the Fold is fully closed/opened, there's no way a particle can get in unless the screen is purposely lift it up in an opening position. In this case The iVerge iDiot broke the Fold by using clay to hold the Fold in different opened positions. So only iDiots would put both clay and their device in the same pocket. 3. If you look closely at the CNBC iDiot tweet photos, you can see that he purposely busted the Fold bottom hinge and the screen.

4. User123456789

Posts: 587; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Mr Mobile said something got beneath the screen.

12. iloveapps

Posts: 582; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

I think the idiot here is Samsung for rushing this half baked product. Its doesn’t make sense who gets first but who gets right and useful. Now Samsung fold fails because of this issues and Sammy fans keep depending.

14. mackan84

Posts: 210; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

That clay might as well be lint or sand from your pocket... It should not be possible for that hinge to move anything under the screen or it will break...

19. Menageryl

Posts: 19; Member since: Apr 25, 2019

Wow. Just... Wow. I just don’t understand how people like you can make ridiculous arguments like this. Don’t you realise how these situations translate to fragility in normal, every-day situations??? And if not, why (the hell!!!) not!?!???

22. KBunker

Posts: 1; Member since: May 02, 2019

Fanboi much?

5. strawberry

Posts: 66; Member since: Feb 20, 2019

don't worry just a small flaw. samsung will never go down

6. Xxtoxicskittlexx

Posts: 162; Member since: Jun 11, 2018

"A tough hinge does not a durable phone make" What does that mean ???

11. Vokilam

Posts: 1111; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

It’s a way of saying things - it’s actually proper.

15. Vancetastic

Posts: 845; Member since: May 17, 2017

Proper language skills are dying...it makes me sad.

7. Knownhost

Posts: 78; Member since: Nov 13, 2017

I am a proud Samsung Note 9 owner, but I fear that they have jumped the gun on this one. Imagine having a gap between the chassis and the screen on an S10 or Note 9. No way would that happen. I really like the idea of the phone, but until they put some type of membrane or mechanism to prevent debris from collecting between the screen and the internals, this phone is a definite no.

10. trqster

Posts: 175; Member since: May 17, 2013

It's an hot mess from Samsung! At least they did it before anyone else, so props for that. I'm sure the Fold 2 will be a great product already.

13. CDexterWard

Posts: 48; Member since: Feb 05, 2018

As impossible as it may have been to design this 1st Gen for an official ip rating, they really should have pushed to come as close as possible. Like how the iPhone 6s and maybe recent Oneplus and others might have been manufactured in a way that made them unofficially water/dust resistant without slapping that label on it. Maybe Samsung tried, I don't know, but the gap under the hinge seems like it didn't get much engineering attention. Hope they get this figured out before they flip another calendar year.

16. pogba

Posts: 85; Member since: Jun 13, 2018

It's a first generation device. What were you expecting?? It has to come with flaws... Because this is uncharted territory. Y'all here just bashing Samsung while they paving the way for the next wave in tech. This is Samsung's gig. Innovation. Introduce a product, reveal its flaws, then work on them until several generations later your favorite oem starts adopting their refined tech and then you'll say they invented it, made it cool or whatever. Just chill out and let them do what they do best.

20. Menageryl

Posts: 19; Member since: Apr 25, 2019

You CANNOT tell me that you yourself would be happy with a busted device you spent $1980 on just because it was a 1st-gen machine. Surely????!??!? Because therein lies the problem. If it would leave you happy, still, then there’s something probably screwy with your head. And if you were left unhappy.... BINGO!

21. Jrod99

Posts: 703; Member since: Jan 15, 2016

I can wait for this tech to be perfected. Even then may never get one but who knows. I’m waiting for the small gadgets that morphs into a screen. That and the pea size package that morphs into a full course dinner when you nuke it.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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