You might remember the first time Samsung released the Galaxy Fold. It didn't go well. Tech reviewers panned the device, which was full of design and manufacturing flaws and clearly wasn't ready for prime time. The company even went after the do-it-yourself repair site, iFixit, over a teardown video that pointed out the phones flaws.
In the aftermath, Samsung's CEO, DJ Koh admitted "It was embarrassing. I pushed it through before it was ready." At the time, I speculated that a foldable phone--of any type--was likely a pointless exercise because the challenges facing the technology were far greater than the apparent demand among consumers for this type of device, however innovative.
Yesterday, however, Samsung announced that it was finally releasing an improved version of the Galaxy Fold. The company will launch the revised foldable smartphone in South Korea on September 6, in the UK on September 18, and with availability in the US to follow sometime later this month (the company did not give a specific date though it is rumored to be September 27).
Samsung Galaxy Fold (5G)-- Safwan AhmedMia (@SuperSaf) September 5, 2019
-Screen protector is now under the bezels
-Protective caps near hinge
-Gap between hinge and body has been minimized
Relaunching on 18 Sept
RRP £1900#ifa19 pic.twitter.com/frH11c79jb
In its official announcement, the company says: "During the past several months, Samsung has been refining the Galaxy Fold to ensure it delivers the best possible experience." And based on early reviews, it appears that the company has at least improved on the previous experience.
Fixing the problem.
For example, the layer of screen protection that appeared to be removable has now been redesigned to extend under the bezel, making it clear it's a part of the device. The gaps where the device opens and folds now features t-caps that fill in the space so that dust or other particles don't end up inside, and the screen itself has been reinforced--which the company says will reduce the appearance of a crease down the center.
While there are plenty of gadget heads talking about those changes, what I actually think is a more important story is how Samsung has managed to re-launch a device that was basically a disaster the first time we saw it. And by disaster, I mean "why would you think this was a good idea and show this mess to anyone?"
But Samsung deserves a lot of credit for learning from that experience and going back to make their product better. Foldable screens are largely untested, and certainly an unproven technology at this point, so Samsung put itself in an extremely tough spot by trying to be first. It clearly missed the mark the first time around, but the device they announced yesterday is a great example of how to recover from an embarrasing failure.
A lesson in handling failure.
This is a great lesson for any business, even if you haven't suffered quite so public a debacle as introducing your most anticipated product, only to find out that it has a giant crease in the center of its state of the art screen. Still, there's a pretty good chance that you've had something go not as you expected. Stay in business long enough and you're going to make mistakes, make a customer mad, or make a product that's really, really bad.
This lesson is for you: Samsung did a great job of owning its mistake, listening to the critics and customers, and going back to the drawing board to fix the product. Instead of getting defensive, they soaked up the feedback and poured it right into the revised product. That's exactly how you should recover from a failure in your business.
I'm still not sure that a foldable smartphone is something anyone is really asking for, but if I'm wrong, and you happen to be in the market for one, Samsung's second take deserves a second look.