The Inside Story Of How Samsung Botched The Galaxy Note 7 Recall

Image courtesy of Reddit

One important decision by Samsung executives turned the Galaxy Note 7 from a big but manageable product defect to a brand-destroying disaster. Reports from all over the world were coming in of Galaxy Note 7 fires, along with pressure from mobile carriers and from customers to do something about it. Yet the company didn’t know exactly what was causing the batteries to explode.

In a Wall Street Journal article with amazing inside information about what happened at Samsung during the crisis, we learned that there was evidence that batteries from one supplier and not another had a strange bulge when examined using an X-Ray machine or CT scanner, so the company decided to just go with that explanation. It seemed like the most likely one, so the company recalled phones from the first supplier, replacing them with phones from the second.

We now know that the problem was something else, which Samsung still hasn’t identified. Yet having to recall, then re-recall and discontinue the same device all over the world was damaging to Samsung’s reputation.

Another important decision made at the time was to run the recall independently in the United States, not calling in the Consumer Product Safety Commission. This caused some unusual legal problems when the recall began, including the phones still technically being legal to sell and to bring on planes, but it also had another effect that would become relevant later: The CPSC, the consumer products agency in Samsung’s biggest smartphone market, wasn’t part of the investigation for a few days, and it’s possible that the agency’s help could have cracked the real reason for the phone explosions.

Or maybe not. The lesson to draw from this, though, is that it’s a lot better to take longer to get the right answer when possible.

The Fatal Mistake That Doomed Samsung’s Galaxy Note [Wall Street Journal]

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