The AC editors sound off on the Note 7 recall, and how it has hurt Samsung's brand.
We're now over three weeks into Samsung's recall of the Note 7 due to serious concerns over faulty batteries. 1 million phones in the U.S. alone were recalled, and some 2.5 million worldwide had to be replaced. While the day-to-day news of exploding phones has settled down a bit, Samsung now has to deal with the lasting effect this massive recall has on its brand.
Just how Samsung comes out of this Note 7 recall to continue to sell phones around the world will be interesting to follow, and there's certainly a chance that these cases of exploding Note 7s have a lasting effect on future flagship phone sales. To get a bit of perspective on the situation, we've rounded up responses from the editors here at Android Central to see how everyone feels Samsung will come out of this.
So the question is simple: how do you think the Note 7 recall has damaged Samsung's reputation?
With something as unprecedented as the Galaxy Note 7 recall, it's difficult to map out where things will go from here. Everyone, Samsung included, is in uncharted territory. I've said before that I think the Note 7, product-wise, is already basically a lost cause. This will always be that exploding Samsung phone — resultingly a figure of fun, and something travelers are reminded off each time they take a flight. (You may use electronic devices in airplane mode — except for that one made by Samsung that that might explode at any time and kill us all.)
People on planes are being reminded daily that the Note 7 is a fire hazard.
And it remains to be seen how long the Note 7 airline "ban" — which, let's be clear, includes your safe unit with the green battery icon — will last. My guess would be months not weeks.
Even if consumers were completely rational and accepted that the new, "safe" Note 7s are indeed safe, the phone now comes with legitimate baggage in terms of using it while flying, and in some cases even when taking the train. That's still a legitimate reason to pass on what's legitimately a very good phone, and buy another very good phone — like an iPhone 7 Plus or an LG V20 — instead. There've been headlines this past week with analysts predicting Note 7 sales will total up to only a fraction of that of the Note 5. That's just common sense at this point.
But I do think that, barring any more nasty surprises, the lasting damage to Samsung as a brand and other Galaxy products by association will be limited. Samsung's marketing strategy in many countries has pivoted back to a heavier focus on the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge — two great phones that people are still buying. Samsung will have no choice but to mention it at the next big press conference, whether it's the Galaxy S8 in February or something at CES in January. Expect stats about the speed of Samsung's response, the vast numbers of phones successfully exchange, and Samsung's commitment to customer safety. After which the company will hope to draw a line under the whole thing and move on.
The extent to which it's able to do that will determine how next year's Note will fare. As Samsung's pointed out on more than one occasion, Note customers are among its most loyal, and I agree that the hard core of people who love this device will be largely unswayed. But the Note's success has come from its mainstream appeal too, and only time will tell whether the average consumer will remember Samsung's exploding phone twelve months on.
It depends on who you ask.
Among the technology-savvy internet crowd Samsung is polarizing. That happens when a company gets so big it influences a market. A large portion of the people doing the talking would back Samsung if it kicked a box of kittens. An equally large portion would fault Samsung if it showered the same kittens with love, affection and catnip instead. Neither of those groups has an opinion that counts for much when looking at the overall picture. For that, you need to look to the buying public.
The regular consumers aren't interested in history as long as what they buy today works.
Those folks are going to forget and not even have an opinion. The regular folks who work 40 hours a week, go to soccer games on Saturday and have a phone they use to chat with friends or catch Pokemon aren't interested in history as long as what they're buying today works for them.
I like to point at Toyota here, because it's such an extreme example. It had "issues" with the with some models where the cars would accelerate until they reached top speed or hit something to stop them. People died. It took Toyota a while to sort out the problem, much to the dismay of people who make laws and levy fines. But people quickly forgot and now you see Priuses everywhere.
People also forgot that in the end, it was the floor mats and there was nothing wrong with the rest of the cars, but this did bring some major safety improvements to Toyota vehicles. Or they didn't care about it. Apathy is a hell of a drug.
Samsung will be just fine. The Note 7 is now and forever a dud that you shouldn't buy. Not because it's a bad phone or the new models will explode, but because Samsung will be quick to drop support and forget it ever existed. But the Note 8 will be the best (and worst) thing the internet has ever seen, and people that want a bigger phone with a "pencil" who pay no attention to the internet will be happy buying it. The same can be said for the rest of Samsung's Galaxy models.
