It's hard to say sorry. Big companies especially need to get better at it. Hell, I'm Canadian and say it all the time and still need to get better at it.
What struck me about this whole Note 7 mess is that Samsung just hasn't made people feel good enough about its response. It did all the right things — got the phones back en masse, issued new ones quickly, with sufficient (albeit strange) differentiation — but they missed the emotional impact that this recall had on people. And now, after several replacement Note 7s have reportedly exploded, the company has stayed largely silent, except to say the investigation continues. The trend is disturbing.
It's akin to a relationship gone south, and all you see can see after the breakup is a totally different person staring back at you.
People are scared. They're scared to buy Note 7s, they're nervous to be around other people with Note 7s, and they're especially hesitant to use one themselves. And that's OK: It's normal to be worried when you've been told a thing in your house — in your pocket— could explode without warning. The difference is that the Note 7, or any phone, is meant to stay near you most of the time, to be a companion. Even a friend. It's akin to a relationship gone south, and all you see can see after the breakup is a totally different person staring back at you.
Despite the recent rash of fires from the new batch of Note 7s, the chance of an individual unit spontaneously alighting is still very low. And yet, when I peer at the replacement Note 7 on my desk, I can't help looking at it a bit sideways. My response is as emotional as it is based in fact, but that's the point: Samsung hasn't adequately addressed the underlying human side of this very technical problem.
It's also a side of tech that I don't think we, as the media, successfully approach. No piece of tech has engendered more sustained discord, more animosity, more feigned us vs. them, than the smartphone, both inter- and intra-ecosystem. And yet we don't really acknowledge the cause of this vitriol, since we generally only address it after it's been expressed. I don't want to play the role of armchair psychologist, so I'm just going to end with this: Phones are not phones, but extensions of ourselves, and our lives, over which we have considerably more control than most other areas. And when that control is upended in some way — by an errant software update, or the fear of an exploding battery — it becomes more distant from us.
Samsung hasn't adequately addressed the underlying human side of this very technical problem.
It's for those reasons that the Pixel's announcement, that it was at once not a Nexus and too much like a Nexus, was so divisive. I was lucky enough to use the phones briefly at an event in Toronto, and came away impressed and confused. On one hand, the phones are objectively great — nicely-built, and conscientious of the way people use their phones today — but, in the hands of Google, they have limited carrier support in the U.S. and are being positioned as both Galaxy and Nexus. I want the Pixels to do well, but I also know how difficult that will be.
- Andrew and Russell did a great job on the Pixel hands-on, and both of them really understand where it fits in the Android ecosystem.
- Alex did better than most other sites reviewing the iPhone 7 Plus, giving it a fair shake from an Android user. It's a great phone, with an amazing camera, but it's no longer automatically the best phone, as evidenced by...
- ...the results of the Blind Camera Test. I'm of two minds about the results: Samsung ramps up the color saturation of its photos, which is naturally pleasing to the eye, but there are also examples where the phone is objectively better. The iPhone 7 also holds its own, but Apple goes for a more natural look — #nofilter to Samsung's Juno or Ludwig —which can turn some people off. Different strokes.
- The LG V20 goes on sale on October twenty days too late for most people. (October 28.) Seriously, LG, you had one job, and it was to get this phone into people's hands two weeks after the September 6 announcement.
- Verizon ruins everything.
- But seriously, Verizon isn't just a wireless network provider; it's a services company, a content producer, and an enormous ad funnel. You think Google's deal to sell the Pixel on Verizon was all about the company pre-installing a couple of apps and controlling software updates? No, it was all about Google promising to advertise the crap out of its new phones on every Verizon-owned publishing channel, including AOL.
- We're approaching a time when the Note 7 will have to be recalled again, but this second round of problems has, I believe, damaged the Note brand's reputation beyond repair.
- And if this text message can be verified as having come from a Samsung representative... wow. Just wow.
- Hurricane Matthew looked devastating. Hope all of you are safe and unharmed from the inundation.
If you're in Canada, have a very happy Thanksgiving, and if you're in the U.S., happy Columbus Day!
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