This year like everyone else I looked forward to the Samsung Unpacked event in August. Why? Because they were going to announce the next Galaxy Note.
Having previously owned the Galaxy Note 5, I was looking forward to the next iteration. Had it not been the lack of MicroSD on the Note 5 and its availability in the UK, I would still be holding onto it. As the event happened, I said to myself that 'I’ll definitely be getting this phone'. Hours after the event reviewers and tech journalists praised the Galaxy Note 7 as the best Samsung device yet and highly recommended it. Who would have guessed that almost 2 months later they would be telling you to return it.
Let’s step back for a moment and look at how we got here. Rumours about the next Galaxy Note leaking months before its official launch, suggesting Samsung was taking the same approach to design as the Galaxy S7 series, piqued a lot of people's interest in the device. These rumours suggested that Samsung was going to introduce a dual camera setup very similar to the iPhone 7 Plus rumours and that the Galaxy Note would skip a number going from Note 5 to Note 7 - this was to align it to the Galaxy S7 range, ensuring people don’t attach a lesser value to it.
Fast forward a few months to 2nd of August 2016 and the launch event. We were shown the new Galaxy Note 7, stand out features being the new S Pen, Iris scanner, IP67 rating, bigger battery, smaller body and a curved display (very much like the Galaxy S7 range) and finally one important addition: the MicroSD slot.
Model: Galaxy Note 7
Body: Corning Gorilla 5 Glass, 153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm, weight: 169g , S Pen Stylus
Display: 5.7" QHD 2560x1440 pixels (518ppi), Super AMOLED screen, 16M colors
Operating System: Android OS, v6.0.1 (Marshmallow)
CPU: Exynos 8890 Octa-core (4x2.3 GHz Mongoose & 4x1.6 GHz Cortex-A53)
GPU: Mali-T880 MP12
Storage: 64GB, MicroSD Slot, 4 GB RAM
Camera: 12 MP, f/1.7, 26mm, phase detection autofocus, OIS, LED flash, 1/2.5" sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size, geo-tagging, simultaneous 4K video and 9MP image recording, touch focus, face/smile detection, Auto HDR, panorama, [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], HDR, dual-video rec. Secondary: 5 MP, f/1.7, 22mm, dual video call, Auto HDR, [email protected], [email protected]
Connectivity: LTE (Cat. 9-12), Type-C 1.0 v.3.1 reversible connector, 3.5mm jack
Sensors: Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
Battery: Non-removable Li-Ion 3,500mAh battery
Protection: Corning Gorilla Glass 5, IP68 certified - dust proof and water resistant over 1.5 meter and 30 minutes
As you can read from the specification this is a powerhouse of a phone, no wonder Samsung had a hit on their hands, with pre-orders of the phones selling like hot cakes, pun intended (more on this later).
However not everything was right in the Galaxy universe, the first release date for the phone was meant to be the 19th of August 2016, with pre-orders starting on the 16th of that month in the US. The UK had a release date of 2nd of September. But by the 30th of August Samsung had issued a statement saying they were halting sales while they investigate some issues with the phone, this was on the back of consumer reports that their phone had exploded. These reports kept popping up all over the internet and hysteria set in - any report about a phone going up in flames was reported as “Galaxy Note 7 [insert fire synonym here]”.
While it is understandable that a phone like this would draw attention, it received a lot of press from major outlets to tech blogs, almost to the level of the iPhone “Bendgate”. Even my non-tech friends were talking about Samsung phones exploding, these are the same friends that think Android is Samsung, so just keep that in mind.
Early reports on the matter reported an issue with the battery supplied with the phone as the likely cause of the issue. Samsung like any major manufacturer sources parts from other manufacturers, especially with a popular device, so that they can meet expected demand.
In the case of the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung sourced batteries from two suppliers - a subsidiary of Samsung and a Hong Kong battery manufacturer, however Samsung has not officially confirmed the identity of their battery suppliers in their statement.
Initial reports pointed fingers at the Hong Kong battery manufacturer, because of this most users assumed that they were safe with their Galaxy Note 7 with a Samsung battery and went about using their phone. Samsung on the 30th of August released a press statement acknowledging a battery cell defect with the batteries on the Galaxy Note 7. Samsung reported that they had only found 35 units had been faulty. On paper 35 units doesn’t seem a lot, but with lives at risk, even 1 unit exploding and causing damage or loss of life is a risk no one should take and subsequently Samsung initiated a Global recall of all Galaxy Note 7s sold - a reported 2.5 million units.
In the UK, Samsung began the exchange programme on the 19th of September in very similar way to their global programme, if you had a “bad” Galaxy Note 7, you could take it back to the shop where you purchased it or your network provider and they would provide a replacement phone or refund - those that went through the exchange programme would receive a new Galaxy Note 7 defect free.
When consumers received their new Galaxy Note 7, the way to differentiate the new Galaxy Note 7 from the old one would be by the battery icon colour, if it is green the device is a replacement device, if it is white it is a old device that needs to be exchanged. Those devices that did not have to be sent back and exchanged would receive a software update to change the battery icon colour.
To ensure people complied and returned their devices Samsung issued a software update that limited the charging of the Galaxy Note 7 to 65% ensuring people would exchange their phone.
The exchange programme took 2 weeks after the halt of sales was issued, so consumers started receiving their replacement devices around the 21st of September, but by this time Samsung had lost some consumers and with concerns relating to the quality of the manufacturing many turned to the newly released iPhone 7 range and other devices.
Other consumers felt that Samsung had been slow with issuing a recall or addressing the issue, in the UK particularly many consumers had purchased their devices through their network providers or Carphone Warehouse found that the organisation of the exchange programme was poor, with some network providers providing unclear information to consumers. Some buyers decided to keep their devices as they did not know when they would get a replacement, while sellers and network providers offered small tokens of compensation, providing loaner devices, credit to accounts or allowing consumers to keep any gifts that came with their contracts if they were to return for refund their devices.
The exchange program has been underway since and it seemed all was well and balance had been restored in the Galaxy universe. But as I write this, there are growing and numerous reports from consumers and media outlets stating that their replacement Galaxy Note 7 phones are once again exploding and Samsung has yet to issue an official statement. A news article this week by the Korean YONHAP News agency is reporting that a Samsung supplier has stated anonymously to them that Samsung have halted production of the Galaxy Note 7. It seems if this is correct, any of the good will people had towards Samsung might have been thrown out of the window. Reputation is key in this day and age and if consumers do not have confidence in Samsung this might not only affect the Galaxy Note brand but all of their other products.
So you must be asking yourself right now… What should I do if I have a Galaxy Note 7? If you are an owner of this device, contact Samsung ASAP, the Galaxy Note 7 exchange programme can be found on their site here. If you received your device as part of your upgrade or new contract reach out to your network providers. As for this writer's opinion, FOR YOUR SAFETY STOP USING YOUR DEVICE.
Do you think that this has damaged Samsung reputation? Do you think that the Galaxy Note brand is tarnished beyond repair? Would you ever buy another Galaxy Note? Let me know your thoughts below.