Samsung's Galaxy Fold was supposed to be the harbinger of a new era – the era of foldable smartphones. But issues with the early review units that saw the flexible display failing in varied fashions have cast dark clouds over the future of the Galaxy Fold. But what caused the Galaxy Fold's display to malfunction? As per teardown and repair experts at iFixit, there are multiple reasons behind the display blacking out, ranging from inherent vulnerability of OLED panels and faulty product design to an inaccurate testing process and the variable usage pattern among others.
As per a detailed analysis into the Galaxy Fold display fiasco by iFixit, OLED panels are more fragile than their LED counterparts, despite the former being more power efficient and better at colour reproduction. And since the Galaxy Fold employs a flexible OLED panel, it inherits the structural weakness as well. Moreover, OLED panels tend to exhibit complete screen failure rather than localised damage, which means if one region of the OLED panel is broken, it is quite likely to extend to the other regions as well.
iFixit adds that OLED panels are particularly susceptible to oxygen and moisture, which means if they are not sealed well between the glass and the OLED sheet, they remain highly vulnerable to damage. Also, curved OLED screens have been known to be notoriously difficult to repair without damaging them. It appears that the bump beneath the Galaxy Fold's OLED panel in case of some review units was caused due to dust particles that made their way in through the hinge.
Another factor being pointed out for the Galaxy Fold's display issues is the engineering behind the device. When the device is in the unfolded state, there is a noticeable gap at the top and bottom of the hinge, which serves as an open invitation to the accumulation of dust and other harmful materials. “Unless there's some kind of magic membrane in there, dust will absolutely get in the back”, iFixit's Lead Teardown Engineer Sam Lionheart noted.
And since the fold radius is tight and reduces the flex room, it is quite likely that the dust particle will press against the OLED panel when the Galaxy Fold is opened and closed, causing a bump to appear and eventually damaging it. Samsung also accepted that foreign particles found inside the device can affect the display performance. This admission was followed by Samsung delaying the launch date of its highly ambitious product.
Then there is the case with the pre-applied screen protector on the Galaxy Fold, which many reviewers tried to remove and in the process, damaged the screen. As per iFIxit, users ended up applying uneven force on the Galaxy Fold's screen, which might have also played a role in damaging the fragile OLED panel. Samsung had already warned users against ripping off the special protective layer, lest they risk causing damage.
Lastly, there is the wrong testing process. Samsung tested the durability of the Galaxy Fold's flexible OLED panel using robotic hands, which opened and closed the device with the same amount of force exerted at the same spot. But as far as human users go, that is not the case, because different people take different routes when it comes to using the device. Some apply pressure on the display edges, some use just the side frame, and so on.
This also means the amount of pressure applied to different regions of the screen varies from user to user, something Samsung may not have taken into consideration with its robot-assisted testing process. With that being said, Samsung is currently in damage control mode, reportedly retrieving review samples and mulling over a delayed launch date in June to fix the issues before the Galaxy Fold hits the shelves.