Tech

Samsung's $2,000 folding phone launches after months of delays, but it might still be too delicate and break

Key Points
  • Samsung's Galaxy Fold goes on sale in the U.S.
  • It comes with lots of warnings, so many that it seems like you should be afraid to use the phone at all.
  • One test unit has already broken, despite Samsung's changes to fix problems that caused the screen to malfunction ahead of its original launch date last spring.
Samsung's Galaxy Fold
CNBC's Elizabeth Schulze

Samsung's Galaxy Fold has finally launched in the United States after months of delay to fix an earlier version.

It's available unlocked from select Samsung and Best Buy Stores and from AT&T.

The phone was supposed to be released in April, but the first version broke easily.

It's tough to recommend buying the Galaxy Fold, even after Samsung made improvements to keep it from breaking. The Fold now comes with plenty of warnings telling you to treat the device gently. But luxury product or not, you should expect to be able to use a phone like a phone, and a lot of Samsung's warnings include things many people end up doing to their phones on a daily basis. In fact, one early reviewer's device has already been damaged.

TechCrunch found this week that its new Galaxy Fold review unit broke after just a day, with damaged pixels under the primary folding display after what seems to be normal use. The site says its user may have pushed the screen too hard, causing damage to it. Samsung has a reminder when you turn on the Galaxy Fold that warns not to do this, which seems silly. You should be able to use normal force on any screen.

CNBC has the updated Galaxy Fold, too, and it comes with a lot of paperwork and on-screen warnings that Samsung hopes will will make it harder for consumers to accidentally damage the phone. And you should pay attention, since it still seems too delicate.

Here's a picture:

The new warning screen on the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
Todd Haselton | CNBC

It says: "Avoid pressing hard on the screen. Tap lightly to keep it safe." It suggests keeping the phone away from magnets, getting any water or dust near it, which means even things like loose dust in your pocket could get into the hinge and cause damage, despite new protectors to help prevent that from happening as easily as before. You can't even use a screen protector.

There's a new piece of plastic on the screen with warnings, too. You can peel this one off:

"Do not press the screen with a hard or sharp object, such as a pen or fingernail or apply excessive pressure," it says.

I like the new warnings telling people to be gentle, but I also think you should be comfortable using a $1,980 phone without fear that normal use is going to break it. If you have problems, Samsung has a new concierge service that can help you replace the screen once for $149. After that, the rest is on you. And you might have to wait a few days for the phone to be repaired if Samsung or one of its partners can't do it same day.

Samsung has made it clear in briefings with the press that you need to be super careful with the Galaxy Fold. But I have a new iPhone 11 Pro Max that costs almost $1,500 fully loaded and don't have to worry about pressing the screen too hard, dropping it in water or using it normally. It doesn't fold, so maybe it's not the future of phones, but that's a trade-off I'm willing to make for now.

Samsung's Galaxy Fold
CNBC's Elizabeth Schulze

The Galaxy Fold is a nice phone. I get that you might want one to be the first with a folding screen. It's fun to have something that works like a regular device and then opens up to a 7-inch tablet. I wish there was a way to prop it up, though. I had to hold it on the plane, for example, instead of using a stand, as I do with an iPhone or iPad. I'm also glad Samsung is pushing forward with folding screens, which one day may be the future.

But the future hasn't arrived yet. I don't recommend you buy it.

VIDEO0:3300:33
We tried to review the new Samsung Galaxy Fold — but it broke after two days