Tech

The newest folding phones from Samsung and Motorola are already breaking and attracting scratches

Key Points
  • YouTube channel JerryRigEverything showed the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip display is as strong as plastic, not glass as advertised.
  • The Motorola RAZR is already breaking, with one reviewer's screen completely separating from the phone's body.
  • Maybe you shouldn't buy a folding phone yet.
Samsung's new foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Z Flip.
Ryan Browne | CNBC

Two new phones with folding displays, the $1,380 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip and the $1,500 Motorola RAZR, launched in recent weeks, and people already have complaints about them.

It seems like a repeat of what we went through nearly a year ago, when Samsung seeded the Galaxy Fold to reviewers and early units broke. The phone was delayed for five months while Samsung worked on a solution, but the launch seems to have been fine after the company made changes to the hinge and screen.

But the latest foldable phones are having issues of their own. Here's what's going on.

Samsung's Galaxy Z Flip screen seems to be plastic, not glass as advertised

Over the weekend, YouTube channel JerryRigEverything called into question Samsung's claims that the new Galaxy Z Flip has a glass display.

In a hardness test, JerryRigEverything found that Samsung's screen scratches like plastic and wasn't as hard or resistant to damage as glass. But, during a press conference in San Francisco last week, Samsung said the phone has a first-of-its-kind folding glass display, marketed as "Ultra Thin Glass," or UTG for short.

Those claims about glass construction seemed to quell concerns that the screen would be as prone to damage as the original Galaxy Fold, though JerryRigEverything shows in his video that even a fingernail can permanently dent the screen, just like on Samsung's first folding phone.

After JerryRigEverything posted its video, Samsung warned in a statement that its new folding display should be handled with care.

"Samsung's first-of-its-kind UTG technology is different from other Galaxy flagship devices," Samsung told CNBC. "While the display does bend, it should be handled with care. Also, Galaxy Z Flip has a protective layer on top of the UTG similar to Galaxy Fold."

You can watch the JerryRigEverything video here:

One person who said he bought the Galaxy Z Flip posted a picture of damage across the fold of the screen. He said the crack occurred when he opened the phone:

CNBC has a Galaxy Z Flip. The screen feels more sturdy than the Galaxy Fold, which felt flimsy. CNBC's first Galaxy Fold review unit broke when we tested it. That hasn't happened with the Galaxy Z Flip.

The Z Flip comes with a warning similar to that of the Galaxy Fold, with both a sticker on the screen and a start-up warning that tells users to "avoid pressing hard on the screen or the front camera lens" and to make sure there's nothing on the screen when you fold it closed. Samsung offers a one-time screen replacement for $119 if owners have a problem.

Samsung also told CNBC that it will offer a free screen protector for Z Flip owners at Samsung retail locations or by mail. Samsung didn't explain why that additional screen protector isn't included with the phone out of the box, though.

The Motorola RAZR is already breaking

Motorola Razr with folding display
Motorola

Meanwhile, the Motorola RAZR, which also has a foldable display, is also breaking.

Tech website Input said its new Motorola RAZR's screen is already separating from the body and is completely damaged after only a few days of use. The site said it doesn't know how the damage occurred, but it posted several images showing the display ripping off the frame of the phone, which suggests quality control issues around the border and hinge of the RAZR.

"We have full confidence in razr's display, and do not expect consumers to experience display peeling as a result of normal use," a Motorola spokesperson told CNBC. "If consumers experience this issue, and the device has not endured customer abuse or misuse, it will be covered by our warranty."

Maybe don't buy a folding phone yet

All of this may explain why both Motorola and Samsung were wary of sharing their new devices with tech reviewers. Motorola didn't send test samples out until after the phone was already available to consumers, a sign that it wasn't confident in the phone.

Samsung is only letting testers review the Z Flip for 24 hours. It says it's due to limited supply. CNBC bought a Galaxy Z Flip to test, however, and a review is coming.

While CNBC hasn't had any problems with the Galaxy Z Flip, it's clear that the screen isn't as strong as Samsung's "ultra thin glass" marketing suggests it is. YouTuber JerryRigEverything said the display might have glass elements but proved that it still scratches and damages as easily as plastic.

The issues with the Motorola RAZR are a bit more serious. The screen shouldn't separate from the phone. It's not known how widespread this problem is but, even before Input reported its problems, most reviewers didn't like the phone anyway.

Until folding phones have durable glass displays that don't damage easily, or show us why they're better than cheaper phones that don't fold, you shouldn't buy one.

VIDEO1:3501:35
Samsung reveals its newest folding phone