SEOUL, south Korea • Samsung is delaying the rollout of its Galaxy Fold smartphone until at least next month after some tech reviewers said their test devices had malfunctioned.
The Galaxy Fold phone — priced at nearly $2,000 and the industry’s first mainstream foldable-screen device — was slated to hit shelves in the U.S. on Friday. But Samsung, citing the reported problems with the phone, said Monday it plans to announce a new release date in the coming weeks.
“Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge,” the company said. “There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance.”
The Wall Street Journal earlier reported Samsung’s plans to delay the phone’s release, with people familiar with the matter pointing to problems affecting the handset’s hinge and its internal screen.
Samsung, the world’s largest phone maker, has high hopes for the Galaxy Fold handset, which folds in half like a book. It boasts a tablet-sized screen measuring 7.3 inches diagonally. When closed, it sports a second, smaller outer display that can perform most tasks.
Multiple tech reviewers publicized problems with the Galaxy Fold last week, encountering issues after using the handset for just a day or two. Some reviewers had unknowingly ripped off part of the phone’s display, believing it to be a protective cover. Others had problems with hinges or flickering screens. Multiple outlets also reported they didn’t have any issues with their Galaxy Fold handsets.
For the unintentional screen removal, Samsung has said it would give consumers clear warning to not remove the display’s top layer. It said Monday it will take measures to improve the phone’s display protection.
The delayed launch came hours after the South Korean technology giant abruptly scrapped pre-release media events planned for Hong Kong on Tuesday and Shanghai on Wednesday, a company spokeswoman said earlier on Monday, adding the journalist briefings would be rescheduled at a later date.
The South Korean technology giant didn’t specify why the two media briefings had been aborted.
“We are conducting a thorough inspection into the issues reported by some of the reviewers of early Galaxy Fold samples,” a Samsung spokeswoman said in earlier comments. “We will share the findings as soon as we have them.”
The smartphone industry is closely watching the release of Samsung’s new product. The Galaxy Fold drastically updates the smartphone’s look, changing the rectangular design that the ubiquitous product has had for more than a decade. Samsung executives view its foldable-screen phone as a way to distinguish the company as a product innovator versus key competitors — especially against China’s Huawei, which is building a rival product.
The Huawei device, called the Mate X, is expected to be released this fall, meaning Samsung, even with the delayed Galaxy Fold rollout, still could have several months of lead time. Huawei’s foldable-screen phone, though, features a bigger screen than the Galaxy Fold’s and will command a price tag of about $2,600, more than 30% higher than Samsung’s.
The Suwon, South Korea-based company needs a sales lift after reporting an 8% decline in smartphone shipments in 2018, a bigger drop than the industry’s 5% slide, according to Strategy Analytics, a market researcher.
Though the flawed Galaxy Folds don’t pose a safety risk, the product-performance hiccup was a reminder of the 2016 global recall of Galaxy Note 7 handsets due to overheating batteries. The incident tarnished Samsung’s brand and cost it billions of dollars.