Pixel Folds are already breaking, but that’s not the problem

It’s only been a couple of days since Google started shipping Pixel Folds to customers, and already the devices are breaking down. Is it time to panic? Not yet.

The Google Pixel Fold is a $1,800 foldable smartphone similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold series. It has a 7.6-inch display inside that folds in half but has a layer of ultra-thin glass and a plastic shroud on top for some protection.

The first example of a broken Pixel Fold came from Ron Amadeo’s ArsTechnica. Four days later, its review unit malfunctioned due to a microscopic puncture in the display in the area not covered by a plastic screen protector. The OLED panel was still covered in ultra-thin glass, but the exposed area took an unfortunate blow that killed the display.

Beyond that, at least two Pixel Fold customers have had their new foldable devices break after just a day or two. On r/PixelFold, the first story came from u/crazymojo83, who saw their display crack and get worse over time. The panel itself still worked, but that was obviously a big deal for a device that had only come out of the box a few hours earlier.

Today, u/floatingOnTheForth describes a similar situation.

Their Pixel Fold unit was left broken in exactly the same way just one day in ownership, with the same horizontal cracks growing under the screen protector.

So far, that’s two broken Pixel Folds, both not the result of user error. Of course, this is concerning, especially considering that only a limited number of Pixel Folds have shipped so far. But, at the same time, it seems obvious that this was always going to happen.

Foldable phone technology has improved significantly in the few years since Samsung’s first Galaxy Fold, but it still has its drawbacks and weaknesses. After all, how could it not be? We are talking about a screen and glass that folds in half. Leaflets are far more durable than people seem to give them credit for, but the Achilles heel of all of this is that leaflets can break spontaneously and unexpectedly. It is an inherent and known risk of purchasing this new technology.

In 2021, my Galaxy Z Flip 3 review unit broke of its own accord and it was a good reminder that when things go wrong on a foldable, they go wrong. Very wrong.

Thankfully, this is no longer the norm, at least for Samsung’s foldables. The first two generations saw devices broken in considerable numbers despite minimal customers, while the latest generations see fewer reports despite more and more people purchasing these devices. It still happens, of course, but not as frequently.

Broken Samsung Foldables and Pixel Folds will always have a tougher impact online because, after all, someone spent the bulk of $2,000 on a device that’s now broken and not necessarily their fault.

Pixel Fold will break. They were always going to break, but the appearance of a couple of broken devices doesn’t mean there’s a big deal Still. That may change, but let’s not sound the alarm just yet. Greater availability, especially at retail, will be the real turning point of this story.

Instead, the more immediate problem will come down to how Google handles the situation. And this is where things get complicated. Samsung had already been less than great at dealing with broken leaflets. In 2020, Ryan Whitwham, the former reviews editor of Android policedetailed a horror story of a lost shipment and poor customer service at Samsung while trying to replace a Galaxy Z Fold 2, and he wasn’t alone there.

In the case of the Pixel Fold, there’s an uphill battle.

Google is notorious for poor customer support, with examples of customers relegated to Reddit for help, and these issues date back to the very first Pixel. And, with the Pixel Fold, it doesn’t seem to be much different. u/floatingOnTheForth explains that Google Support somehow shipped a replacement device to the wrong address (in a different state) and claimed it couldn’t be changed. And this is for a client who had two folds on his credit card, totaling nearly $4,000.

Google must be better at handling problems on the Pixel Fold than anyone else.

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