The Samsung Galaxy Fold saga has felt like a bad Kickstarter
Samsung's total lack of communication with actual customers is frustrating
Samsung wowed the tech world when it unveiled its first foldable smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Fold, on February 20th, 2019. This announcement took place during the crowded Samsung Unpacked event which also featured the Galaxy S10 family. The Galaxy Fold stole a lot of thunder from the Galaxy S10, but that’s not too surprising since the Galaxy S10 is more of Samsung catching up with the pack while the Galaxy Fold is promised to be the future of mobile technology: a phone that can transform into a tablet. Unfortunately, the ensuing drama in the months since the Galaxy Fold teaser has squashed a lot of the hype. Although a new report suggests the Galaxy Fold may finally be ready for launch, we, the customers who are actually lining up to shell out thousands of dollars, have heard nothing from Samsung.
Like many failed Kickstarters, the Galaxy Fold launch delay has made the product feel too good to be true. With money on the line, people have been left out in the cold waiting for updates on a product that Samsung overpromised and underdelivered.
During Unpacked, I was sitting at Samsung 837 in New York City. Everyone was in awe looking at the two-story display, staring at the magnificent new technology being announced. It looked insanely cool. You could hear the murmurs and the occasional “I’m totally going to buy that.” That was until they announced the price. As soon as the price of $1,980 was shown on stage, you could hear a very loud gasp as most people were instantly put off of the product. Then they announced the April 26th shipping date, and we all wondered how it would be ready by then.
Fast forward to April 12th: The day pre-registration for the Galaxy Fold opened. Those who had decided over those past 51 days that they wanted to pre-order the product could just register to pre-order. I did it. Then on April 14th, pre-orders actually opened. The 9,045 people who had registered a few days before rushed to put $2,000 down. I was one of those people yet again. Samsung ran out of inventory for pre-orders pretty quickly. There was more hype for the Galaxy Fold than even Samsung expected.
This leads us to April 15th, the day a bunch of YouTubers and other tech blogs got access to the Galaxy Fold. Essentially, everyone loved the Fold. As a potential owner, I watched almost every video and read every article about the Fold. There were very few negative things these YouTubers and journalists had said about it.
Unfortunately, the glowing reviews only lasted 2 days. On April 17th, multiple journalists reported that their Galaxy Folds were broken. A total of 5 reported cases hit the Internet on the same day. This lead to panic among those Fold pre-orderers, including me. The question was: What would Samsung do about it?
Samsung was silent about the fate of the Galaxy Fold just until 4 days before it was supposed to ship. On April 22nd, Samsung officially delayed the Galaxy Fold. They sent an email out to everyone who pre-ordered the device telling them that the Galaxy Fold was being delayed and that they’ll “update [them] with more specific shipping information in two weeks.”
So we waited those two long weeks, just like everyone who waited after an ominous Kickstarter update. On May 6th, two weeks later, we received the promised email. In this email, which was even more hopeless than the last, Samsung said they didn’t know what was wrong yet but that they were working on a fix. They didn’t give any “specific shipping information,” as they had promised two weeks earlier, or any information about what was wrong with the device. At the same time, they decided to mention that all orders would be automatically canceled on May 31st unless you manually accepted the order and acknowledged that it might not ship by then. Samsung says this was due to U.S. law, so that’s not something I will hold against them.
Since that May 6th email, Samsung has been silent. There have been quotes from the occasional Samsung executive here and there, but those don’t count in my opinion. The only emails that count are the ones that Samsung sends to everyone who preordered the device. The lack of communication is an insult to loyal customers who are willing to spend thousands of dollars on their products.
A bad Kickstarter is generally accepted to be a campaign where the project promises some futuristic — almost impossible — technology but never delivers. The project is usually incredibly expensive to boot. Projects like these can sometimes get unspecified “problems in manufacturing” that cause delays. The creators post an update saying it’s being worked on and to expect another update soon. Months later, no new update comes. The backers email, comment, and tweet at the creators asking what’s happening with their product and there is no response. Sound familiar?
This is similar to what happened with the Galaxy Fold. It promised a futuristic foldable display, a very expensive one at that, suffered from a big design setback, and is now stuck in a lengthy delay. We haven’t heard from Samsung in an official capacity in almost two months. The whole situation has felt like a bad Kickstarter.
There is one huge difference between the Galaxy Fold and any bad Kickstarter, though. We know Samsung is actually working on it and they have the resources to fix it. The CEO of Samsung, DJ Koh, even hosted a round table for some journalists and confirmed they are testing around 2,000 different prototypes. Samsung admitted they pushed the device out before it was ready. That’s obvious. Now, there are reliable rumors from Bloomberg that say Samsung is even ready to start production.
Updates have been trickling out from various sources these last few months, but Samsung has been quietly ignoring the people who actually purchased the device. That is where my entire problem with how Samsung is handling the Galaxy Fold situation comes up. They are treating the people who actually are interested in buying it, and those who bought it, the worst. They are telling a small group of journalists that the Galaxy Fold is being worked on, but have been silent in updating their core supporters.
Samsung, if you somehow have this editorial come across your inbox, I have a few ways for you to fix this situation. First, please send an email to everyone who kept their pre-order. Give us a status update about what you are doing to fix the device. Second, offer us regular updates on the progress, and if there are any breakthroughs in fixing the device. Third, apologize for the awful communication you have been giving your best customers. Having spoken to a few other people who ordered the Galaxy Fold, this is all we really want.
Communication is key in situations like this. The lack of communication is really hurting Samsung’s brand and loyalty from avid Samsung fans like myself. Two months without so much as an email is something you expect from bad Kickstarter campaigns, not major companies like Samsung.