Buyers shelled out over $800, £700 and AU$1,300 to purchase the Galaxy Note 7 when it arrived last August. Not only was it Samsung's most advanced handset for power users, it was also one of the most powerful, beautiful devices Samsung has ever made. But customers were either made to return it or switch to a different, less-expensive Samsung phone after fire-prone Note 7 units were pulled from the market not once, but twice.
When Samsung recalled the Note 7 in September 2016, users were strongly urged -- and even compelled -- to turn in their phones. Samsung worked with retailers to reclaim devices, set up return kiosks in airports, and in some regions cut service to Note holdouts who wouldn't turn in their phones. (In the end, better than 96 percent of Note owners did, according to Samsung.) You can catch up on the whole ordeal here.
The Galaxy Note 8 launch, which takes place August 23, represents Samsung's chance to finally put the Note 7 disaster behind it and rescue the Note's charred reputation. Samsung has already issued numerous apologies, conducted an inquest into what went wrong and created an updated battery test designed to catch potential problems before phones hit the market.
But is that enough?
Offering a discount to all original Note 7 buyers would be Samsung's final step in wiping the slate clean.
What Samsung can do
Samsung already tends to offer bundles like a free Gear VR headset for anyone who buys a pricey phone. Samsung did this for a limited time at the Note 7's launch window, for example. But again, I think Note 7 buyers deserve something more exclusive, like:
- $100, £75 or AU$125 rebate off the Galaxy Note 8 price (e.g. through a Samsung Pay credit that acts like cash)
- A free wireless charger (in addition to the rebate)
- Free enrollment in Samsung's Care premium warranty program (a free yearlong warranty is standard)
Samsung can afford the apology
Samsung wouldn't be the first major devicemaker to throw something more substantial than words behind an apology. Most famously, Apple handed out free phone cases (and eventually, $15 checks) after problems with 2010's iPhone 4, dubbed Antennagate by the internet.
The fact that Apple stepped up for a minor flaw affecting some phones should set a meaningful precedent for Samsung, a company that has long emulated Apple and struggled to outpace it. While the iPhone 4 antenna issue was frustrating for phone owners, the Note 7's potential for battery blowup was downright dangerous.
It also took a device completely off the market in one of the largest tech recalls in history and deprived millions of Note buyers the chance to buy an updated Note phone since the Note 5 went on sale in August 2015 (Samsung never made a Note 6). In addition, Note 7 owners were banned from legally taking their phone on airplanes. Samsung has faced at least one class-action lawsuit for leaving Note 7 owners without a working phone for weeks.
Samsung has told CNET in the past that Galaxy Note owners are the brand's most loyal customers. Even without using Apple as a model of how to rectify a mistake, Samsung's staunchest demographic certainly deserves a tangible salve in the form of a rebate or bundled extra exclusive, one for original Note 7 buyers alone.
The company can certainly afford it. Although Samsung lost billions of dollars in the Note 7 recall, the phonemaker is now swimming in money, thanks to booming sales of components. The fact that the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus outsold the Galaxy S7 doesn't hurt, either. Samsung can afford to take the minor ding, either giving Note 8 buyers a discount or a really good freebie.
Setting up a process to verify original Note 7 buyers and fulfill a gift would take time. Samsung would have to set up teams to handle requests and vet purchases. But it wouldn't be impossible, assuming Samsung has the digital data to verify Note 7 buyers.
Samsung will have worked with retailers (like carriers) to keep track of which phones had been returned and which were still out in the wild; it's likely that the company had a clear understanding of how many phones it got back. Sellers would also presumably have records of the original purchase, like credit card records and emailed receipts, if Samsung put the onus of proof on the buyer.
Despite the effort on both Samsung's end and the Note 7 owner's, it's worth it for Samsung to give this group a tangible deal for buying the Note 8, even if the reward comes months down the line. If Samsung isn't motivated by cementing the loyalty of its strongest demographic, it should at least think about its legacy: Is this a truly humbled company that makes good with shunted buyers, or one that expects them to simply forgive and forget?
Samsung did not respond when we asked if the company is planning to offer Note 7 buyers a deal.
What do you think? If you bought a Note 7, would a deal make you any more likely to buy a Galaxy Note 8?
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