As “Safe” Units Burn, Trust in Samsung Fades: The Recall’s Respectable Merits Have Been Tarnished
I cannot believe I am looking at my Note 7 like this again, just waiting, wondering if it could ever be another case in the news. We trusted Samsung’s word, and that they had found and fixed the problem.
Did Samsung really find out what caused the failures or was this all a massive cover up, a play to get the device back on the market faster? We gave the company a second chance, and all indicators point to that renewed trust being misplaced; now some of Samsung’s strongest supporters, those who remained loyal through all of this, are having second doubts. The South Korean giant was even respected for their seemingly swift and precise action with the recall, yet public opinion is turning again with this week’s new reports.
I’ve been a fan of the Note 7, a big fan. I wrote an article over a month ago where I claimed that the Note 7 was a “Remarkable Phone for Life” and I stand by those words. This device is the pinnacle of design for Samsung after embarking on a journey that started with the Galaxy S6. While, the Galaxy S6, Note 5, S7 and Note 7 may resemble each other, they are more like siblings with the Note 7 taking the crown in finesse. The symmetrical front and rear panels, 4th generation edge displays, and the 6th iteration of the S-Pen make the entire package class-leading.
Even the software, despite its performance issues, is the best Samsung has done to date. My personal Note (with some major package disabling) delivers a fast and smooth-enough experience while still retaining almost all of the Note benefits. Saying the Note 7 is my favorite phone in years is not an understatement, and judging by those who waited through the first recall, I may not be alone.
But despite all of that, Samsung has made some critical errors in judgement that not only have stained the Note product line, but are now looking to affect the entire Samsung mobile division. I had my problems with the initial recall, I personally felt like there was little urgency stressed to consumers, and a single email that was lacking the urgency of future emails and carrier messages. Samsung will push advertisements to our devices for a new device, but they won’t for a massive scale safety recall? But we know the story, the CPSC got involved in the US while Samsung began to “fix” the problems it had caused world-wide. Due to this the Note 7 became a household name and a topic of discussion in mainstream media news headlines all over the globe, for all the wrong reasons. But it went smoothly (relatively speaking) for a massive-scale and unprecedented recall. Aside from weird situations like craigslist purchases and those who used the loaner system, those who needed a replacement got them and the devices soon went back onto the market, and even third party sellers on Amazon and other services offered returns. Samsung even released its quarterly earning guidance and it reflected that they were relatively successful lessening the damages with an overall profit, even over last year. All looks well in the Samsung camp, job done, time to move on.
If you are familiar with a hurricane an interesting thing happens if you take a direct hit. After the strongest part of the storm passes over with the eye wall, you enter the eye of the storm. Depending on the particular storm, the eye is calm and in some cases even sunny with no rain and little wind. But there is the other side of the eye that comes just after that calm, and that is what hit us this week. First came the Southwest flight that was delayed due to a burning Note 7, then a report from Korea, then Taiwan and just in the past 36 hours came two more US reports from Minnesota and Kentucky. All of this forced Samsung to issue yet another statement, one that does not directly rule out failures of replacement devices. The most troubling of all comes from the Kentucky incident where a Samsung employee reportedly texted the victim by accident instead of his apparent superior leading any reader to the conclusion that Samsung is not being forthright with its customers. Without a doubt, more and more reports will come forward over the next few weeks. While some may not be trustworthy, it is hardly a coincidence that these reports are rolling in worldwide just after the replacement program completed…
Samsung will introduce a phone next quarter and try to make everyone forget this situation, and millions will yet again buy a Samsung device. But for those of us to face the fact of having to replace our phones a second time won’t soon forget about this. The first recall was about failed hardware. But this time it is more than just a hardware failure and it is more than just replacing failed phones. This is now about trust and betrayal. Samsung assured us they found and fixed the problem, but they didn’t. Samsung told us these replacement phones were safe, but they weren’t. Samsung wanted us to trust them wanted us to believe our safety was their top concern, but it wasn’t.
Do these issues point to a larger problem at Samsung, should Samsung be condemned due to this issue? Who knows, and it is not the job of an editorial to do so without conclusive evidence. Should you replace your Note 7? As we say in our reviews, it’s also not our job to tell you which phone to get or to keep. But like we said with the first recall, if you are compelled to do so then just do it if there is a next recall or if you can return the phone. For those of you remaining on the device it will be important to consider that Samsung may not support this phone with software updates like they would other devices if a second and final recall does in fact take place. Couple that with locked bootloaders for all US variants and the situation is dicey at best (another reason why we stated we can’t recommend this device to our audience, even with all of its merits). Further for those that travel, a full travel ban is now a possibility due to “safe” variants failing. It’s a personal decision, but it is a important one and all of us have different priorities that will affect the outcome.
Personally, I am actively looking into getting my Note 7 replaced, even though I am one of the few people within the XDA staff that thoroughly enjoys and even defends the experience it provides. I have a family with two kids and while the “odds” of my phone failing seem low, it is more a matter of broken trust at this point. It sucks too, because I really enjoyed my Note 7 and the Note line in general, and it’s likely we might not see a new Note next year.