The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 should have been a victory lap for the Korean technology giant. As the bigger sibling of the critically lauded Samsung S7/S7 Edge, the Note 7 had high expectations to live up to. Incredibly, however, it surpassed almost every single one.
Upon its launch in mid-August, critics praised its stunning build quality, fantastic speed, excellent waterproofing, best-in-class camera and wonderful stylus support. Indeed, many claimed that the Note 7 was perhaps the best smartphone of all time.
Fast forward less than one month, however, and the Note 7 has been discontinued, all existing handsets are being destroyed and for those that are choosing to hold on to the phone have seen it banned from airplane travel and much more.
So, what went so wrong with the Galaxy Note 7? Let us explain.
A rushed development.
Samsung and Apple’s rivalry needs little explanation, and you can trace the roots of the Note 7 scandal back to the months preceding the Note 7 launch. Samsung were more than aware that Apple were gearing up to launch their new flagship smartphone, the iPhone 7. With the Galaxy S7 selling well but not exactly the latest handset on the market, the pressure was on Samsung to bring their Note 7 to market long enough before Apple’s offering to gain a solid foothold.
Put simply, Samsung rushed their smartphone to market and it almost worked. The Note 7 was everything that Samsung wanted it to be, expect it had one critical failure – a dangerously unstable battery.
There’s a long and storied history of batteries exploding or bursting into flames spontaneously. Battery technology is, at its core, rather archaic and is prone to failure. However, with correct testing and stringent quality assurance programmes the risk of a battery going haywire is dramatically reduced.
Unfortunately, it would appear that Samsung didn’t take the time and care needed to ensure their phones were entirely safe and, with huge numbers of Note 7’s out there in the world, a certain number began to fail. Of course, it’s not the first time a phone’s battery has catastrophically failed, we’ve seen battery failures happen
A growing crisis
Early reports began to trickle in of phones going up in smoke, or in some cases, actually setting on fire. Samsung were quick to recall affected phones and soon issued a software update which limited the amount of charge a battery could take, which (Samsung thought) would solve the problem temporarily whilst they issued a full fix.
However, even phones with that had the software fix began to overheat and Samsung were drawn into a crisis that was managed very poorly indeed. Customers were flooding Samsung customer service asking whether their phone was affected and Samsung were forced into a global recall.
What followed was a masterclass in bad damage limitation as confusion ran supreme and Samsung managed to let the story get out from under them, potentially damaging their brand massively.
Finally, on the 11th of October, Samsung announced that it had finished production of the Note 7 and had ordered the recall of all existing phones. Quite simply, it was a catastrophe for the company – one which may cost them billions of dollars.