Nobody is allowed to touch the Galaxy Fold at MWC, and that’s concerning

do not touch the samsung galaxy fold glass case mwc 30423
Despite only two months away from release, Samsung didn’t have a hands-on model of the Galaxy Fold available for testing at Mobile World Congress. Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We get it, Samsung. Intrigue builds anticipation, and when manipulated correctly, this can quickly turn into feverish excitement. Exactly what you need for a new premium gadget these days, if you’re going to want to sell more than a few dozen.

If that’s what Samsung’s attempting to do with the Galaxy Fold, by not letting any attendees of the international launch event on Feb. 20 or the tens of thousands at Mobile World Congress touch or use it, then we’ve got some bad news. It’s not building anticipation. It’s making many think the Galaxy Fold either isn’t ready, isn’t very good, or worse, that Samsung’s regretting the launch entirely.

No touching

Samsung faces serious rivalry from Huawei at the moment, and the raft of new devices launched at Galaxy Unpacked 2019 are all warriors in the fight. Except the star of the show is still behind glass, or in the hands of far-away executives. A surprisingly large amount of journalists and industry types — although, in fairness, not all and not the general public either — at MWC have held and briefly used the Huawei Mate X, and the vast majority are singing its praises. Huawei is likely doubled over (or should that be folded over?) in pain from laughing so hard.

What’s Samsung doing in response to this? A preview session to see products at Samsung’s MWC booth suggested the chance to hold and feel the Galaxy Fold. This would be Samsung responding to Huawei’s bullishness, we thought. Sure enough, the Galaxy Fold was there — behind glass, in cases filled with mirrors to make photographing it an almost impossible task.

This isn’t a prototype due in 2020 we’re talking about here. It’s going to be released on April 26, and if it’s not in a fit state to be handled now, then we question whether it will be ready for the public in about two months time.

Huawei challenges

Huawei CEO Richard Yu talked to Digital Trends and other select journalists during an interview about the Mate X, foldable smartphones, and the timing of recent announcements. He didn’t hold back, initially commenting on the ‘no touching’ culture and concerns that none of the folding smartphones are ready yet.

“The unveiling of Galaxy Fold was super exciting, and we’ll have more to share at launch.”

“You can see this [the Mate X] is a real phone. I’ve been using it for many days. The others? I don’t know, because they are not ready for commercial [launch]? They heard we were launching, so they hurried to launch ahead of us. To be first”

Huawei has been working on the Mate X for three years, according to Yu, while Samsung has been working on folding smartphones for nearly eight. It’s very hard to believe it hasn’t reached a stage where the phone is in acceptable enough shape for a demo or two by now. We don’t have those reservations about the Mate X, as we’ve used the device and it feels polished and mostly complete.

“We could sell a 4G version [of the Mate X] today,” Yu said, rubbing salt in various open wounds. “But we need more time to guarantee 5G network operation.”

In case you weren’t aware, Huawei’s Mate X supports 5G, just like Samsung’s Galaxy Fold 5G as well.

Why it matters

Leaving aside missing the chance to wow thousands of industry professionals with a brand new device at MWC 2019, creating additional buzz and mitigating the impact of Huawei’s brazen (and successful) challenge, why does it matter if the Galaxy Fold is shy? It has to do with confidence.

The Galaxy Fold is not a prototype. It’s a real, $1,980 product that goes on sale at the end of April.

If you’re considering spending $2,000 on a first-generation gadget, you want to know if it’s money at least vaguely well spent. When the company that makes it doesn’t show it all off in a way you’d expect, it doesn’t display any confidence in the product — our own confidence is quickly eroded.

The media matters too. Articles about foldable smartphones — one of the biggest trends at MWC 2019 — will all add the disclaimer that no-one has used the Galaxy Fold yet, which changes its shape from foldable phone to massive question mark. Samsung doesn’t have to let anyone use the Fold. But someone is going to on April 26, so why not now? It could also be fabulous, and our over-analyzation just needless worry. But why hide something fabulous away? Why not let us experience how fabulous it is for ourselves. After all, Huawei has.

An MWC trend

It’s not just Samsung either. There are other unusable foldable prototypes hanging around at MWC, and even unusable 5G devices and wearables. But most are clearly described as prototypes, so we don’t expect to use them, and we’d take that into consideration should we have the chance to do so anyway. The Galaxy Fold is not a prototype. It’s a real, $1,980 product that goes on sale at the end of April.

Samsung Galaxy Fold behind a glass case at Mobile World Congress
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

If this level of coyness continues until launch, which Samsung itself stated it would, it’s going to get embarrassing. If it sounds like I’m badgering Samsung, I am. It has one of the most interesting new devices we’ve seen in years sitting right there, has attached a very high price tag to it, has spent years and years working on it, is watching its closest competitor show off its own foldable smartphone — yet is still holding back.

Why? We don’t know. But the behaviour makes us fear the worst, and it should you as well. Just hand it over, Samsung, and prove there’s nothing to hide.

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