Samsung Struggles with Galaxy Fold and Galaxy Wearable App Issues

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2Q 2019 | IN-5473

It has not been a great couple of weeks for Samsung. Just a few days before its Galaxy Fold smartphone was to be released, early access users experienced a number of issues with the device, all related to the foldable screen, a quite important part of this new smartphone’s form factor. If that wasn’t enough, Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app also had troubles communicating with a number of non-Samsung smartphones after an update, with users only seeing a blank white screen. While teething troubles are often expected with new technologies, particularly those as complex as a foldable display, one company experiencing such an onslaught of issues is definitely cause for concern.

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Samsung's Bad News

NEWS


It has not been a great couple of weeks for Samsung. Just a few days before its Galaxy Fold smartphone was to be released, early access users experienced a number of issues with the device, all related to the foldable screen, a quite important part of this new smartphone’s form factor. If that wasn’t enough, Samsung’s Galaxy Wearable app also had troubles communicating with a number of non-Samsung smartphones after an update, with users only seeing a blank white screen. While teething troubles are often expected with new technologies, particularly those as complex as a foldable display, one company experiencing such an onslaught of issues is definitely cause for concern.

Foldable Fails and Wearable Woes

IMPACT


An unknown number of reviewers were provided with the Samsung Galaxy Fold before its release date, some of whom experienced issues in as little as a few hours or days. In some cases, issues were caused by users peeling off the screen’s coating, having thought it was a disposable screen protector. Samsung has promised that it will make it much clearer that this layer is not to be removed, but why was it so easy to do in the first place? In other cases, the screen stopped working after a few hours or days, or started to bulge near its crease, suggesting issues with its hinge design. Samsung could probably do without the adverse publicity, as this isn’t the first time that it has experienced issues with its smartphones, such as the exploding Galaxy Note 7 debacle.

Samsung has since said that it is evaluating what went wrong with the Galaxy Fold, running further tests and taking measures to strengthen the display’s protection. This will delay the launch date of the Galaxy Fold and although there is no timeline for the new release, a date will apparently be announced in the coming weeks. Samsung has been working on flexible technology for eight years, so it’s unclear what it will achieve in that time. With the Galaxy Fold costing just under US$2,000, finding a fix is vital; otherwise, consumers will lose faith in the device and tarnish the company’s brand.

A large number of Samsung Gear and Samsung Galaxy smartwatch owners also recently reported issues with signing into the Galaxy Wearable app on various Android smartphones, including those from Google, OnePlus, Motorola, and Xiaomi, but not from Samsung. These users were faced with a blank white screen when they tried to log into the app. Apparently the issues started a week before the foldable debacle, affecting current customers rather than future ones and meaning a fix was desperately required. Samsung has now issued a fix, presumably a software patch, for the problem, which should mean it no longer affects users. The company has not yet released information about what caused the problem.

How Samsung Will Overcome These Issues

RECOMMENDATIONS


Despite the issues uncovered with the soft release of the Galaxy Fold, Samsung has obviously created a technically advanced device with many benefits. Samsung needs to look into these issues immediately and be clear with the public, particularly to those who have pre-ordered the Galaxy Fold, about the issues’ causes and how they will be fixed and prevented moving forward. Consumers will understandably be concerned about this news, as they were about the exploding Galaxy Note 7s, and their concerns need to be addressed to ensure that this new device, and the form factor as a whole, will be as popular as previously expected. The one good thing to come from this experience is that, because the Galaxy Fold has not yet been publicly released, at least only a minor number of devices have been affected. If these issues occurred after the device had been released, Samsung would have the much harder job of fixing a larger number of smartphones, even if still a relatively small volume compared with its main flagship products.

Other smartphone manufacturers that will be releasing foldable smartphones in the near future should also make sure they are aware of the issues that can arise when they are put into the hands of consumers, and be clear about how they can ensure that similar problems won’t be found in their devices. However, no such issues have yet been found with the already-launched Royole FlexPai smartphone, although this may be related to it using a fold-out rather than a fold-in screen design, which Huawei has also chosen for its soon-to-be-released Mate X. This news could be a major blow to the foldable market before it has even really gotten going, and vendors need to be careful moving forward to ensure that foldable smartphones prove to be a popular product sector in their portfolios.

As the smartphone market is starting to slow, many vendors are experiencing an increase in pressure to differentiate their devices with new, groundbreaking features, notably at the high end, to keep profitability stable. This pressure is also being driven by consumers, who are demanding more from these new, technically advanced models as complacency has crept into the market and iteration, rather than design innovation, has become the norm. This is causing vendors to focus a lot of attention and effort on creating new, innovative technologies and form factors at a fast rate, bringing much needed innovation to device design. However, this can ultimately lead to a number of issues if models are released too early or have not been market tested correctly, which can delay release dates and cause concern among consumers about device reliability. New devices to market should be tested fully and any faults eliminated before they reach consumers to prevent vendors from causing damage to their brands. Samsung must sort out the Galaxy Fold issues quickly, with clear explanations as to their causes, the fix, and a new timeline for release, if it is to minimize damage to its brand as it managed to after the issues with the Galaxy Note 7. The foldable form factor is still expected to be popular, provided that these introductions are successful, without further issues, and provide clear purpose to end users, bringing much needed innovation into device design.

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