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Galaxy Note 7 Saga Should Give All Phone Manufacturers Pause For Thought

The cancellation of production of the Galaxy Note 7 is a disaster in every way that the word can be applied to a business. It will take Samsung years to recover the loss of reputation that this failure has caused. Other OEMs may derive some short term benefits in sales increases resulting from user caution towards Samsung, but longer term there's a lesson here for everyone.

The Note 7 was rushed to market according to sources within the company. This was driven entirely by a perceived need to beat the iPhone 7 to market and benefit from the negative pre-launch publicity Apple was picking up. In doing so it looks like mistakes were made. It may have been in the manufacture of the battery, it may not. At least one report suggests that there were other problems contributing to the fire and explosions which endangered Samsung's customers.

The need to build smartphones with more and more technology stuffed into smaller and smaller spaces drives a requirement to spend more time testing and retesting the design, engineering and components of the device. Fire isn't the only risk from a poorly conceived device. Something stuffed full of wireless radios has a whole range of other potential health risks to address. Shortcuts aren't advisable.

It's not even that Samsung has a particularly poor reliability record compared to some of its peers. Even now there are multiple reports of iPhone 6S fires appearing, whilst at the same time the iPhone 6 touch disease issue is heading towards litigation in the US courts. Sony and HTC have both previously delivered phones with serious heat management issues and some of LG's recent devices where so bad they would shut down in order to cool down.

The rush to get a new device to market each year is encouraged by the media, for whom any device is dead almost as soon as it's launched. The result is that perfectly good designs, needing little more than a refresh, are jettisoned long before they ever need to be.

Samsung and Apple stepped out of this upgrade cycle with the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7, this year and neither phone is the worse for it. However with the Note 7 Samsung rushed to deliver 'new', when a light refresh of the Note 5 - with similar upgrades as the Galaxy S7 - would have sufficed.

For Samsung it's been a painful lesson to learn, for other manufacturers I'll end on that old idiom: "it's good to learn from your mistakes, but much better to learn from the mistakes of others"

 

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