It's piling up so fast you almost need wings to stay above it.
That line (paraphrased) from Martin Sheen's character in Apocolypse Now perfectly describes this weekend for Samsung. I had what I thought was a really well-written and thoughtful article ready yesterday about the price of phones, our reactions, and how we can't judge what anything is worth to someone else. A big part of it was about the Note 7, which set off the most recent chain of phones that cost "a lot."
Yeah, that went off the rails. That's what I get for trying to talk about things that move as quickly as mobile tech. This week's Android and chill isn't so chill.
The Note 7 has turned into a dumpster fire. We really have no idea what's going on, yet we're seeing people with replacement phones doing the same exact thing the original ones did. The ones that Samsung, Health Canada, and the CPSC all deemed as unsafe. Why this is happening is anyone's guess. I imagine that even Samsung isn't quite sure. Worst of all, people who spent nearly $1,000 USD on a new phone, universally touted as the best you can buy, have no idea what the hell is going on. And that's not fair. Not even a little.
I imagine even Samsung is unsure about exactly what is happening right now.
I'm done believing some story about anode-to-cathodes and other assorted nonsense as the explanation for phones exploding, catching fire, and in a few cases putting people in the hospital. Especially now that the miracle cure seemingly did nothing. And if there isn't another wide-spread issue and these were isolated incidents that had the most terrible timing imaginable, I don't care. The Note 7 is damaged goods, never to be redeemed. The public doesn't want it, the carriers don't want it, and even if the people who do still want it bought three of them each, that's not enough to save it. Kill it. Take it out back with one bullet like the thing you love that could turn rabid and hurt you at any time.
Photo courtesy KTSP News
Until we are able to retrieve the device, we cannot confirm that this incident involves the new Note 7. We are working with the authorities and Southwest now to recover the device and confirm the cause. Once we have examined the device we will have more information to share
That was Samsung's response when a man's replacement Note 7 burst into flames while he was boarding his flight to Baltimore. Seeing that is when I realized that things were once again out of control. No mention of concern for the people involved or relief that nobody was injured, no empathy for worried customers who shelled out $1,000 and no tact. How hard would it have been to say that "Samsung is thankful that nobody was injured during the incident and we are ready to assist the investigation in any way we can." Or better yet, how about you get your lead engineers and someone in a suit and tie with a VP title on a Goddamn plane and find out what's going on while you're saying it? Instead, the response sounds accusatory towards the victim and frankly has the vibe that Samsung is in damage-control mode and doesn't care about anything else.
Bad hardware can happen to any company. Unlike many others, I praised Samsung for moving forward with a voluntary recall while waiting for government agencies to churn out something. Getting the Note 7 off of the streets was the single most important thing that needed to be done at the time and Samsung did it without being forced. Supply issues and replacements were something that can be worked out after you're sure nobody else is going to get hurt. That goodwill I felt is quickly slipping away as Samsung remains silent after another round of high-profile battery failures.
The Note 7 is damaged goods, never to be redeemed. Even if there's nothing wrong with it.
We need to know what's happening, Samsung, or we need an avenue for an instant refund of every dollar spent so we can buy a different phone. If I or anyone in my family had a Note 7, it wouldn't leave my office. My wife wouldn't be carrying one, nor would my children. Not until I knew it was safe, and I'm afraid I'll never know that. I'm not advising anyone else on what they should do with my unsolicited opinion. But I know the bad taste this is leaving behind might have been avoidable had Samsung said something, anything, as soon as they had reports of the replacement Notes having these familiar issues. I'm not going to entertain the thought that Samsung knew there was a problem before phones exploded in Korea, and Taiwan, and China, and Kentucky and Minnesota right now. I can't.
I just know it's time for Samsung to do the right thing and let us know what they know, tells us what they plan to do, and help us feel better about their phones.