Is Samsung About to Fold on its Galaxy Fold Folding Phone?

(Promotional image courtesy of Samsung)

Just two months after revealing its jaw-dropping $1,980 origami Galaxy Fold smartphone/tablet hybrid, and two weeks after it was supposed to drop to the public, Samsung says it might reveal the troubled phone’s fate in “a couple of days.”

Spoiler Alert: Samsung is going to cancel the Fold.

When reviewers got their hands on early production models last month, what they got was less of a first-of-its-kind folding phone, and more of an ill-conceived and badly-executed prototype device. CNET recounts that “The trouble began when five early production review units experienced screen breaks, flickering and, in two cases now, a bulge.” Worse, the screen had a protective layer that looked exactly like a removable film for shipping, and as easy to peel off, too. Which is exactly what more than one reviewer did, permanently damaging the screen.

The list of complaints went on:

• A double-thick folding phone which nonetheless doesn’t fold completely flat

• An exterior screen — the one you use when it’s folded up in phone mode — that’s shockingly small

Questionable battery life and second-rate cameras

• And of course the $1,980 price, which could buy you a better phone and a better tablet — with hundreds of dollars left over

The hinge is an engineering marvel, but that’s out of strict necessity. You see, that OLED screen can indeed bend, but it can’t actually fold flat like a pants crease. What was needed then was this elaborate hinge mechanism to curl the screen to its structural limit, but even all that engineering didn’t result in a flat phone. So what you would get for your two grand is a really thick, awkward smartphone with a tiny screen, and a tablet of marginally-useful size with a screen that dies after a couple hours of normal use.

There’s just no fixing all that’s wrong with the Galaxy Fold. Samsung said on Tuesday that they “cannot confirm the shipping date for its foldable device Galaxy Fold yet and apologized to its pre-order customers in the United States for the delay.” Which prompted tech blogger John Gruber to reply, “Today is May 7. How can anyone take them seriously that they do not know if they’re going to ship by May 31? This thing is never going to ship and everyone knows it.”

I feel very bad for Samsung’s engineers, who are some of the best in the world. Clearly they’d come up with a proof-of-concept device, meant for internal testing and further prototyping, rather than for sale to the public. It’s also clear that management and/or marketing decided to push the Fold out the door regardless, in a mad rush to produce the first folding hybrid. Even if the company does manage to fix the problems with the screen well enough to ship, the Fold’s high price and many other shortcomings are going to mean disappointing sales at best.

Maybe the future is in folding phones. But with the Galaxy Fold, Samsung is the real-world Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems, “Where the future begins tomorrow!”