I’m pretty sure that Samsung is going to make the least-explodey phones in the world from now until doomsday, as it simply cannot absorb another PR nightmare like the one it’s still experiencing.
But after the flaming Galaxy Note 7 debacle last year, there was a sense of ‘why bother?’ when the phone manufacturer announced a press conference to tell the world why the battery caught fire in its big-selling phablet.
We know why Samsung wanted the conference – it needed a PR exercise to properly explain what happened, and assure the world that it was never going to make such a dramatic error again.
The brand needed to try and restore consumer confidence that the forthcoming Galaxy S8 – which could be one of its best-selling phones of all time – is hampered as little as possible by the Note 7 fallout.
A missing explanation
To that end, we got two things: a detailed explanation from three independent experts as to what happened with the Note 7 battery, and a long explanation of the 8-point battery safety check Samsung will implement going forward.
But Samsung, you missed one vital thing: how this whole mess started in the first place. Consumers need to know how a company of your size managed to make such a slip. We all knew the batteries were to blame, and showed it was because of deformations in the battery shape.
The independent testing announced at the press conference showed that a few things were at fault: the aforementioned deformed batteries, as well as punctures caused by poor-quality welding, and thermal tape either missing or not providing the right level of protection.
But the consumer doesn’t really care about this, and nor are they required to; nobody should have to know what kind of battery safety checks are in place with the consumer electronics they’re buying.
What Samsung failed to outline is why the designs they supplied to the battery manufacturers were faulty in the first place.
When the first reports of Note 7 fires emerged, rumors swirled that Samsung was hell-bent on getting its phone out ahead of Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus after it learned the upgrade from Cupertino was going to be underwhelming – and that its haste compromised checks in the design process.
The irony of pressure being applied from above resulting in pressure within the battery causing the fires shouldn’t be ignored.
What buyers want
Was it the design of the Note 7, combined with a desire to plug a massive battery into a super-thin, curved phone that caused one of the big issues? Did Samsung reach too far in a bid to increase market share and profits? That’s what we need to know.
Consumers thinking about buying the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 who are aware of the Note 7 fires just want to know what mistakes Samsung made in the design of the phone, why they made errors in the first place, and whether the company’s principles have changed to ensure this never happens again.
But we didn’t get definitive answers, and as such the Note 7 ‘explanation’ press conference shouldn’t be seen as anything other than a PR exercise for Samsung, rather than an explanation to help out future customers.
The long and the short of it is that Samsung put poorly-designed batteries in the Note 7, and we don’t know how that happened. We know what happened, but not the series of events that led to it.
Of course the Galaxy S8 won’t explode – but neither has this press conference put the issue to bed for Samsung.
You know that, the second someone uses a charger made of paperclips and foil, which some people around the world persist in doing, a Galaxy S8 will start smoking in some remote location – and this debacle will be brought up time and again.
So Samsung can put in as many safeguards as it likes. It can help the rest of the industry make safer batteries, create advisory committees and work with experts to make sure it doesn’t have this happen again.
But it’ll be a year or two before the Note 7 is forgotten – so Samsung had better hope the Galaxy S8 is a brilliant phone, as there’s nothing that helps rewrite people’s memories than a new and improved must-have shiny thing to look at.
- The Samsung Galaxy S8 won’t be there, but we’re going to see loads of new phones at MWC 2017