It really sucks to be Samsung right now.
Just when the company launches its Galaxy Note7, its best smartphone ever — one that I called the best smartphone on the planet — reports of devices exploding have forced the company to halt production and provide an unofficial recall through an “exchange program.”
All of last week, I’ve been inundated with comments on social media and IRL in regards to my review and the explosions.
Most comments were something along the lines of: “So much for being the best phone now that they’re exploding!” and “Are you planning to retract your review or change it?”
People are conflating the Note7’s excellent feature set with the (very unfortunate) bad batch of batteries that Samsung used.
The Note7 itself is an excellent phone that outclasses the iPhone 6S Plus. That doesn’t change because of poorly produced batteries.
If you own a Note7, get it replaced and enjoy your new safer phone. If you hate the Note7, know that whatever phone you have isn’t immune to having a bad battery that could explode, either.
For Samsung, the explosions are truly unfortunate and a gift to Apple. Samsung stands to lose up to $1 billion over the disaster. And even though Samsung hasn’t issued an official recall involving the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which would put an official ban on selling the Note7, the company — as any company should have — acted fast to mitigate the situation.
Defective batteries are reportedly what’s causing Note7 devices to explode. Specifically, batteries produced by Samsung SDI, which were included in about 70 percent of Note7 devices, according to The Korean Herald. The remaining 30 percent of batteries are produced by Amperex Technology Limited, a Chinese battery manufacturer. This would explain why Note7 devices sold in China are unaffected.
Defective batteries are reportedly what’s causing Note7 devices to explode.
Samsung has reportedly stopped using Samsung SDI-made batteries for new Note7 phones, which should stop them from potentially blowing up.
“In response to recently reported cases of the new Galaxy Note7, we conducted a thorough investigation and found a battery cell issue… we are currently conducting a thorough inspection with our suppliers to identify possible affected batteries in the market,” Samsung wrote in an email statement.
As of Monday, there have been 35 reported incidents of Note7 phones that have exploded. The images are terrifying and (thankfully) there have been no reports of anyone being injured from the damages.
To put that into perspective, that’s 35 devices out of 2.5 million potentially (the actual number of affected devices could be lower) affected Note7 phones that have been shipped, which comes out to 0.0014 percent.
That’s really low.
Still, from a consumer and public safety perspective, that’s 35 cases too many.
Could all 2.5 million devices suddenly combust? Yes, and that would be really disastrous, which is exactly why Samsung isn’t taking any chances. Just the risk isn’t worth the brand damage and lost phone sales. Better to plug up the hole fast and stomach the losses instead of waiting for things to worsen and the losses to grow even more.
But all of this doesn’t even get to the heart of the real issue here, which is that all phones (regardless of brand) store a great deal of energy in their batteries and if those batteries are defective, they could explode. Samsung’s unwitting choice of bad batteries could happen to any company, including Apple.
Samsung’s unwitting choice of bad batteries could happen to any company, including Apple.
In a story titled “Why smartphones still blow up,” Wired’s Brian Barrett explains how any device with a lithium-ion battery could explode.
Without getting too technical, the gist is that bad batteries are bad. It’s like the whole situation with hoverboards exploding. The ones that were exploding used batteries that cut corners with the insulation. They didn’t meet quality control, or (in the case of hoverboards) quality control was virtually nonexistent.
Samsung hasn’t officially come forward with the exact specifics on why the Note7 batteries are prone to exploding. But the fact that the company has ceased using batteries from Samsung SDI suggests they have identified the source.
When companies design products, one would hope they subject them to strict quality control. Components that don’t make the cut should never be shipped in final products.
At least that’s how things should be.
But we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes slip-ups happen and one wrong step during the production process could lead to new phones blowing up.
Singling Samsung for faulty batteries shows a lack of insight on how product manufacturing works. I’ve heard arguments that “Samsung, a big company, should have its ducks in a row.” but guess what? When you’re pumping out millions of units out overnight, mistakes can happen.
“This would never happen to Apple products.”
“This would never happen to Apple products.” WRONG.
Any product that’s mass-produced in the millions can fall victim to poor components. While not on the same risk scale as the Note7’s exploding batteries, Apple has recalled products like its AC wall plug adapter, which could have created electric shocks if touched, and created a replacement program for faulty iPhone 5 batteries that didn’t meet advertised battery life claims.
Tesla previously recalled 29,000 Model S power adapters that could potentially catch fire. Toyota and Nissan recalled over `11 million vehicles worldwide due to faulty airbags. And Toyota recalled 6.5 million vehicles last year for defective power window switches that could overheat and lead to fires.
Take a look at all the stuff that’s recalled for various reasons of poor quality control listed on the CPSC and you’ll be shocked at how almost any product has the potential to be hazardous.
Is the Model S any lousier because of some faulty adapters that could have caught on fire? Absolutely not. Was the iPhone 5 a crappier phone because some affected devices accepted fewer charges? Nope.
Samsung will, no doubt, sell fewer Note7 phones than it expected and it’s brand will lose a little credibility, but the faulty battery issue will blow over just like the iPhone 4’s “antennagate” and the iPhone 6’s “bendgate” did.
All of the companies that issued recalls haven’t shut down over any of their recalls and it’s not going to happen to Samsung.
It’s in everyone’s best interests to stop turning everything into a “X is better than Y” and “Brand X is better than Brand Y.” It’s not that black and white. Anything with a battery could explode and for any number of reasons. It’s a cliché, but never say never.