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Samsung's £1,800 folding phones are breaking after just two days

Olivia Rudgard
DJ Koh, chief executive of Samsung's mobile division, with one of the phones

The launch of Samsung's first folding smartphone has been thrown into crisis after it emerged that many early versions of the device are breaking when unfolded.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold, which will cost £1,800, has an internal folding screen which can be used as a tablet-size device, as well as an external screen which can be used as a smartphone. The company has positioned it as a breakthrough product that will bring much-needed innovation to a stagnant smartphone market.

However, reviewers who had been given the handsets ahead of their launch next week complained of problems including that the screens had cracked, half of the screen had begun flickering on and off or stopped working altogether.

It is due to go on sale next Friday in the US, with pre-orders starting in the UK and Europe next Friday and the phone available at the start of May.

A foldable smartphone has been the goal for many hardware companies, but the technology has proved challenging. Shares in Samsung fell by 3pc on Thursday as the episode revived memories of its botched launch of the Galaxy Note 7, a 2016 device that had to be recalled globally after it was found to overheat and burst into flames.

The phone unfolds to reveal a tablet-sized internal screen

Samsung revealed the Galaxy Fold, a competitor to a similar handset unveiled by Chinese company Huawei, in February.

The $1,980 handset, which will cost £1,800 in the UK, initially received a positive reception, but this series of problems, just two days after the phones were given out, raises questions about its durability and whether it is ready to be released to the public.

On Twitter, Mark Gurman, a reporter for Bloomberg, said: “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.”

He said he had removed a protective cover which was not supposed to be taken off, because he was unaware that it was meant to be a permanent part of the phone.

YouTube reviewer Marques Brownlee reported the same problem, tweeting that he had begun to remove the film before the display "blacked out."

Many existing smartphones come with protective film on their screens, which is meant to be removed.

Several other technology reviewers reported similar problems, and said they had not removed the protective film.

One handset was pictured with a functioning right-hand screen and a left-hand screen which was rapidly flickering on and off.

Another had developed a bulge in the centre which had caused the OLED screen to rupture, creating white lines across the internal face of the phone.

A Samsung spokesman said: "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."

In 2016 Samsung was forced to recall the Note 7 after many customers complained that their smartphones burst into flames or exploded. The company said there was a battery defect in some devices.

Samsung isn't alone in experiencing issues during smartphone launches, though. The 2014 launch of Apple's iPhone 6 went awry when reviewers and customers found that the phone was liable to bending under pressure.

Have reports of problems with the Samsung Galaxy Fold put you off buying one? Or do you still plan to pre-order a Galaxy Fold in the upcoming weeks? We want to hear from you in the comments section below. 

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