When Samsung revealed the Galaxy Fold all the way back in February, some speculated that this would be the big game changer. This would move the world forward similar to what the iPhone did in 2007.
I was skeptical, to say the least, when I first cast eyes over the dual-screen-but-not-quite folding monstrosity.
My immediate reaction was that it would, at best, be akin to carrying around the hard case in which my glasses should be kept at all times. How it would fit in a pocket I did not quite understand.
Then there was the screen. A bendy screen let the device fold out (hence the creative name) to become a larger, more tablet-style device.
Why was this hailed as the Big Thing?
Because for as long as pretty much every tech journalist can remember, phones have been black rectangles of glass, metal and plastic. They all more or less look exactly the same.
Over the last few years we have already reached the point where the chips that provide the processing power for these phones have maxed out. They’re not getting that much quicker, certainly not taking the leaps and bounds we saw a decade ago.
Even the software has basically stagnated. Apple introduced FaceID to replace TouchID with the iPhone X in 2018, and on the Android side they get Google-powered image processing but that’s pretty much it.
As much as Apple, Samsung and the rest would like AR games to take off and become a thing, they won’t beyond the week or so everyone plays the latest Niantic game.
Oh, and they’re also getting hilariously expensive. The iPhone Xs Max (my current phone) pricing tops out at $2369.00. That’s more than a 6-core 21.5-inch iMac.
Yeah. I could buy an entire computer for the same money as they’re asking for a phone.
The result of all this is that sales have stagnated.
That’s not necessarily to mean they’re dropping, they’re just not growing as quickly year-on-year as has been the case.
Why would you? You already have a phone that works just fine and does everything the new phone does with the exception of whatever pointless trick has been shoved to the top of the press release to make a headline.
The tech industry doesn’t like that. It needs growth. It thrives on growth to the point that when you have what is basically 100 per cent saturation of a market it is not physically possible to create more growth. Just selling a nice number of devices and making a tidy profit isn’t enough.
They need you to be excited. And at this point they are starting to get desperate.
Enter the Galaxy Fold. The phone for people that really miss their Motorola Razor but also need something the size of a piece of paper and as thick as a chocolate block.
It was an intriguing, albeit slightly absurd proposition that obviously came out of a brainstorming session where it was stressed that no idea was a bad one even though everyone who has sat in one of those meetings knows full well that is an absolute lie.
But once that idea was taken up, it was rushed into engineering, then rushed into production and then rushed to launch.
What occurred once the phone started making its way into the hands of reviewers is that all the problems that stem from hurriedly developed and manufactured products happened.
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. pic.twitter.com/G0OHj3DQHw
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) April 17, 2019
It broke to the extent that remembering Samsung also had a phone that was banned from being taken on planes because it had a tendency to detonate was not something dragged into the discussion. That’s how much it broke.
Things weren’t helped with the apparent inclusion in the design of a screen covering that bore a remarkable resemblance to the plastic we are all used to peeling off a shiny new device.
It wasn’t long before Samsung pulled the device and said they were going to investigate the issues before re-releasing a new version they promised would work.
While they did not specify when, exactly, that would be the common thinking was it would be June. That month was picked because….well because someone obviously needed to file and that seemed like a good enough timeframe.
June is now around the corner, and today Gizmodo reports that a Korean story (which I’m now talking about because there is nothing like a news-centipede) alleges the June re-release is probably not going to happen.
The reason given is “issues are taking longer to rectify than originally thought.”
I suspect the only people who thought what was absolutely a fundamental problem with the device would take a month or so to fix, manufacture and huge scale and ship around the world were either the Samsung marketing people or journalists annoyed they didn’t get an original review unit.
The problems with the Galaxy Fold are pretty deep.
The whole folding screen thing is still brand new. It would be the first mass-manufactured device I can think of to feature it, and having it in such a heavy duty thing like a phone is a bold choice (remember, phones are abused to a frightening extent).
The rest of the device reeked of being rushed – just take a look through the ifixit review (which is only available on the Wayback Machine as they pulled it from their site because reasons). It details a litany of bad decisions that meant the phone was going to be a colossal failure once let loose in the wilds of the general public.
The Galaxy Fold is going to disappear. I am going to commit to paper the notion that it will never go on sale.
It’s going to join the Apple AirPower (remember that?) in the pantheon of “THE FUTURE….oh…wait” products.
Are we going to miss it? Of course not. The consumer tech world has horrifically short memories (you had forgotten about the AirPower, hadn’t you?) and the next new shiny thing is just around the corner.
Hell, I’m sure someone is going to have a phone that you’ll be able to fold into an origami crane at CES next year. Not that we really need that, either.