On Thursday when the first reports of a replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 catching fire first emerged, I decided to wait and see what came of the investigation, because a one-off does not make for a recall, however, this weekend two more reports have emerged from local TV networks in the USA which are nothing short of concerning for Samsung.
These fresh reports are concerning for two key reasons:
- According to the three separate reports, each device was a replacement Note 7, or new after the recall was concluded.
- Perhaps more worrying for Samsung, in two of the three reports, the device in question was not being charged at the time.
In the first, a man named Brian Green was on board a Southwest Airlines flight waiting at the gate before departure. Mr Green had turned the phone off as required on the flight and placed it in his pocket when it began to heat up so he threw it onto the floor.
The second device was in the hands of a Minnesota teenager. Thirteen year-old Abby Zuis was waiting outside her siblings school when she felt a tingling “strong than pins and needles” in her thumb when the device then began to overheat, smoke and she threw it on the floor.
While in Kentucky, the third report says Michael Klering was woken by smoke and an acrid smell in his bedroom to find his phone “on fire”.
At this stage, Samsung have not confirmed the devices are replacement Note 7’s, however each owner is on the record saying they are.
Samsung have issued several statements to local media in the USA outlining their commitment to customer safety and their desire to retrieve the devices to investigate.
In the final instance, Michael Klering claims to have inadvertently received a message from a Samsung representative – clearly intended for someone at Samsung, not Mr Klering:
Just now got this. I can try and slow him down if we think it will matter, or we just let him do what he keeps threatening to do and see if he does it.
That’s a shocking thing for an end-user to see, but lets no kid ourselves, we can all imagine such messages circulating internally with these issues, we also don’t know what Mr Klering was “threatening” to do, if that was simply to go to the Media or something more or less?
From the outside, observing this whole drama there’s no doubt Samsung handled the recall flawlessly – they couldn’t have done more. Perhaps though there was too much of a rush to get replacement devices built and in the hands of customers.
That two of the devices appear to have not been charging at the time is alarming. The previous issue that prompted the recall was occurring on phones that were being charged – it was for this reason Samsung issued a software update to prevent charging past a certain point – this must be the focus of the investigation.
EFTM have reached out to Samsung Australia for comment, we will update this post with any local announcements if and when they come.
There are no reports of local issue, and importantly Samsung have yet to verify the validity of these claims.
What does this mean for the Note range?
You’ve got to say this is likely the end of the Note range for Samsung – The Note has been a niche product for Samsung, their largest phone, and the one you get if you want a stylus – the S Pen as Samsung call it.
Either the range gets a new name, or it becomes part of the flagship “Galaxy S” range – a Galaxy S8 Pen for example might be a way to market the next Note device.
When a brand like “Note” is affected by such a large issue, it is always going to be hard to recover from.
What does this mean for Samsung Mobile?
A bigger issue than the Note range is the overall Samsung brand.
While there is absolutely no reason to be concerned about any other product in the Samsung Mobile portfolio, it’s hard to believe this won’t damage the brand overall.
Imagine a person off contract, ready to sign up for 24 months with their telco – they walk into the store, presented before them are the iPhone 7, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Google Pixel – all priced almost identically.
Despite there being a wealth of options around and below that price bracket, those are the three that certainly Telstra will be pushing. At Optus and Vodafone it’s likely more of a two-horse race.
There will be people who doubt Samsung. Not knowing that the S7 is unaffected entirely be the recall and issues, just knowing that “Samsung have been in the news”. This is what will trouble them, this is what will affect Samsung sales.
How measurable that will be – only time will tell. How Samsung recovers? That’s the real thing to watch from the sidelines over the next 6-8 months as the company gets through this current nightmare, and moves on to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in March to launch the next phone, the Galaxy S8.