Last Wednesday, for the first time in many years, my ears suddenly pricked up during the routine cabin safety announcement.
The reason was a specific warning about the use of the Samsung Galaxy 7, and mirrored that issued by the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) about the dangers the smartphone model poses. In response, some airlines have banned people either from bringing them aboard flights, or from switching them on or charging them.
The problem, that the battery is too big for the phone and is liable to overheat and catch fire or explode, has now become a global safety issue, and is going to cost the company an estimated $1 billion to withdraw and replace or repair the phones, without taking into account the damage to the company’s image.
Obviously, it is nigh impossible for cabin crews to check the phone of every passenger, and then to establish which Galaxy Note 7s pose a potential threat. The FAA and EASA themselves have not told airlines to ban passengers from boarding with the phone, and will presumably be hoping that Samsung can get a grip on the issue quickly and if necessary deactivate phones that have not been handed in.
In short, Samsung faces an unprecedented situation: its phones are already seen by many airlines as potential security threats
Samsung took the decision to withdraw the phone quickly and has done so efficiently, although it was slow to stop selling the Galaxy Note 7. Since then it has changed the color of the battery icon from grey to green to identify safe models, only to find that the modification didn’t meet Google’s specifications for its Android operating system.
The brand is now trying to resolve the logistics of the issue while at the same time hoping to keep a lid on negative media coverage so that the issue recedes quietly into the past. Is this the right approach? These types of decisions are not easy.
The question now is how the market will respond. Will people buy them still? Only when the next model is launched will the company get any real idea of the scale of the problem. Or is the Galaxy note finished? Perhaps the public will continue to trust the brand once it returns to using a battery that is less powerful. Will it have to lower the price of the model to get people to buy?
This is, when all is said and done, one of the leaders in the smartphone segment, and Samsung is undoubtedly able to get past this crisis… assuming that the public takes a rational approach to the brand, something which is impossible to predict.
(En español, aquí)