The bad news continues for Samsung. After the initial issues with the Note 7, with faulty batteries catching fire and causing a public relations nightmare, we thought things might actually be resolved when Samsung recalled the faulty units and began to replace them with confirmed safe units. We know they’re reaching customers in Australia, and we thought it was all well and good.
It seems the battery issues might not actually be resolved. A couple of days ago, seemingly a replacement Note 7 — an apparently safe one — had a meltdown on a Southwest Airlines flight in the US, causing the cabin to fill with smoke and the plane to be evacuated. Rather fortunately, the plane was still on the ground, so no one was really hurt, but still, it wasn’t a good thing. When photos started circulating of a charred, destroyed phone sitting on some airplane carpet, people started to pay attention.
Hold on a minute, they thought collectively: if this is one of the safe Note 7’s that was given to users to replace the potentially dangerous ones, and it just about caught fire… how safe are these phones, really?
This morning, we’re waking to some commentary coming out of the US suggesting that the Note 7 is finished. Both Android Police and Android Central are running stories to this effect, as rumours swirl that American carrier AT&T will drop the Note 7 from sale completely. This is big news. As it stands, all four major US carriers are allowing Note 7 users (whether old devices or ‘safe’ devices) to bring their phones in and swap them for literally anything else on sale.
It really isn’t much of a stretch to simply stop selling the devices entirely, and in the US, this would be devastating for Samsung, because unlike Australia, the outright market in the US is much smaller, and carrier support is absolutely critical. If that happens in the US, though, what will happen here?
Do you want a Note 7 if everyone believes it will catch fire?
It seems somewhat likely that the status quo simply won’t be allowed to remain. If there’s ambiguity about the safety of the Note 7, you don’t want to be an owner of said phone. Do you want to board a plane only to be told that your phone isn’t safe, and that it has to be either switched off the whole flight, or worse, you can’t take it on board? Do you want to own the phone that carriers have dropped support for, and so critical updates are delayed, or worse, never eventuate? Do you want your friends to see your phone and remark “oh it hasn’t caught fire yet, Chris?”
I’d like to see Samsung fix this issue once and for all, but even if they do, I think the commentary coming out elsewhere is on the money at the moment. Samsung’s mobile brand is damaged, and that trust will take a long time to rebuild, if it can be. More specifically, the Note brand is quite possibly damaged beyond salvage. How could Samsung announce a Note 8 next year, without spending most of the press conference discussing how badly the Note 7 went … it’s inconceivable.
What about the Galaxy S8?
The real worry for the company now is how the Galaxy S8 will go. It’s due to be announced end of February 2017, and to go on sale not long after. Four months out, production may not have commenced, but it can’t be too far off. Are these phones going to be affected by battery issues? More relevantly, will consumers think that the S8 line will be affected by battery issues?
If the answer to that is yes, Samsung has a very, very big problem on its hands, and it needs to start rebuilding that trust now more than ever. Samsung sold around 30 million devices in the S7 range this year, and Android Central are entirely correct in their prediction: that number could be properly halved for the S8 range next year if Samsung can’t win the consumer back.
The first step to getting that trust back is to stop putting out supposedly safe devices that still melt down, and if the battery issue can’t actually be rectified for this phone, it’s time to stop pretending otherwise, cut the losses, and stop selling the Note 7 altogether.