Samsung, in spite of managing to become the first major manufacturer to announce a foldable smartphone this spring, is now on course to be the last one to release it, following a string of what at first look like amateurish mistakes that ultimately saw the company promptly delay its first bendable handset mere days after sending it out to reviewers.
As things stand right now, the Galaxy Fold won't be hitting the store shelves until at least June, way later than Samsung originally intended to release it. By then, Huawei will certainly get the Mate X 5G to the market and OPPO might be able to put out its seminal foldable device beforehand as well.
Unsurprisingly, the tech media was quick to smell blood and start taking potshots at the Galaxy Fold, and some subsets of gadget aficionados perusing social media followed suit. Samsung's quality assurance practices and product design decisions have hence been targeted by some heavy criticism in recent days and while a lot of those complaints certainly aren't without basis, are industry watchers jumping the gun by launching them in Samsung's direction so early in the foldable smartphone era? There's no denying the seminal phablet raises a number of user experience concerns, yet it's less clear whether the ever-critical eye of the general public is looking in the right direction, especially seeing how it's once again being guided by sensationalist headlines and edgy opinions served under the guise of media commentary.
Sure, Samsung rushed the now-delayed product so as to be able to claim the title of the first manufacturer to pioneer a consumer-grade handset with a bendable display. However, that doesn't make this situation qualify as a repeat of the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco because its motivation was not monetary in nature, at least not in the short or even medium term. Instead, as the Galaxy Fold is the very definition of a niche product, what Samsung was racing toward in this instance was essentially an advert for the ages, one that your kids and grandkids will be reading about in history books. Does that make its intentions more noble to any degree? Of course not. But it does underline Samsung's overall approach to the Galaxy Fold project, reminding us the firm sees this as nothing but a long-term play, an investment with the potential to eventually lead to tech that it can iterate upon efficiently enough to make money. We're talking years from now, probably no fewer than four or five, and that's an optimistic assessment, backed primarily by the fact Samsung is the world's largest manufacturer of handsets capable of accomplishing things other companies can't on a scale many rivals have a difficult time even imagining.
Yet the Galaxy Fold is being ridiculed like the South Korean chaebol labeled it as the "Galaxy Endgame" and launched it in a cross-promotion with Disney's Marvel in hopes of making it as accessible as the latest Avengers movie. Complaining about design decisions in an experimental device devised to serve as a teaser of things to come and a treat for rich people obsessed with experimental tech seems kind of silly, to say the least.
The main reason behind the Galaxy Fold's April delay is the manner wherein Samsung applied the protective film to the flexible Super AMOLED display of the device; namely, it turns out many "professional" tech reviewers failed to understand the said layer isn't meant to be peeled off. It's almost like Samsung sent the majority of early review units to random YouTubers who saw nothing of its announcement and subsequent hands-on sessions and were just amazed that by some miracle, one of the world's largest conglomerates decided to provide them with a free content generator because one of its marketing people concluded a bunch of generic channels with 5,000-10,000 subscribers were more hip alternatives to (most) people that have been dealing with its hardware for years, professionalism and even reach be damned. Call me bitter but I'm not that sour – I'm still here defending a device that will probably become the worst option among all Samsung smartphones ever made available to the average consumer, and no one is holding a Galaxy Note 7 to my head.
As it turns out, when you send expensive, highly experimental, and fragile gadgets to addresses you received from random Gmail accounts, professionalism shouldn't be too high up on your list of expectations. Sure, it's not like people who unknowingly broke their review units are somehow less capable of handling tech than the average consumer is but established media pros identified those very same problems as well, and most of them did so without obsessively trying to manufacture a scandal. "Experimental phone is experimental" is the headline you could use to replace a massive portion of all currently viewable YouTube videos covering the Galaxy Fold in an extremely negative light. Surprise, surprise, try to assemble an online lynch mob enough times and you may actually provoke a reaction out of some frustrated and underpaid PR intern. Surely no one could have seen that coming?
At this point, you surely find it blatantly obvious that the author of this opinion amazingly has his very own agenda, also known as a prerequisite for forming opinions. I'm not claiming these words are gospel but if you made it so far, here's a brief conclusion to them: regardless of Samsung's new policy on product reviews, the Galaxy Fold was destined for a delay, yet that doesn't mean Samsung did not mishandle its launch campaign. The vicious attacks it's now enduring from scandal merchants will only hurt the foldable smartphone segment in the long run but nothing can change the fact that the technology itself has absolutely amazing potential and is undoubtedly here to stay. You may not be excited by the prospect of folding a tablet in half and carrying it in your pocket but maybe you'd appreciate a 5-inch handset that you can fit inside a wallet? Now add some compatible tech like transparent screens to the mix and suddenly, you're anticipating a future whose possibilities are endless, with the very thought of them inviting that childish curiosity and joy of discovery.
The Galaxy Fold was primarily meant to be the harbinger of that future instead of its enabler but one bad design decision and several PR gambles that didn't pay off was all it took for it to suddenly start being portrayed as a joke, with Samsung now having yet another damage-control task ahead of it. Who'll be having the last laugh, though? Probably not those who approach pioneering technologies desperate for any semblance of controversies as that's a clear-cut path toward getting stuck in the past.