Samsung's claim of the Galaxy Z Flip using a glass display is potentially misleading but is not false
When Samsung announced the Galaxy Z Flip last week, it mentioned the use of "ultra-thin glass" that enables the phone to be folded at least 200,000 times. While this would mean that the folding glass is durable-enough for daily use, popular durability tester Zack Nelson of the JerryRigEverything YouTube channel believes otherwise.
In his typical style, Zack subjected the Galaxy Z Flip's display to several Mohs hardness tests. While most smartphone displays start showing scratches at level 6 with deeper grooves from level 7 onwards, the Galaxy Z Flip's display started showing scratches at level 2 itself indicating that the display is not in the least bit scratch resistant. The display could, in fact, be easily scratched with a fingernail, which is not something one would expect from glass.
Zack opines that the level 2 display damage is reminiscent of the Galaxy Fold and Moto Razr 2019, both of which are phones with a plastic screen. The screen also seemed to change shape when heated up indicating the plastic nature of Z Flip's display. The selfie viewfinder though, actually behaves like proper glass.
When Zack tried to damage the pixels, he observed that the pixels directly above the pressure point were damaged. If the screen were to be really made of glass, the pressure would have been distributed over the entire display. The screen itself is pretty resilient though, as bending the phone backwards shattered the back panel while the actual display still worked fine.
However, Samsung sticks to its claims of the display being made of glass. In a statement to The Verge, the company said,
Galaxy Z Flip features an Infinity Flex Display with Samsung’s Ultra Thin Glass (UTG) to deliver a sleek, premium look and offer an immersive viewing experience. Samsung’s first-of-its-kind UTG technology is different from other Galaxy flagship devices. 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."
So, does the Galaxy Z Flip indeed use glass or is Samsung marketing cheekily concealing the use of plastic to promote its achievements with UTG? Actually, it is a bit of both.
Lisa Gade from MobileTechReview says that Samsung's UTG implementation lends deeper blacks and richer colors without the plasticky feeling while touching it. However, the glass being extremely thin, due diligence is required while handling the device. In fact, a user managed to crack the display along the center crease while folding confirming that glass is indeed being used. Samsung Concierge apparently issued a replacement device within 24 hours.
Received my Samsung Galaxy Z Flip just now. Opened the box. Removed the protective/instruction film. Flipped the phone as you would do since it’s a flip phone and this happened. I heard the crack as well. ???? cold weather?#SamsungGalaxy #ZFlip #samsung pic.twitter.com/j8KLL2vm8d— Amir ???? (@mondoir) February 14, 2020
Another popular teardown channel PBKreviews confirmed that the Galaxy Z Flip indeed uses glass. With the screen turned on, peeling off the outer plastic polymer layer did manage to shatter the UTG beneath confirming the presence of both glass and plastic.
Given the fragility of the display, Samsung does offer a one-time screen replacement for US$119 in the first year if the screen is damaged due to user error. The company says,
As part of Premier Service, we will offer a one-time free application of a screen protector for the Z Flip at select UBIF [U Break I Fix], Samsung branded locations or by sending it to Samsung Premier Service via mail. The screen protector will be applied by a specialist with the proper equipment to align and apply it. The program is rolling out soon."
So, there you have it. While Samsung does market the Galaxy Z Flip as sporting a glass that is flexible, it is not the same glass that would inspire confidence as does a conventional smartphone display. That being said, we cannot expect marketing to promote the fragility of the display as a key USP so if you are willing to shell out the money for this device, be sure to handle it with care.