Samsung’s foldable phone set for launch after delay

The Samsung Galaxy Fold phone is shown on a screen at Samsung Electronics’ Unpacked event in San Francisco, California, US, in February
The Samsung Galaxy Fold phone is shown on a screen at Samsung Electronics’ Unpacked event in San Francisco, California, US, in February
Image: STEPHEN NELLIS/REUTERS

Tech giant Samsung will launch its hotly anticipated first foldable smartphone on Friday, months after faulty screens forced an embarrassing delay of its release.

The world’s largest smartphone maker spent nearly eight years developing the Galaxy Fold, but had to hold its launch in April after reviewers reported screen problems within days of use.

It was a major setback for the firm, which was hoping to spark demand for its high-end phones with the launch of the $2,000 (about R29,600) device, with profits plunging in recent quarters in the face of a weakened market and strong competition from Chinese rivals.

After months of “refining” the Galaxy Fold – which is ready for use on high-speed 5G networks in some markets – Samsung said it would release the smartphone in South Korea on Friday, followed by select countries including the US, Germany and France.

Galaxy Fold users would also be offered a plan which would see Samsung cover 70% of the cost of screen repair once within a year of use.

Samsung Electronics shares closed up 3.6% in Seoul.

The Galaxy Fold has been promoted as the “world's first foldable smartphone”, while rivals such as China’s Huawei have been racing to bring similar devices to market.

Samsung has a history of setbacks with major products, most notably a worldwide recall of its Galaxy Note 7 devices in 2016 over exploding batteries, which hurt its reputation.

The firm has also been caught up in the intensifying trade war between Japan and South Korea stemming from World War 2 disputes.

The row saw Tokyo impose tough restrictions on exports crucial to South Korean tech giants in July, and Samsung vicechair Lee Jae-yong has visited Tokyo to secure materials.

Analysts have said the trade dispute will affect the delivery of Samsung products, including the Galaxy Fold as it relies on a chemical film produced by Japan firm Sumitomo Chemical.

Lee faces a retrial over his role in a major corruption scandal that brought down former president Park Geun-hye.

He was jailed for five years in 2017 on multiple convictions including bribery, which was reduced to a suspended sentence on appeal, only for the Supreme Court to order a retrial in August.

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