The Galaxy Fold has been the subject of some controversy arising out of its design and the shape that it shipped in, both to preorder customers and reviewers. Simply put, Samsung's folding phone has been breaking. In some cases, the wounds are self-inflicted, to an extent. But there does appear to be an actual design flaw, which a thorough teardown potentially sheds some light on.
One of the issues with the Galaxy Fold is what some have mistaken to be a removable protective film on the display. Peeling it off does irreversible damage to the screen, as some reviewers found out the unfortunate way. However, that has not been the sole cause of frustration. In other cases, the phone is breaking early, and in at least one instance, there is a report of a foreign material working its way under the review unit where it pierced the OLED display.
The situation is so bad that Samsung has delayed the launch of the Galaxy Fold in China while it investigates. So, what's really going on? Well, the folks at iFixIt tore into the Galaxy Fold to get a closer look.
One of the challenges in cracking open the Galaxy Fold is that it has "lots of potential entry points—and not the good kind." Due to the folding nature of the phone, there is a small, 7mm gap where the two halves meet. Should something accidentally wedge itself into the gap, "it's curtains for the screen."
"When closed, the screen is protected—but the spine is flanked by massive gaps that our opening picks hop right into. These gaps are less likely to cause immediate screen damage, but will definitely attract dirt," iFixit says.
On the surface, it appears that Samsung has more work to do before the Galaxy Fold is ready for prime time. The situation also highlights the challenge in introducing a new form factor, particularly a flexible one.
"It's been a while since we've seen a phone with this many gaps, with the industry trending away from moving parts and towards sealed slabs. It'll be interesting to see how future folding designs overcome these weaknesses," the teardown gurus noted.
As with most modern handsets, the Galaxy Fold is a challenge to open and repair. As it pertains to that, we always take interest in how feasible it is to replace the battery, because that is probably the most common reason for wanting to open a phone. In this case, it's difficult. Opening the Galaxy Fold is not easy, and once you get to the pair of batteries inside, you'll find "way too much glue."
That said, they can be removed, it just takes a lot of work, along with "isopropyl alcohol and a lot of swearing." Of course, the use of solvent risks damaging the display.
In the end, the Galaxy Fold scored a 2 out of 10 on the Repairability meter. It gained brownie points for only requiring a single Phillips screwdriver to remove all of the screws, and all of the components are modular (meaning they can be changed independently). However, it also lost points for several reasons, such as the mechanics involved in the folding design being "likely to wear over time, causing stress to the hinges and display."
Images courtesy of iFixit