Post the launch of the Apple iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus last month, one thing that has remained conspicuous by its absence is the usual debate between the Apple fans and those of an Android disposition—how the latest version of the Galaxy Note smartphone is perhaps better than the new iPhone. Well, mostly because the Galaxy Note 7 isn’t—it has the bad habit of spontaneously combusting, though some loyal Samsung fans, God bless them, insist it is more of an impromptu disintegration than an actual explosion involving fire and smoke and potential danger to life and property. Whether that pedantic explanation is meant to calm frayed nerves or not, an explosive smartphone is perhaps never a good idea.
The point is very simple—do not buy a Galaxy Note 7, and if you have one, immediately turn it off and not use it for the time being. As per an official Samsung statement released earlier on Tuesday, the company suggests, “We remain committed to working diligently with appropriate regulatory authorities to take all necessary steps to resolve the situation. Consumers with either an original Galaxy Note7 or replacement Galaxy Note7 device should power down and stop using the device and take advantage of the remedies available.”
It all started when, allegedly because of a faulty battery, the original Note 7 devices shipped globally started to catch fire without much convincing. There are as many as 70 documented cases of users reporting that their Note 7 smartphone decided to catch fire—this included a car being damaged by fire, because one of the offending Note 7 devices was being charged inside the vehicle at the time. This is when Samsung started a recall of the smartphone globally, though if we go by user accounts on social media, the device replacement process was anything but smooth—particularly if you had purchased your cherished Note 7 in another country.
Samsung recalled 2.5 million phones in September, and then proceeded to assume that the replacement devices were perfectly safe. According financial data company Factset’s data released on 13 September, Samsung had already lost an estimated $26 billion in value since the explosive news about the Note 7’s bad habit of spontaneously combusting emerged.
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All through, it is Samsung’s severely lacking response, almost seemingly bordering on arrogance, is what is the most worrying. On 2 September, Samsung UK’s vague assessment is all that consumers have. It emerged that around 70% of the Galaxy Note 7’s original shipment’s battery packs are made by Samsung’s own SDI subsidiary. The rest of Note 7’s batteries are made by a Chinese manufacturer called ATL, and that only SDI batteries have the issues. And the Korean company hoped, amidst all the financial gloom, that it had solved the problem.
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But as it turns out, things became worse. The replacement units are also, as Samsung fans would like to say, suffering from a minor case of fire induced disintegration. One such case was reported on 09 October when a man living in the US city of Kentucky woke up to find his smartphone spewing smoke—this was a second replacement unit. A few days earlier, on 05 October, another replaced Note 7 smartphone started to introduce smoke and some flames into the immediate vicinity, on a Southwest Airlines aircraft. Shockingly, Samsung kept reiterating that it “cannot confirm” whether the replacement units were to blame, and while that is acceptable for a couple of days to let the company investigate the issue, it surely must have confirmed things by now.
We would assume Samsung isn’t replacing the first batch of phones with newer phones that also pack in the offending battery packs, which are claimed to be the problem. Which means there is something else wrong with the Note 7, and not just battery troubles. And Samsung clearly doesn’t have a clue yet, else it would have been fixed.
Can Samsung muster up a working Note 7 army in the third try? Might very much be possible, but it unlikely the consumers would trust the device enough to splurge money on it. The bigger fallout is on the brand value. Even more so if you also include the reported incidents of washing machines ‘disintegrating’—it is surely not easy to make a machine that is otherwise full of water, to explode! With airlines around the world treating almost all Samsung phones as equally guilty, that is just adding to Samsung’s woes. We tend to get a lot of queries from friends and family, a lot of which revolve around buying smartphones, and the mention of any Samsung phone elicits the same response at most times – “Samsung phones catch fire, I’ll not buy one”.
Perhaps, the only real course of action now is for Samsung to refund every single Note 7 owner, irrespective of whether their phone has exploded or not (yet) and hope that it does the brand some good in terms of consumer sentiment.
In the meantime, you can consider the Apple iPhone 7 Plus or the Google Pixel XL or even the super value OnePlus 3 for your big-screen smartphone requirements—none of them explode when they are in a bad mood.