How will Note 7 fires affect Samsung in the long run?

As much fun as it is to make fun of Samsung’s Note 7 fire issue, this is one area that could have impact to the entire smartphone industry. Samsung has a big fracking problem on its hands, and it needs to be very careful of its next steps. For those not familiar with the situation, let me catch you up. Over the course of the last few weeks, Samsung’s latest flagship, the Note 7, went on sale. Some users reported the phone would burst into flames while charging. Since then, Samsung has issued a global recall of the device, citing faulty battery issues, and has plans to replace every Note 7 that has shipped – preferably with batteries that won’t ruin your night table.

I mean seriously, this is no laughing matter. Considering charging phones are typically left unattended, a charging phone that bursts into flame could go unchecked and really, really ruin someone’s day, let alone their life. Samsung is doing the right thing by issuing a recall despite the fact that some reports indicate as few as thirty-five defective units have been discovered. Thirty-five units is a tiny, tiny fraction of the number of phones this company has shipped. Edward Norton would probably be tempted to let it fly as is. But again, Samsung is doing the right thing here.

galaxy-note-7-boom1The next big mistake is here

But let’s look further into the future and see what this all means for Samsung. On the one hand, this is awful. A global recall of a flagship smartphone is a big deal. A few people might notice this. And by “a few” I mean millions and millions of people – you know, pretty much anyone who is interested in smartphones. Because you can’t not notice this even if you just glance at the industry every now and then. Samsung is too big a player to skate by unnoticed. It’s basically the 800 lb gorilla in the room.

Plus, the iPhone is coming out very soon. If the timing could be worse on this thing, I’m not sure I know how. Apple would be incredibly dumb to not jump on this opportunity to knock its biggest competitor down a few notches. Things like “iPhone 7 – it won’t set your house on fire” might be a decent marketing campaign in a couple of weeks. Actually, no it wouldn’t. Please don’t do that Apple. That would be stupid. But the fact remains that Samsung could really ill afford to let something like this happen on the eve of a competitor’s announcement.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 teardownAnd yet…

But it bears repeating that Samsung is doing the right thing. It is acting decisively and quickly and most importantly, it is acting in its customers’ best interests. There is every reason to assume this problem would be limited to just a handful of handsets. Handle warranty returns, no harm no foul right? Wrong. Samsung is going through the headache and expense of recalling every phone on the planet, because it’s the right thing to do. As much as Apple might want to jump on this incident from a PR perspective, Samsung absolutely should jump on this. Get in front of the story, and control the narrative.

Plus, Samsung has a long history of quality products and no amount of exploding batteries will change that. Well, not in one generation of product, anyway. Although, come to think of it, the S6+ was not without fire issues. If this happens again, say to the GS 8, well then yes, that’s a pattern. But right now, for all we know, this is just a bad batch of phones. And to make it right, Uncle Samsung is going to go ahead and ship out a new phone to you pronto. Very decent of you Samsung. If anything, this might actually help Samsung in the long run, by establishing a reputation for doing right by its customers.

samsung-galaxy-note-7-vs-galaxy-s7-edge-780Drop in the pond

Finally, consider this. This is just a handful of phones. Thirty-five incidents, or even 350, or 3,500 is barely a drop in the pond to Samsung’s total shipments. The reality is only a small fraction of folks are even going to have a problem with this. This is not a colossal misstep. This is just being overly cautious for customers which at the end of the day just benefits all of us anyway.

But what do you think? Did Samsung screw up majorly here? Is Apple about to run away with the competition? Or is Samsung limiting the damage greatly by making the right call? How is your confidence with Samsung right now? Has this done anything to shake your view of the company? Sound off below and let us know where you stand on this. It’s not necessarily a straight forward issue, so let’s see if we can figure this out.

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About The Author
Adam Doud
Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!