At this point, I’m pretty sure the only people still worrying about the Note7 and the impact the recall has had on demand for Samsung phones are reporters. All the evidence from consumer surveys right from the start has suggested that (a) no-one’s views on Samsung were changed all that dramatically by the recall, and more importantly (b) those with recent direct experience of Samsung products budged least in their views. In other words, if you’d used lots of Galaxy smartphones and they’d never blown up, you had reasonable confidence the next one you owned wouldn’t either. These new statements from Samsung back that up, and it looks like the phones are doing even better than last year’s, which shouldn’t be surprising because they really do look pretty compelling, at least on paper (reviews should be coming out in the next week or so and that may change demand for the better or worse). Given that sales are mostly going to be coming from existing owners of Galaxy S phones, none of this should surprise anyone. And I know from talking to them that Samsung employees are desperate to put the Note7 behind them, and quite reasonably so at this point.
If You Ask To Get Your Samsung Washing Machine Repaired, A Dish TV Guy Might Show Up – BuzzFeed (Mar 8, 2017)
This is a crazy story – Samsung is contracting out washing machine repairs as part of its recall to Dish TV installation technicians, those technicians in turn are trying to sell customers surround-sound systems for their living rooms while often doing a poor job actually repairing the washing machines. This looks like a combination of poor training and poor quality control on the part of both Samsung and the Dish installation contractors (who likely mostly aren’t directly employed by Dish). Imagine you have just been told that your washing machine is potentially dangerous and needs service to fix it, and then the guy who comes to fix it not only doesn’t do that well but tries to push a set of TV speakers on you. This is a terrible experience for the customer, and unfortunately in line with a long prior list of questionable customer service from Samsung over its home appliances.
The Sky Is Falling For GoPro – Forbes (Feb 2, 2017)
The headline here is a pun a bit overblown, but only a bit. GoPro’s Karma drone literally fell out of the skies when it was first launched, and had to be recalled, finally going on sale again this week. This piece digs into the challenges GoPro faced in moving into a totally new hardware category, provides some broader context about how hard the drone market has been for others (see also Parrot), and GoPro’s broader challenges. GoPro was one of three companies I highlighted in a piece just over a year ago about the danger of being a one-trick pony in tech, along with Fitbit and Dropbox. Fitbit and GoPro have indeed been through the ringer since then, to differing degrees, with Fitbit having a really tough Q4, and GoPro struggling ever since its disastrous Session launch. Hardware is hard, and it’s even tougher when you’re in a category with a fairly low ceiling and that’s all you do. GoPro and Fitbit have both discovered that the hard way since I wrote that piece (though Dropbox is actually doing OK, partly by diversifying more effectively than either Fitbit or GoPro have).
While Samsung was rightly hammered over its early handling of the Note7 battery issues, since it decided to kick into full gear and issue a full recall, its performance has been far better. This official statement from the chairman of the CPSC, the US body responsible for recalls, praises Samsung and the US wireless carriers for their response and their success rate in getting devices recalled – 97% of devices have now been returned. Taken together with Sunday’s announcement of the conclusion of the investigation, which was thorough even if it didn’t go far enough on the culture side, this seems like a decent conclusion to the saga. It’s worth noting that most of the statement is devoted to complaining about the CPSC’s small budget and lack of resources to do its own in-depth investigations.
Samsung Electronics Announces Cause of Galaxy Note7 Incidents in Press Conference – Samsung (Jan 23, 2017)
See the Techmeme link below for full coverage of the press conference by reporters; the full press conference can be viewed here, with the conference starting around 29:30; and there’s some more detail on testing and other elements here. The related narrative has also been updated today to reflect the latest news.
My to-do list for Samsung at this press conference was as follows: demonstrate that the company really had found the root causes of both sets of battery fires, in a way that was credible; where possible have third parties involved; and talk through the changes to manufacturing processes to avoid these issues in future. It checked off each of these items at its press conference, so in that sense it did exactly what it needed to do: so far, so good. On the other hand, the results indicate that the manufacturing processes at Samsung’s battery partners were in some cases pretty shoddy, and that its own designs put pressure on batteries. So it’s not just the battery manufacturers at fault here, and a big part of the problem is lack of quality control –Samsung’s third party investigators were able to find faults in batteries that hadn’t caught fire, and replicate the conditions in which devices caught fire. The big question is therefore why Samsung wasn’t able to do so. All this suggests a lack of care around product testing and likely also a rush to market for competitive reasons which then shortchanged the manufacturing process. I have confidence that Samsung will make big process changes going forward, but less confidence that the culture that led to these problems will change in the same way.
via Samsung Electronics Announces Cause of Galaxy Note7 Incidents in Press Conference – Samsung Global Newsroom (full coverage on Techmeme here)
We’re finally coming to the end of this saga, with one of the most visible and painful reminders of the fate of the Note7 going away. Though the 96% return rate likely is a major factor in the decision, the fact that most Note7 devices remaining now won’t charge either thanks to the recent carrier updates is likely another – those who have these phones will find it very hard to do anything dangerous with them. The last remaining chapter in this story is now Samsung’s long-awaited disclosure of the root causes for the fires, and its plan for avoiding similar issues in future.
Shara does a great job here of stating the challenge Samsung faces heading into CES, where it holds the biggest press conference of any exhibitor but tends not to make smartphone announcements. I’m concerned that we still don’t have an official explanation for the Note7 fires, which means the story will keep sticking around, and will keep making people – especially those who’ve never bought one – think twice before buying a Samsung phone.
T-Mobile rolls out battery shutdown update to remaining Galaxy Note 7s | AndroidAuthority (Dec 27, 2016)
This is the beginning of the end for the Note7 saga, which began all the way back in early September. The four major US carriers, starting with T-Mobile, are rolling out what are effectively kill updates that will shut down the remaining Note7 devices in use. Over 90% of those devices have already been turned in, so this is really about capturing the holdouts. This is also the beginning of the end for the PR nightmare that’s kept this story in the news far longer than Samsung would have liked.
Galaxy Note 7 recall did not damage Samsung brand in U.S.: Reuters/Ipsos poll | Reuters (Nov 20, 2016)
The actual findings here are more complex than the headline suggests – those who had used Samsung devices tended to be relatively unfazed by the recall, while non-users’ opinions were swayed more, results that have been borne out by other surveys too. In other words, Samsung shouldn’t lose many customers over the recall, but might find it a little harder to win converts.
Samsung Issues Partial Formal US Note7 Recall (Sep 15, 2016)
Samsung issued a partial formal recall through the US CPSC which lacked the force of a full recall, and focused only on the first-generation devices with the supposedly faulty battery.
Samsung Note7 Sales Suspended + Informal Recall (Sep 2, 2016)
Samsung suspended sales of first-generation Note devices and issued an informal recall, while promising that replacement devices with different batteries would be available very soon.