On February 20, 2019, South Korean electronics company Samsung announced the Galaxy Fold, the first cellular phone with a fully folding screen by a major cell phone manufacturer. The Fold was originally slated for release in July of 2019, but was delayed after test units sent to reviewers began showing severe issues. After the recall, many journalists described the entire launch as a complete failure and an embarrassment for Samsung. Now, after implementing several key hardware adjustments, the Fold has now been released in many major markets, it has yet to be seen if it will be remembered as a failure or a major step in the future of the industry. Although it may have its flaws and had a severely troubled launch, the Galaxy Fold demonstrates the innovative spirit that defines Samsung’s largest edge over its competition, such as technology giants Apple and the China-based Hauwei.

The Fold’s defining feature is evident in its name. It consists of two major pieces, connected with a hinge. The device has a smaller screen on the outside and a much larger, flexible screen on the inside of the hinge. The outer 4.6” screen is largely used for minor tasks, while the inner screen becomes a 7.3” square when unfolded and is designed to be used for the majority of tasks. Because of the complex nature of the phone, it costs around $2,000, a relatively high price compared to non-folding alternatives. It also has specifications on par with or above the rest of this year’s flagship phones, from its processor to battery. It also has six cameras on the device, one above the smaller screen, three on the back of the phone, and two more in the top right corner of the inner foldable screen. The foldable screen is the main selling feature, with a screen diameter significantly larger than any non-folding phone. The 7.3” screen is comparable to an iPad Mini’s size of 7.9” but fits into the form factor of a regular-sized cell phone.

Many of the major complaints about the Fold have been related to its longevity. When the test units were sent out, they had a few catastrophic issues. The phones shipped with a protective layer over the foldable screen. Many reviewers thought this was a removable protector, but in reality, when it was removed the entirety of the foldable display was destroyed. There was no warning on the earliest models that this was the case. The second major issue was the hinge holding the phone together. While Samsung said it was robust and rated to last “at least 200,000 folds and unfolds,” this did not account for outside dust and sand, which could easily enter the phone through the hinge. This would then result in the particles accumulating under the screen, ultimately leading to bulges and more broken displays. At the time, some journalists said this would be a major and complicated issue to resolve, but Samsung seems to be confident in their fixes to these issues.

Samsung fixed the screen filament by extending the edges under the sides of the phone, so that no user would be tempted or able to peel it off the screen. This has so far proved to be an effective fix, as no further incidents have been reported. As for the hinge, Samsung added a small plastic cover piece to close up the gap in which particles were entering. This has been relatively effective, but as the phone still has minor gaps, this fix has yet to be proven totally effective.

Despite structural issues, the Fold demonstrates Samsung’s overarching mentality of innovation compared to its competitors. The smartphone space is becoming increasingly crowded, and companies are trying to find ways to distinguish themselves from competitors. For Apple, they have such a large and dedicated consumer base, largely because of their “ecosystem” that encourages buying products specifically from Apple. Because of this brand loyalty, they have shifted away from design-focused endeavors towards services such as the upcoming Apple TV+. Samsung, on the other hand, has realized that in order to draw in new consumers, it needs to differentiate itself and provide exciting new hardware features. Another of their previous screen-based innovations was the “hole punch display” which allowed for a camera sized hole to be cut out of the screen in order to give the screen more real estate on the phone.

More broadly, Samsung has 36 research and development centers across the world devoted to securing new innovations. Additionally, the company invested $12 billion into R&D in 2015 alone. Samsung has been the second-largest patent holder in the United States since 2006, even though it is not based in the U.S. Finally, Samsung also has its own Strategy and Innovation center, which is a division of the company specifically devoted to designing future products and solutions.

Because of innovations such as these and the Galaxy Fold, Samsung’s market share of smartphones has increased from 18 percent in Q4 2018, to 22 percent in Q2 2019. In the long run, this innovative strategy will help Samsung continue to attract more of the market. Although the Fold has its minor issues and a relatively high price, it demonstrates the companies continued efforts to innovate in the space and draw an increasing percentage of the market share.

iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S3 is now the choice that many consumers are facing these days.

