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Samsung exec on the Galaxy Fold debacle: ‘It was embarrassing’

Published Jul 1st, 2019 2:30PM EDT
Samsung Galaxy Fold

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Samsung Electronics CEO DJ Koh didn’t hold anything back during a gathering of journalists in South Korea at the end of last week at which he said what we were all thinking when Samsung had to nix the launch of the Galaxy Fold back in April at the eleventh hour.

“It was embarrassing,” he said, according to one account of the meeting. A pointed admission of failure you rarely see from corporate executives who often blame everything they can when a product like the Fold turns out to be a piece of garbage.

“I pushed it through before it was ready,” he continued. “I do admit I missed something on the foldable phone, but we are in the process of recovery.”

Review units of the Fold, you’ll recall, ended up coming with a slew of problems that quickly manifested themselves for high-profile bloggers and reviewers, leading to Samsung scuttling the launch. Koh, however, is now saying that the company has over the last couple of weeks “defined all of the issues and all of the problems we couldn’t find” before they sent the first iteration of the foldable to reviewers. That’s according to the UK newspaper The Independent’s account of the meeting with journalists, which adds that journalists also pressed him for more specificity around a new launch date that Samsung keeps teasing is coming soon.

“In due course,” Koh said. “Give us a bit more time.”

Another tidbit to come out of the exchange with journalists is Samsung head of global marketing strategy Stephanie Choi’s assertion that the Galaxy Fold’s problems aren’t solely due to the admission from Koh that he rushed it through. According to her, the roots of the problem actually go deeper and can be traced back to a change at Samsung more than a quarter of a century earlier — specifically, to a company restructuring.

A new management initiative led to slogans at the company like “Change Everything” and “Do What You Can’t.” It’s a philosophy that spurred Samsung to go into the handset business in the first place, in addition to dedicating a big chunk of its overall spending to research and development.

“Our brand philosophy is ‘Do what you can’t’,” Choi said. “We make what can’t be made, and do what can’t be done. This (Galaxy Fold failure) is unfortunately sometimes part of this process.”

If you take Samsung at its word, the Galaxy Fold timeline has only been interrupted, not stopped altogether. We’ll have to wait and see if the company makes good on the ambition to give its release another try, kicking off what Samsung no doubt hopes is a new era in the smartphone industry.

At the same time, in line with Choi’s comments, the company is still relentlessly experimenting and kicking around new ideas for smartphone design concepts, no matter how unusual. Check out our report from earlier Monday showing one of the latest to emerge in the wake of the Fold’s failure.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.