Update: News is coming in that Samsung might not have sold a million units of the Galaxy Fold after all. We are waiting for official confirmation in this regard. That said, even half a million units would be an impressive figure, given the price of the product and its initial travails. Though it would not really be quite in the league of one million. We will keep you updated in this regard.
It unfolded badly.
It was criticized.
It went back.
It came back.
It sold a million units.
That’s the story of the Samsung Galaxy Fold. The device which many had predicted would kick start a foldable revolution got off to the worst start possible when it was first launched earlier this year. Reviewer after reviewer ripped into the device – some did so literally, peeling off the display itself by mistake because it seemed so flimsy. Nothing seemed to be going right for the foldable display pioneer – it was not well designed, it had a crease down the middle and even its interface took a hammering. In short, it was handed those three letters product managers have nightmares about.
DOA. (Dead on Arrival)
That should have been the end of the Galaxy Fold. Fast forward to today, however, and the device has sold over a million units. That might not sound too many when one considers the sort of numbers the iPhone and its own cousins, the S10 series have run-up, but then consider the fact that this was a device that was a polished prototype at best. Consider the fact that it came off a truckload of negative coverage. Consider the fact that it was perhaps the least mainstream of all phones released this year.
Last but not least: consider the fact that the Galaxy Fold cost almost two thousand dollars.
Let’s stay with that point for a while now. A million units at around two thousand dollars add up to revenues of two billion dollars. That’s in the vicinity of what The Avengers: Infinity War made all over the world with rave reviews, crazy levels of hype, and an array of superstars. Oh, and WITHOUT a first version of the film that crashed and burned!
Samsung is becoming an expert at surviving disasters that would have rattled lesser brands. A few years ago, a series of exploding Galaxy Note devices had it on the ropes, but today the Galaxy Note is back to being one of the world’s favorite Android flagships. In that case, Samsung had perhaps taken a bit too long to withdraw the faulty device, but in the case of the Fold, it moved swiftly. It not only withdrew the devices but did not try to faff its way out of the crisis. Instead, the brand worked on improving the Fold and fixing some of the errors that had plagued its first edition. Most importantly, it did not try to build any hype around the second coming of the device.
When the Galaxy Fold made its second appearance, it, therefore, came almost as a bit of a surprise to some, who had thought that it had been consigned to the tech rubbish dump. What’s more, this time there was not much hype. Indeed, if anything, Samsung was careful to play down any extravagant expectations people would have of the device, placing a number of warnings on the device about its use, and exhorting experts to be careful while using it. Unlike the first Fold which had come out with all guns blazing, claiming to change our world, the second almost admitted from the outset that it was a delicate darling and needed careful handling. This cleverly reduced expectations on the one front which was the device’s Achilles Heel – its build, which remained on the fragile side. It resulted in most reviewers being more forgiving in general as well.
It was not all smooth sailing, though. Some reviewers were miffed that in many cases, the brand also limited the time reviewers would get to spend with the device (sometimes to as little as a couple of days – for the record, most reviewers take 10-14 days to review a high-end device), a move that was seen by some as an attempt to ensure that no reviewer got to know the device too well, but which the brand’s executives insisted was because of a paucity of units of a very expensive device. Whatever the truth, the fact is that many did not object to this restriction.
All in all, media coverage of the Fold in its second coming was largely favorable – many pundits did not even fuss about the crease down the middle of the device when it was opened. It was treated as a super expensive prototype that was available for sale, rather than as a finished product. Which is perhaps how it should have been treated all along. Samsung’s decision to withdraw the Fold from the market the first time around also had another unexpected benefit – it deterred many of its competitors from coming out with their own foldable devices, thus leaving the field relatively open. As a result, the Galaxy Fold did not have any real competition to go up against even when it was re-released a few months after its disastrous debut. Which again resulted in the media being more patient with it.
Of course, all this has resulted in more than a million people using the Galaxy Fold today. This is a staggering achievement for a device that not only had a disastrous opening but which even the most positive reviewers have insisted is still not quite the finished product. There were many who had insisted that the product was too expensive and buggy and would not have many takers. But then they had said that about the Moto RAZR and the iPhone too (I was one of them, and have still not got all the egg off my face). It is too early to predict whether the Galaxy Fold will become as iconic a device as those two worthies, or even if it will unleash a future full of foldables. But what we do know is that thanks to some very good engineering, and some even better marketing from Samsung, it has made one of the most amazing comebacks in recent tech history.
And put many tech pundits who wrote it off altogether in the category of Jon Snow.
They know nothing.