If Foldable Phones Are the Future, Are They Really Built to Last?

The Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Z Fold 4 have arrived with the hefty price tags of $999 and $1,799 respectively, and they’ve made quite a splash—and in our case, also a crunch. The new folding phones have, a little surprisingly, drawn rave reviews, sending talk swirling again that they’re the future of smartphones. Some reviewers, like Digital Trends, went as far as to say that it was “so good, it should be your next phone.” One question remains on everyone’s mind though: “How soon is that foldable screen going to break?”

So what has Samsung done to address this concern in its fourth generation? Let’s find out.

We decided to put the phone through an “accelerated wear and tear simulator”. That is to say we gave it to Sam, Michael, and Jairo and charged them with putting this phone of the future through the wringer right now. They didn’t disappoint. After shaking up the Fold 4 in a bag full of fluorescent unicorn flecks, we opened it up to examine exactly how dustproof the device really is. The crunching of the gears that greeted us when we did seemed to give us an immediate answer.

Opening the Fold revealed that the adhesives and gaskets did a surprisingly good job of keeping our unicorn flecks at bay—we’d have to dig deeper to get to the source of the spine-chilling crunch we heard earlier. Sure enough, the dust had gotten into the folding mechanism and gears, which means this hinges’ days are numbered. That crunching is better understood as a death knell—it’s just a matter of time before the hinge fails and takes the inner screen with it.

We shine a light on the foldables dust problem.

At the end of the day, the protection against dust ingress was improved, but imperfect. Which, in an ordinary phone is to be expected—nothing is perfectly ingress-proof. But when you’ve got this many points for ingress, and that many pieces of precision engineering to protect…well let’s say we’re expecting a bit more from the future of phones.

Arguably the most impactful change is, on its face, a more boring one—it’s an upgrade to the Fold’s insurance plan. As The Verge pointed out, the “service fee” for replacing your foldable screen has been reduced from $249 to $29 (plus tax) if you’re within the 3-year time period stipulated in the insurance contract. Outside of those 3 years? You could pay as much as $499 for a replacement screen.

And let’s not forget the cost of the insurance. The basic package over three years will cost you $396. That’s essentially a total of $425, plus tax for a screen repair! We’re getting awfully close to that $499 figure for a standalone screen replacement. Still, three years’ coverage isn’t terrible, and if you’re accident prone, it’ll only take about two uses before it pays for itself.

But there’s the rub: If you have to replace that screen twice over 3 years after general usage then we’ve got a bigger problem here than the cost of a replacement screen. Either the phone isn’t durable, or the screen replacement is still too expensive. A bit of a catch-22 both for consumers and for Samsung.

Screens aren’t supposed to break just from removing the back cover.

Still, the bottom line is that the cost of a screen replacement has been reduced. We also found that Samsung’s Care+ cover for the Z Fold 4 is now offered through Servify, the Indian device management company, who in turn offers insurance through New York’s Wesco Insurance Company.

So what’s a foldable fan to do? Well, stay away from sand, dust, grit, unicorns with fleas, and anything that may or may not get into the hinge. I’m being overly dramatic here, but you get the picture. This isn’t a phone you can accidentally drop in the sand without repercussions. Heck, this isn’t a phone you can drop at all unless you can afford the cost of replacing those screens, inside and out!

As much as I love the concept, I doubt this phone could survive in my own hands for more than a few months—but your mileage may vary. If you’re on board with the rave reviewers, you’re okay with the high price tag, and with spreading the cost of repairs over 3 years, well, for you, the future of phones might really be foldable.

As for me, I think I’ll stick to my Note 9 for a few more years.

Are you willing to gamble on a foldable for all that screen real estate? Have you fixed a folding screen? Let us know in the comments or on the socials.