Samsung’s Exploding Galaxy Note 7: A Case Study In How Not To Release A Smartphone
Blowing up the launch
The Galaxy Note 7 was meant to serve as Samsung’s best 5.7-inch, stylus-wielding smartphone. Introduced in August to great fanfare, the new Note device not only offered Samsung users an updated smartphone option, it also served as a way to tide over customers until the presumed Galaxy S8 in March 2017. At least that was the plan, until Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 began to catch fire while plugged in to charge. Now Samsung has chosen to cease production on the Note 7 line until further notice.
Lithium-ion batteries, like the ones commonly found in smartphones, laptops and more, have been known to catch fire in the past. Laptops from Sony went through a similar flaming bout in 2014, as did various hoverboards more recently. As to why these batteries continue to explode, you’ll want to check out our explainer on the matter.
Samsung’s halt on production of the Note 7 could mean bad news for the company, especially at a time when Apple just released its new iPhone and Google finally announced its official phone. Indeed, the Note 7 has been a disaster from almost the very beginning…
The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was well received amongst reviewers of the device. Wired, The Verge, Time, and more sang the device’s praises. It even initially earned a Mashable Choice Award, which the publication later retracted. Because then…
Initial Reports Of Combustion
The first set of Note 7 battery explosions were reported in late August, less than a month after the device came out. On August 24, a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 device exploded while connected to its charging cable. Similar reports began to emerge following the first.
Shipment Delays And Official Worldwide Recall
Samsung then chose to delay shipments of the Note 7 “for quality control testing,” according to Reuters. (It was also at this point that the company asked Popular Science to send our review unit back.)
Samsung followed up by issuing an official worldwide recall of the Galaxy Note 7 in early September. While this spelled bad news for Samsung, it was only the beginning.
The Good Batch
After the recall, Samsung instituted an exchange program. Users of the first round of Note 7 phones could trade it in for an updated Note 7 or one of Samsung’s Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge phones. Those getting another Note 7 could tell which set the phone belonged to by looking for a black square on the bottom of the box near the product’s info.
One would assume that Samsung’s second set of Galaxy Note 7 devices would be better equipped to avoid catching on fire. But we all know what happens when you assume.
Southwest Airlines Mishap
Southwest Airlines Flight 994 was evacuated before take off as a response to a replacement Note 7 that went up in smoke, leading the FAA to warn against using the device on planes … but not before another replacement Note 7 would catch fire in a Kentucky home.
The Note 7 Is No More
Which leads us to today, where Samsung has ceased production of the Note 7. Launched on August 19 and killed off on October 11, the phone lasted just two months on the market.
Having a phone explode because of charging troubles is one thing. But Samsung offering an explosive replacement leads to even more trouble for the company.
The Lasting Effects On Samsung
Of all the Android hardware makers, Samsung has enjoyed the top spot for quite a while. The devices sell well and many see the smartphone race not as Apple versus Google, but Apple versus Samsung. But repeated offenses when it comes to phones catching fire could change that. While Samsung is haphazardly spraying the fire extinguisher, Apple’s new phone is looking better than ever and Google finally released its official Android phone. Even without a headphone jack, the iPhone 7 will sell well, like the iPhones before it. And depending on how Google markets its Pixel phone, the search company could swipe some market share from Samsung.
And that’s not all of the company’s troubles. Samsung and Apple will meet in the Supreme Court starting today in a continuing battle over allegedly infringed design patents. Apple initially sued Samsung in 2012, claiming that many of the icons and slide-to-unlock behavior belonged to Cupertino. Their first time in court, Samsung lost over $1 billion, although they later won an appeal for $120 million, which staved off some of the cost.
The odds are against Samsung, but it will be interesting to see how the South Korean hardware maker can come back from this (if at all). Without the Note 7, Samsung won’t have an up-to-date phone to offer its users until 2017, when the Galaxy S8 eventually arrives. Offering an amazing new device could sway users back, but Samsung will have to go out of its way to prove that the device won’t catch on fire. Or make the device fireproof, which would be impressive in its own right.