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Samsung delays foldable phone's launch after display troubles

Screen needs more work, South Korean company concedes

NEW YORK/SEOUL -- Samsung Electronics' hotly anticipated folding-display smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, will debut later than the originally planned time frame of this week, potentially hindering the company's efforts to turn itself around.

The device "needs further improvements that could ensure the best possible user experience," the company said in a statement Monday.

The Fold's fragility has come under fire recently, with Samsung acknowledging last week that it had received reports of damage to the main display after media reviewers reported flickering screens and distortion after a day or two of use.

"Initial findings from the inspection of reported issues on the display showed that they could be associated with impact on the top and bottom exposed areas of the hinge," Samsung said in Monday's statement. "There was also an instance where substances found inside the device affected the display performance."

The company has positioned the $1,980 device as a phone that unfolds into a tablet, hoping to jump-start its slowing smartphone business.

Samsung plans to announce the new launch date "in the coming weeks," Monday's statement said.

The Fold was originally to feature at launch events in Hong Kong on Tuesday and Shanghai on Wednesday, as well as go on sale Friday in the U.S. As Samsung's first folding-screen smartphone, it will let users stay in the same app whether the phone is closed or open.

Hit by slowing demand for memory chips and display panels, the company warned early this month of a first-quarter operating profit 60% below the year-earlier result. Samsung spent several years developing foldable displays while facing aggressive competition from other smartphone makers. Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies unveiled its own folding smartphone this February.

Samsung suffered a major setback in 2016 when the Galaxy Note 7, designed to outperform the iPhone, turned into a safety hazard as batteries in some of the devices caught fire.

Although prices vary from country to country, the Fold has raised eyebrows with its price tag of around $2,000. Samsung had hoped to sell about 1 million units this year. If the Fold is not released this year, the company's sales may drop by some $1,800 million. That amounts to only about 2% of sales at Samsung's IT and mobile communications unit, but it will take time to rebuild customer trust following the slip-up.

Samsung, Apple and Huawei Technologies are competing head to head in the world's smartphone market. Huawei plans to release foldable phones around midyear. Japan's Sharp also unveiled a prototype recently.

Samsung's setback may allow Huawei to win their race to roll out the world's first mass-market foldable smartphone.

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