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AT&T, T-Mobile Close Galaxy Fold Hopes as Samsung Delays Folding Phone

Mike Dano
4/22/2019
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Samsung will delay the release of its folding smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, by at least a month, according to the Wall Street Journal. The phone had been scheduled to hit US store shelves this Friday, but early reviews of the device found a large number of glitches and problems.

AT&T and T-Mobile had hyped the device, with T-Mobile offering to pair the gadget with a set of free wireless headphones. Verizon and Sprint have not announced plans to sell the Galaxy Fold.

The Fold was potentially positioned to usher in a new era of foldable smartphones -- albeit at an initial eye-watering price of almost $2,000. Nonetheless, any kind of innovation in the smartphone industry -- one that has been slowing down dramatically in recent years -- is likely to excite the world's wireless network operators with the prospect of renewed smartphone interest among potential customers. Although the activation of a new smartphone doesn't necessarily lead to a significant increase in operators' revenues, new smartphone launches can create a "switching opportunity" where customers opt to change their wireless provider when they purchase a new phone.

But that's clearly not going to happen Friday with Samsung's Galaxy Fold. According to the WSJ, Samsung is investigating widespread reports among reviewers of various problems with the Fold, including flickering screens, problems with the device's hinge, and users unknowingly removing part of the screen because it looks like an unnecessary protective cover.

"We are not your beta testers," reads the WSJ review of the phone.

To be clear, Samsung isn't the only phone maker chasing the folding-phone opportunity. Huawei, Oppo and Xiaomi are among the companies that have hinted at folding phone plans, with the Huawei Mate X folding smartphone scheduled for a launch this fall. Thus, even with a delay, it appears Samsung will likely retain a comfortable lead on rivals in the US folding smartphone market.

Moreover, Samsung likely doesn't want to relive its Galaxy Note 7 disaster, when it was forced to recall that phone two years ago amid a variety of reports that it would spontaneously catch fire.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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