Finally, they said, it would bend but not break.
Finally, they said, the phone revolution had arrived.
How could one not be fascinated by the Samsung Galaxy Fold?
Not just because it had been through trials — and failed them — but that it had come out of the experience stronger. Or, at least, that’s what Samsung said.
I felt an uncontrolled urge, therefore, to experience the phone for myself and see how salespeople were presenting it.
I’ve been an AT&T customer for 15 years or so. It was inevitable, then, that I’d visit one of the company’s stores. The Fold might seduce me and my carrier would surely be ready to help consummate my enthusiasm.
So on the way back from a faintly absurd meeting, I found a fairly large AT&T store and wandered in.
All Show And No Pony.
I was immediately greeted by a friendly smile, so I said: “Hi, I’d like to look at the folding phone.”
Doesn’t everyone refer to the Galaxy Fold as the folding phone? The salesman knew exactly what I meant. He also knew how to disappoint.
“Um, we don’t really have any,” he said.
My forehead described twelve rivulets of wrinkles, as my mouth was temporarily out of action.
“But it’s been out a few weeks now,” I finally muttered.
“Yeah, we’ve got the display. It’s just that we haven’t received the phones yet,” he explained.
He then helpfully walked me over to the display which was, indeed, phoneless.
The hurt in my eyes must have been evident as he then said: “Wait, maybe we’ve got one in the back. What’s your name?” He then invited me to sit at a little table.
Perhaps this was a deliberate tease. Perhaps it was a way to get people even more excited about this precious $2,000 specimen. Perhaps this was how they sorted the serious customers from the merely curious.
I sat for at least five minutes — the store had only three or four customers — before a different salesman came over.
“Chris? How can I help you?” he said.
Don’t they write customer needs down on their scheduling iPad? Perhaps not.
I explained that I wanted to look at a Galaxy Fold and had been told there may be one in the back.
“Oh, yeah?” he said while continuing to chew his gum.
Please forgive me, but salespeople chewing gum warms me like large coconuts being chopped on my head. It whispers: “I really don’t give a flying crap about this job.”
Still, he went away, in languid search of the lost Fold.
Another five minutes went by before, yes, he came back with it. Could I hear a Hallelujah?
“I don’t think it’s charged,” he said with consummate indifference while handing the phone over.
Finally, Charging Ahead.
It isn’t quite the full experience when you’re handed a dead phone. However, this phone looked sturdy, beautifully designed, like a fancy cigarette case or Toots Thielemans‘ harmonica.
Then the salesman began his spiel: “Some stuff’s supposed to come up on the front. And then more stuff comes up when you open it.”
Ah. That sounds like there’s a lot of stuff on this phone.
I opened it and was immediately concerned I’d break it. There’s a stopping point around three-quarters of full opening, when you have to (gently) push a little harder to make the phone flat.
The crease was visible and a touch lumpy, yet the whole thing had some promise. If only, you know, the salesman would perhaps charge it.
Suddenly, he had the same idea. The screen on the front momentarily came to life. Before the salesman said: “Yeah, this charger doesn’t work.”
Just as he said that he turned and shouted to a customer walking in the door: “You wanna get signed in?” Then he walked away, without so much as an excuse-me, to talk to this customer.
When he returned, I asked him if he could tell me anything more about the phone. He couldn’t. “I prefer iPhones. They’re easier,” he said. Which was a little like someone at Tiffany’s saying: “Yeah, I don’t really believe in marriage.”
After a considerably awkward pause, the salesman still said nothing but took the phone over to another table. There, it transpired, was a functioning charger. I staggered after him, in the vague assumption I’d be welcome.
As the Fold began to experience life, the salesman (actually) excused himself and disappeared.
I was left, then, to play with it alone. Which was far more enjoyable than I’d imagined.
This phone made me want to play with it. The square design of the unfolded screen allowed for a different perspective on phone use. It felt very comfortable in the hand. I browsed through various sites. ZDNet’s looked quite fine.
I folded and unfolded it many times. I held it in my hand and even smiled. All I could think was how similar this phone felt to the Nokia 9300.
Back in the days when phones were less smart, I owned several of these Nokias and really enjoyed them. They were wonderful to type on. Opening up the phone had a certain joy to it. People would wander up and ask what this contraption was and would I like to join them for a drink. (Well, the first part.)
Somehow, though, Nokia disappeared from the US — and from acting with good sense — tossing me reluctantly into the arms of Apple.
Que Será, Será.
This Fold was a phone I wanted. Yes, I needed to be sold a little more, just to understand some of the finer points. I’ve often had excellent — and remarkably frank — service in most phone stores, including AT&T.
With the salesman a ghost, what could I do? It was talk to the hand or talk to the Fold. I chose the latter: “Hey Google, how much is this phone?”
Google immediately offered me the pricing on Pixel 3.
I wasn’t deterred. I now wondered when the store would have the Fold in stock. Fortunately, the salesman came back in my mid-wondering.
“This phone is cool,” I said. “When will you have these in stock?”
He stared for a second and said: “Let me go and find out.” And he disappeared.
I stood there for at least another five minutes. I took a picture with the Fold. It was very easy to do. I admired it several more times. I noted that much of the software on this particular Fold seemed to work effortlessly.
The salesman never came back. At least, not within any amount of time I’d think reasonable to ask someone: “Hey, when are you getting the Fold?”
Which left me with various thoughts, as I sauntered back to my car. Yes, this was just one visit to one store. But it truly seemed like neither of salespeople I spoke to had a single clue about the phone — or even cared to have one.
Could it be that Samsung, in its haste to push a genuinely innovative product to market, has entirely failed to help stores in the sales process — even to the point of not giving them phones?
Could it be that I’d just been unlucky in walking into that particular AT&T store at that particular moment?
Or could it be that selling phones and chewing gum at the same time is harder than it looks?