Culture

Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 recall: The last thing the brand needed

Technically Incorrect: The timing is terrible. Just how much damage might Samsung's recall do to its brand image?

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


In deep water?

Josh Miller CNET

At least they didn't tell customers they were holding it wrong.

Samsung's recall of all its Galaxy Note 7 devices because of a "battery cell issue" that some have described as a "phone exploding issue" is not only a terrible event for the brand. It's terrible timing, too.

It's one thing recalling a phone that might have had lukewarm reviews. It's another when the Note 7 is, to use my colleague Jessica Dolcourt's words, "the sexiest large-screen phone ever."

The last thing you want with sexy is for it to blow up in your face.

This recall blows up in Samsung's face in several ways. The brand had been enjoying a renaissance after being a touch lost, as Apple was suddenly inspired to make larger-screen phones.

However, with the Galaxy S7 and Note 7, Samsung created devices that made iPhones look slightly dowdy. Next week's unveiling of the newest iPhone is also likely to excite about as much as a lap dance from an actuary.

What better opportunity for Samsung to have its sexiness flood the world, as groans of disappointment emerge after seeing Cupertino's latest offering?

Stare, too, at viral video charts and you'll see Samsung regularly dominating. Its ad campaign featuring Lil' Wayne pouring champagne all over his Galaxy S7 Edge has also inspired emotional commitment. Indeed, a recent survey showed that this waterproofing feature was the one most craved by iPhone owners.

Last weekend, even Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff retweeted something that suggested Samsung was far ahead of Apple in terms of innovation.

And now this.

Now the focus will largely be on how the company deals with this recall and how quickly it can release safe phones into the market.

There will be extra care taken, stress tests performed, doubts expressed.

Phones do explode. Batteries are often pointed to as the cause. But when you've spent quite some energy laughing at the iPhone's battery, you really don't want to have such an explosive issue with your own.

Samsung appeared to rush the Note 7 to the market. Now it's in another rush to replace those phones.

It has to hope first that this problem will last a couple of weeks, rather than months, and that once the phones are in general use they'll still incite excitement rather than suspicion.

It has to also hope that Apple doesn't reveal one more thing on September 7 that will make the re-release of the Note 7 seem like unfortunate plastic surgery.

Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment on my assertions.