Samsung’s new foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Z Flip.
Ryan Browne | CNBC
It seems like a repeat of what we went through nearly a year ago, when Samsung seeded the Galaxy Fold to reviewers and early units broke. The phone was delayed for five months while Samsung worked on a solution, but the launch seems to have been fine after it made changes to the hinge and screen.
But the latest foldable phones are having issues of their own. Here’s what’s going on.
Samsung’s Galaxy Z Flip screen seems to be plastic, not glass as advertised
Over the weekend, YouTube channel JerryRigEverything called into question Samsung’s claims that the new Galaxy Z Flip has a glass display.
In a hardness test, JerryRigEverything found that Samsung’s screen scratches like plastic and wasn’t as hard or resistant to damage as glass. But, during a press conference in San Francisco last week, Samsung said the phone has a first-of-its-kind folding glass display, marketed as “Ultra Thin Glass,” or UTG for short.
Those claims about glass construction seemed to quell concerns that the screen would be as prone to damage as the original Galaxy Fold, though JerryRigEverything shows in his video that even a fingernail can permanently dent the screen, just like on Samsung’s first folding phone.
After JerryRigEverything posted its video, Samsung warned in a statement that its new folding display should be handled with care.
“Samsung’s first-of-its-kind UTG technology is different from other Galaxy flagship devices,” Samsung told CNBC. “While the display does bend, it should be handled with care. Also, Galaxy Z Flip has a protective layer on top of the UTG similar to Galaxy Fold.”
You can watch the JerryRigEverything video here:
One person who said he bought the Galaxy Z Flip posted a picture of damage across the fold of the screen. He said the crack occurred when he opened the phone:
CNBC has a Galaxy Z Flip. The screen feels more sturdy than the Galaxy Fold, which felt flimsy. CNBC’s first Galaxy Fold review unit broke when we tested it. That hasn’t happened with the Galaxy Z Flip.
The Z Flip comes with a similar warning as the Galaxy Fold, with both a sticker on the screen and a start-up warning that tells users to “avoid pressing hard on the screen or the front camera lens” and to make sure there’s nothing on the screen when you fold it closed. Samsung offers a one-time screen replacement for $119 if owners have a problem.
Samsung also told CNBC that it will offer a free screen protector for Z Flip owners at Samsung retail locations or over the mail. Samsung didn’t explain why that additional screen protector isn’t included with the phone out of the box, though.
The Motorola RAZR is already breaking
Motorola Razr with folding display
Meanwhile, the Motorola RAZR, which also has a foldable display, is also already breaking.
Tech website Input said its new Motorola RAZR’s screen is already separating from the body and is completely damaged after only a few days of use. The site doesn’t know how the damage occurred, but posted several images showing the display ripping off the frame of the phone, which suggests quality control issues around the border and hinge of the RAZR.
Motorola hasn’t commented on the problem.
Maybe don’t buy a folding phone yet
All of this may explain why both Motorola and Samsung were wary to share their new devices with tech reviewers. Motorola didn’t send test samples out until after the phone was already available to consumers, a sign that it wasn’t confident in the phone.
Samsung is only letting testers review the Z Flip for 24 hours. It says it’s due to limited supply. CNBC bought a Galaxy Z Flip to test, however, and a review is coming.
While CNBC hasn’t had any problems with the Galaxy Z Flip, it’s clear that the screen isn’t as strong as Samsung’s “ultra thin glass” marketing suggests it is. YouTuber JerryRigEverything said the display might have glass elements, but proved that it still scratches and damages as easily as plastic.
The issues with the Motorola RAZR are a bit more serious. The screen shouldn’t separate from the phone. It’s not known how widespread this problem is but, even before Input reported its problems, most reviewers didn’t like the phone anyway.
Until folding phones have durable glass displays that don’t damage easily, or show us why they’re better than cheaper phones that don’t fold, you shouldn’t buy one.