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Friday, 20 January 2017 11:36

Why Samsung should hang its head in shame over Note7 Featured

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More than three months after it was forced to pull the Galaxy Note7 from production, Samsung Electronics has finally given an indication of when it will make an official statement about the fiasco.

The company says on Monday it will announce "the cause of the Galaxy Note7 incidents and quality enhancement plan" at a media conference in Seoul. This, according to the announcement, follows "several months of comprehensive investigations".

But leaks have already taken place: a few days back, we were informed that the battery (really???) was to blame. Who would have thought it?

The details of the great Note7 disaster are writ large in the public mind so let me be brief: the device was released in August last year, to great fanfare, but only a month later reports that it resembled a firecracker more than a digital device started to pour in.

On 11 October, the company made the expected announcement: it was stopping production of the Note7.

Since then, people have waited and waited to see when Samsung would front up and confess to the mistakes that had resulted in what became a global story and one that never seemed to disappear from the media.

Before I proceed any further, it should be noted that Samsung is no ordinary company. It is a massive conglomerate that accounts for nearly a third of the value of the South Korean stock market. And we are not talking about some Third World backwater when we talk about this country; it is one of the richest in Asia.

It is shameful that a group this big could not bother to put more people on the job and pay for the best experts to investigate. It bungled the management of the issue comprehensively and only now is it trying to admit its fault.

In the midst of this come reports that Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong is being investigated for alleged bribery charges. The amounts cited could well have taken care of the investigation into the Note7 fiasco.

Anyone who looks logically at Samsung's bumbling response to the Note7 affair can only come to two conclusions:

  • It held off announcing the cause of the fires in December because that would affect sales of other Samsung devices during the peak sales season; and
  • It has chosen the last week of January for its official announcement because there is only a short time from that day until the Mobile World Congress when it is expected to announce its Galaxy 8.

Already, rumours about the Galaxy 8 are floating around and this positive news, the Samsung top brass hopes, will no doubt drown out the negatives that emerge from the announcement of what went wrong.

Any company of this size — which incidentally is the world's biggest manufacturer of smartphones — would have been put to shame when a small nine-employee engineering firm, Instrumental, was able to carry out an investigation on a Note7 which it obtained and come out with plausible findings as to the cause of the explosions and fires.

But Samsung kept mum when this report emerged. It did not even try to counter the Instrumental claim that it had shipped a dangerous product. The exact quote from Instrumental chief executive Anna Shedletsky, a qualified engineer, was: "In this case, Samsung took a deliberate step towards danger, and their existing test infrastructure and design validation process failed them. They shipped a dangerous product."

Is that what we will hear on 23 January? It seems unlikely that Samsung will go into technical detail about the cause of the fault. It will no doubt paper over the incident as it did during the CES show earlier this year, by talking about all the wonderful "improvements" it has made for its next device.

It's all too little, too late. However there is one bright side to this: were Samsung to go into the fireworks business, it can expect to do extremely well. It has shown that it knows very well how to blow up things.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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