For years, Samsung has been neck-in-neck against Apple in the race for the most popular high-end smartphone, with Apple pulling ahead for the first time in 2015.
Then came the explosions.
One by one, reports came from across the country in 2016 that some Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones were “exploding” or bursting into flame while being charged.
Something had gone wrong with the batteries inside the phones, causing them to overheat and burst into flames. Under public pressure, Samsung recalled the Galaxy Note 7, issuing replacement phones with new batteries.
Problem solved? Not quite.
Not long after, Galaxy Note 7 phones experienced more spontaneous combustion incidents. The electronics giant had betrayed the trust of its customers once again, putting the lives of its customers at risk with a second round of bad batteries.
Worse yet, Samsung appeared to be trying to sweep the entire debacle under the rug.
When a Kentucky man, Michael Klering, suffered lung damage after his phone filled his bedroom with smoke, he reported the incident to Samsung. Then he received a text back that clearly was not meant for him. In the text, someone at Samsung suggested their options were to try to “slow him down” or else just let Klering “do what he keeps threatening” and then see if Klering actually does it.
Four months after the first recall, Samsung announced the reason why Galaxy Note 7 phones that came from two different batches caught on fire. The first battery suffered from a design failure, while the second battery had a manufacturing defect.
According to Samsung’s head of the mobile phone department, the second recall just happened to come right when they were beginning to design the battery for the Galaxy S8, and Samsung will be using a new manufacturing process for all 2017 model phones.
Lithium-ion batteries for smartphones have flammable chemicals inside them that are intended to stay separated within the battery. If those chemicals touch for any reason, overheating occurs, causing internal fires in the battery. In the first battery, a design flaw allowed the positive and negative poles to touch, resulting in overheating and a fire.
The problem batteries in the replacement phones malfunctioned because of poor welding, along with an essential part being left out of some phones. So the second set of batteries had at least one, and in some cases two manufacturing defects. This, at a time when Samsung was under the global microscope for the catastrophic failure the first time around.
This begs the question is if you can’t trust a smartphone manufacturer to make a phone correctly when all eyes are on the company, when can you trust them?
How does Samsung plan to rebuild trust with its customers? Will they offer deals on new phones, or just more assurances that this time, they’re doing things right?
Commercials airing at the time of this writing show an endless line of Samsung phones being tested and re-tested in the factory, while a soothing voice assures us that they now have a special 8-point safety check for their batteries.
Should consumers trust Samsung this time around? That’s up to the individual. But some former Samsung customers may be reminded of the old expression “fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on me.”
Who should be ashamed if Samsung fools its customers three times?