The Galaxy Note 7 recall process is damaging, for sure, but I think the biggest pain will be felt simply for this release, and the lingering distrust of Samsung going forward will be minimal. Though it has dragged on for over three weeks now, the public as a whole has a short memory — the immediate future of Note 7 sales isn't looking bright, but after a couple months with a few price drops they'll be selling at a solid clip once again; all will be back to "normal." Note 7 sales won't reach anywhere near the volumes expected or predicted based on early sales before the recall, but to think the phone is entirely dead is a bit of a stretch.
This will destroy Note 7 sales, but future phones will be just fine.
More importantly for Samsung's overall mobile business, I honestly don't see any major issues heading into the next flagship release, be it the Galaxy S8 or something else. Though I wouldn't be surprised if the company chose to address things head-on during the announcement with extra information about how it's improved its manufacturing quality control standards since the recall.
Samsung hasn't necessarily showered itself in glory this past month, and has clearly made a few missteps on some specifics of the recall process, but considering the variables at play it did a pretty damn good job with things. Most general consumers will see from a high level that Samsung did the right thing in recalling unsafe phones, and I don't see this weighing heavily on their future buying decisions.
Samsung is a huge monolithic company stepped in the Korean traditions of honor and duty. But it is also a public entity with a board, shareholders, and hundreds and thousands of employees, many of which worked either directly or indirectly on the Galaxy Note 7. The irony of this whole recall is that the problem lies not with Samsung itself, which didn't manufacture the affected batteries, but with the culture of unrelenting innovation that strives to win at all and any costs.
The hit to Samsung's reputation will be short and placid, especially after the holiday marketing push.
The Bloomberg article that claims Samsung pushed its suppliers too hard, too fast in order to beat Apple's iPhone 7 to market misses the point that the Note has always been an August baby, and that the Korean giant has always been ruthless about its product releases. The Note 7 is but one of dozens of phones the company releases annually, and though it may be the most expensive it is by no means the most popular.
All that is to say any hit to the company's reputation will be short and placid, especially after the inevitable marketing blitz that is sure to hit the market this holiday season. There may be some folks reticent to pick up a Galaxy for a while but there will be many others eager to pick up the Note 7 at a massive discount, or with generous incentives. Samsung can and will do these things, because being at the top of the world is tenuous, and this is an opportunity too important to fail.
We can't ignore the lasting impact that the Galaxy Note 7 recall will have on the Samsung brand. The company is a major electronics manufacturer in the U.S. It doesn't just make smartphones; it makes appliances, components, televisions, and other sorts of gadgets. It has been a trusted brand for so long. I don't necessarily believe that this recall will put the South Korean company over the edge, but I can already see a radical shift in opinion.
The best thing Samsung can do right now is focus on delivering quality, responsive customer service.
The narrative across mainstream news sites is that Samsung was slow to react after the initial exploding incident. The Wall Street Journal reported that Samsung failed "to coordinate efforts with U.S. safety authorities," which in turn "led to delays in providing replacement devices." And the New York Times wrote of Samsung's "stumbles" in recalling the phablets. It even reached out to Jennifer Shecter, a spokeswoman for Consumer Reports, who pointed out that Samsung hadn't immediately notified the government of the exploding battery issue, nor had it initially offered a "clear fix."
I'd be terrified to use a Samsung product after reading from two major news outlets that the company had failed at recalling a potentially deadly device. Just like Chipotle's sales suffered after its massive E.coli recall (I haven't eaten there since), I imagine Samsung will also feel the effects in its sales numbers over time. Its global shares have already been affected and it's too bad, considering the Galaxy S7 was such a knockout.
The best thing Samsung can do right now is focus on delivering quality, responsive customer service so that its current users feel supported. It's helped companies like Dell, Toyota, and even IKEA through its own recalls. Samsung also needs to develop a better contingency plan, because as we continue making consumer electronics en masse, this sort of thing is bound to happen again.
What do you think? Has the Note 7 recall hurt Samsung's reputation beyond repair, or is this something to rebound from? Let us know in the comments!