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The first deflating report of the Pixel Fold screen failure was pretty rough

The first deflating report of the Pixel Fold screen failure was pretty rough

No hardware launch goes off without a hitch. With early “reviews” (reviewing a device as complex as the Pixel Fold in a week seems like a stretch to me) and hands-on videos on the internet for the Pixel Fold as of yesterday, it seems most reviewers are positive when it comes to Google’s first foldable devices.

It’s not without flaws, sure, and I really resonate with many of the negative aspects brought up in those videos and posts after using the phone for over a week now. But the Pixel Fold is very different than another phone, and the satisfaction and irritation with the device needs more than a week to turn into useful opinions. At least in my case, they do.

Hardware failure is not an opinion

That said, most of us who have been hands-on with this device so far can agree that the hardware feels absolutely top-notch, refined, and incredible in the hand. And until yesterday, I’d at least say that Google seemed to have avoided the obvious hardware pitfall that comes with a curved display. But I should have spoken earlier.

Yesterday after lunch, a well-known tech reviewer – Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica – reported that his Pixel Fold lasted a whopping 4 days before the screen went out on him. And it’s not a small issue related to the screen: the phone is basically a brick at this point.

While it might be tempting to think that Ron is willingly running into the Pixel Fold and breaking it, that’s actually the exact opposite of what he’s describing. In his post, Ron explains that the use of this phone is less than what would be normal, everyday wear and tear:

I did nothing to deserve this. The phone is sitting on my desk as I write this, and I occasionally stop to poke at the screen, take a screenshot, or turn it on and off. It has never been dropped or exposed to a large amount of grit, nor has it gone through the years of normal wear and tear that phones are expected to survive. This is the lightest possible use of a phone, and it still breaks.

via Ars Technica

The possible cause of the injury

He explains that the likely culprit is a small, almost imperceptible gap between the outer layer of the screen and the actual bezel. I didn’t even notice it until my thumbnail ran to the edge of the display, but his point makes sense. Although it’s the smallest gap, it’s an area where the less flexible OLED screen is exposed, and that means the slightest of debris can wreak havoc.

This plastic layer is critical to the safety of the OLED, but it does not extend to the edges. Every company that makes these screens leaves a margin around the perimeter of the display where there is no plastic layer, a raw, exposed OLED panel peeking out at the world. We would normally expect a foldable to break along the crease, where the screen sees the most stress. But mine died because of this exposed OLED gap.

The smallest piece of one thing got in there, and when I closed the display, the pressure on the other side of the display was enough to puncture the OLED panel. It didn’t see or feel anything when the device was turned off, but the display pixels started freaking out. After inspecting the device with a magnifying glass, I think I found where the hole was.

via Ars Technica

A strong warning for consumers

So what does it all mean? Ultimately, I think this is a warning call to potential Pixel Fold buyers. At $1800, it’s a very expensive phone; and while the high price means you usually nitpick the shortcomings of hardware or software that doesn’t meet your high expectations after spending so much money, the reality now is that you may also have to be careful what you can do by accident to make the screen hardware completely failed. And at the end of the day, you don’t have to worry about a device that you take with you everywhere that ends up breaking if you’re careful with it.

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We’ve seen this before with foldable phones and the story here is no different; This time alone it will be very interesting to see how often this happens outside of this one case. On the one hand, it could be a one-off thing that unfortunately happened to someone with an audience to hear about it. On the other hand, it could indicate a hardware flaw that Google somehow missed during the long development period for this phone.

Either way, it’s tough news for a phone that’s just starting to ship to future users. I really hope Google keeps up with the customer service for this device. Their history with retail support and repairs isn’t great, but with a device this expensive, they can’t afford to give consumers a run-around when a repair is warranted.

And if this problem starts to appear here and there, the fear factor of spending this kind of money for a phone that should work under normal circumstances could be very good for the Pixel Fold to recover. I sincerely hope that’s not the case, but I’m also realistic enough about the matter to realize that this is a critical inflection point in the Pixel Fold story moving forward. And we won’t know how it works until more units are in the hands of real users. Here’s hoping things turn out well.

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About the author

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As a seasoned content writer for our company blog, Ann brings a unique blend of creativity, research prowess, and an unwavering commitment to delivering engaging and informative content. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of our target audience, she effortlessly crafts articles that educate, inspire, and captivate our readers.

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