Samsung Electronics phones have been my preferred mobile handset for quite a few years. While most people around me raved about Apple Inc.’s iPhone, I stayed as far away as I could from the device. A former employer forced the iPhone on me once but I quickly replaced the device as soon as I left the company.
The iPhone holds no interest for me but I won’t go deep into why here. Suffice it to say I hated being locked into the Apple ecosystem. Years ago, in order to really enjoy the iPhone you needed to also have a Mac computer. Even Apple’s iTunes was closed to people who just simply wanted to move music from one device to another. My experience with the first in the series of iPods was fair; it wasn’t spectacular and whatever pleasure I had using the device was quickly erased when I initially couldn’t transfer my music to another equipment. I simply don’t like the closed community Apple insists upon.
That’s why I am taking the Samsung Note 7 battery debacle personal. I was one of the 2.5 million or so people who pre-ordered the device. I had an older version of the series; Mine was the Galaxy Note 4. I didn’t upgrade to the Note 5 because I couldn’t add a memory card to the device. It turned out Samsung had copied Apple’s insistence on making sure consumers could not add a memory card to their phone. Of course, Apple knows always what’s best for the customer. Right. This is one of the reasons why Apple’s iPhone is off my list and it will stay off for as long as there are other OEMs willing to give me a choice on options like memory card and fewer restrictions on the operating system environment.
I thought Samsung’s decision to restore the SD card slot to the Note 7 was a smart move. However, the Korean company also chose to layer on another dumb move to its copy-the-Apple focus. They sealed the device, ensuring consumers could not remove, replace or travel with a spare battery. The Note 7 came with a memory card slot but Samsung eliminated the battery replacement option. It is now paying heavily for this design blunder. If customers could swap the batteries themselves Samsung would by now be sending out replacement batteries for the Note 7 rather than engineering a global recall of the device.
But Samsung isn’t the only one paying a price for its design decision. As noted above, I preordered the Note 7 and received it by mid-August as a replacement for my Note 4. Soon after, reports came of the Note 7 bursting into flames due to a problem with the battery. Samsung is recalling the phone, leaving frustrated customers in the wake of another dumb “copy-the-Apple” decision.
Because Samsung sealed up the Note 7, it has been forced to recall the device in its entirety. This design decision has no direct benefit or utility to the customer. It serves the OEM alone. Customers cannot get a spare battery for long trips or solve a “frozen” moment by simply removing and replacing the battery. Samsung liked the idea of forcing customers to buy a replacement device once the battery gets old or whenever it stopped working as expected. That, in my opinion, is the reason Apple sealed up the device; customers shouldn’t have the option of extending the life of their device. They should just pay for another one. It may be working for Apple – for now – but it will cost Samsung a bundle.
Samsung can afford to pay the hefty price associated with the recall and it should pay a hefty price. But why are customers also being hammered? Here’s my personal experience:
Once news broke of the recall of the Samsung Note 7, I called T-Mobile, my service provider of about 12 years. A T-Mobile customer service representative said I should wait for further information about the recall. A few days later another person told me I should go to a T-Mobile retail outlet to either replace the Note 7 with another device or get a loaner device. I chose the loaner option. I prefer and I still like the Note 7. At my local retailer I received a different message, though. The manager said I should wait another week and Samsung would provide information on what I should do. If I wanted a replacement immediately I would be stuck with the device even if it wasn’t the Note 7, he said. I went back home.
The next day (September 10), however, Samsung sent a note asking customers to immediately “power down your Note 7 and exchange it now through our U.S. Product Exchange Program” (Emphasis theirs). It was perplexing and added to a budding fright. The company said further:
“Through the U.S. Note 7 Exchange Program you can:
Exchange your current Galaxy Note 7 device with a new Galaxy Note 7 (pending CPSC approval). Select carrier and retail outlets will provide customers, who prefer a replacement Note 7, an exchange for a Samsung J Series or equivalent device to use until CPSC -approved Note 7s are available.
Exchange your current Galaxy Note 7 for a Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 edge and replacement of any Note 7 specific accessories with a refund of the price difference between devices.”
Of course I chose the first option. I didn’t want a Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 edge. I wanted the Note 7 so I trudged back to the T-Mobile retail outlet. I explained what I wanted to the T-Mobile customer rep who then called the company and confirmed that I was (1) Asking for a loaner replacement and: (2) Wanted the loaner to be a Galaxy S7. On September 11, T-Mobile sent me an email asking me to “complete my order” by clicking on “the link below to electronically sign your Equipment Installment Plan agreement.” I clicked on the link and reviewed the order. It was for the iPhone!
T-Mobile wants to replace my Samsung Note 7 with a loaner iPhone! Maybe the telecom service provider wants to punish Samsung for screwing up so horribly. It will have to do this without my help. I called T-Mobile and told the customer service rep bluntly: “I don’t want an iPhone; I have no interest in the iPhone.”
Samsung followed iPhone down a rabbit hole and ended up with a sealed phone. It would have cost the company less if all it had to do was mail replacement batteries to the people, like myself, who pre-ordered the Note 7.
A design flaw has morphed into a supply chain nightmare.
Bolaji Ojo is editor-in-chief and publisher of EPSNews. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author alone who promises to base his sometimes biased, possibly ignorant, occasionally irrelevant but absolutely stimulating thoughts on the subjective interpretation of verifiable facts alone. Any comments should be sent to the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.