Samsung is delaying the release of the $1,980 Galaxy Fold indefinitely.
The foldable hybrid smartphone/tablet had been scheduled to go on sale in the U.S. on Friday. Now Samsung is saying it will reveal a new release date "in a few weeks."
At issue, of course, is the screen breakage reported by a few of the early reviewers who were given devices a week ago.
The design of the Fold appeared initially to be quite a technological achievement: It allows you to transform the device from a chunky 4.6-inch candy bar smartphone into a 7.3-inch tablet, just by unfolding it like an old flip phone.
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But problems quickly emerged.
The display on the unit given to a CNBC reviewer, for example, flickered uncontrollably, causing the device to turn off and completely malfunction.
Other reviewers removed a protective layer that was not meant to be peeled off causing the screen to break – Samsung hadn’t made it clear that this layer was supposed to remain in place.
In working on our review, neither I nor my colleague Eli Blumenthal removed the layer on USA TODAY’s own review unit, and we haven’t encountered the flickering screen or other display issues.
Such issues, however, were serious enough to return the Fold back to the drawing board.
In a statement emailed to USA TODAY, Samsung said, "We recently unveiled a completely new mobile category: a smartphone using multiple new technologies and materials to create a display that is flexible enough to fold. We are encouraged by the excitement around the Galaxy Fold."
"While many reviewers shared with us the vast potential they see, some also showed us how the device needs further improvements that could ensure the best possible user experience."
The company added "to fully evaluate this feedback and run further internal tests, we have decided to delay the release of the Galaxy Fold. ... Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge. There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance."
Samsung said it "will take measures to strengthen the display protection. We will also enhance the guidance on care and use of the display including the protective layer so that our customers get the most out of their Galaxy Fold."
The company also said that customers who pre-ordered the Fold can cancel at any time, and that folks haven't been charged yet anyhow since the devices have not shipped.
Samsung would have had a tough time selling the new device, anyhow, given the near $2,000 sticker shock. Now the question is not only what the impact will be on Samsung, but also on the nascent foldable phone category that had promised to provide a jolt of innovation into a smartphone market that has mostly been stagnant in recent years.
Samsung has been badly bruised in this space before. Less than three years ago, it had to recall three times (and finally discontinue) the Galaxy Note 7 phablet phone, which had batteries that kept catching fire. The episode not only cost Samsung billions of dollars but also led to a public relations nightmare from which it appeared to have finally recovered.
"This decision has to hurt, but it's definitely the right call if it there was a significant chance of high failure rates on pricey phones in the field," says tech analyst Avi Greengart of Techsponential. "However, the good news is that Samsung is taking steps now, before products reach consumers."
For now, though, the Fold fiasco puts Samsung right back in hot water.
Galaxy Fold screen breaking: Samsung has a mess with the nearly $2,000 Galaxy Fold: Screens are breaking, reviewers say
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Samsung delays launch of Galaxy Fold following display issues