On one hand you have the iPhone: a sleek, refined product of American innovation, a phone touted by enthusiastic techies and laymen as simply the most revolutionary phone product to hit the market. On the other you have Galaxy S3, which generated enough excitement in its early stages of development for many to dub it the ‘iPhone killer’. It is an amalgamation of cherry-picked features, slight alterations, and excellent execution.

After a high-profile patent case, Samsung was forced to pay over $1 billion in damages for infringing upon a number of Apple designs and patents. Nonetheless, Samsung’s business model of essentially “playing catch-up” to Apple and improving on Apple’s designs ended up paying off. In Q3 2012, the Samsung Galaxy S3 beat out the iPhone 4S (an older model) to become the world’s best-selling smartphone.

At their core, the business strategies of Apple and Samsung Electronics represent fundamental differences in thinking and attitude. The anti-corporate culture of Apple, as embodied by the image of a barefoot Steve Jobs, versus the massive, South Korean conglomerate (chaebol) Samsung Electronics.

While much could be said about how individuals have shaped their separate corporate philosophies, and in turn their trajectories, perhaps we can take a look at the intellectual and academic environments in which these two corporations formed. Perhaps Samsung’s ability to copy rather than innovate is reflective of South Korea’s education system, which many say is top-notch but doesn’t nurture creative thinkers.

A recent study done by an education research firm, Pearson, places South Korea among the most well-educated countries in the world. Considering how well South Korean students have traditionally fared on standardized reading and math tests, the results of this recent study are certainly no surprise. In contrast, the U.S. is a middle-of-the-road country when it comes to education, despite its status as the leading economic power in the world.

Educational spending could be one cause of this achievement gap. According to the Center on International Education Benchmarking, South Korea spends 7.6% of its GDP on education, the second highest among OECD countries.  Intense schooling starts from the age of 6, culminating in the College Scholastic Aptitude Test, a high-stakes college admissions test that often determines one’s future financial, social, and personal success. The average Korean student attends regular schooling in addition to “cram schools,” private after-school academies that specialize in skills ranging from English and math to playing an instrument. Nearly 9% of children are forced to attend such places past 11pm.

For all the success that the South Korean system has produced, it has many flaws. Consequences of such a high pressure educational system manifest themselves in all sorts of manners including the abnormally high prevalence of youth suicides and poor social skills.

Furthermore, in such a system it is difficult to cultivate innovative and creative thinkers. Instead of valuing individualism and unconventional thinking, children are taught at a very young age that memorization and brute repetition will lead to good grades, admissions into prestigious universities, and a successful life.

Former South Korean minister of education, Byong-man Ahn, notes, “Students have no time to ponder the fundamental question of ‘What do I need to learn, and why?’ They simply need to prepare for the test by learning the most-effective methods for digesting tremendous quantities of material and committing more to memory than others do.”

The South Korean government is currently in the process of implementing reforms that it hopes will help foster creativity. Such reforms include reducing material students need to study and refining the ways teachers engage their classes. Interestingly enough, the government itself may be the cause of the educational system’s problems. The Ministry of Education develops a national curriculum that is then disseminated to nearly all of South Korea’s primary schools. The fact that educational reform is implemented from the top-down may discourage experimentation with more effective forms of learning, such as a switch to more hands-on activities and a greater degree of freedom for students to pursue their own academic interests.

Furthermore, while there is reason to be optimistic, such reforms may not be enough. In order to truly foster a nation of innovators and outside-the-box thinkers, South Korea may need an entire cultural shift. The social stigma against those unable to gain entrance into a prestigious university may be forcing creative thinkers to focus all their time on brute memorization, which in turn could push them into despair.

It may be years before South Korea can champion its own Silicon Valley. It would take nothing short of a complete revamp of education and a cultural shift that promotes individuality and iconoclastic thinking to produce an environment conducive to producing the Steve Jobs of tomorrow. But for now we all may have to make do with products like the Samsung Galaxy S3; effective but not groundbreaking.