In 2016, it was discovered that Samsung’s newest phablet, the Galaxy Note 7, had a defective battery. The battery wasn’t just underperforming: It was overheating and causing phones to light on fire or explode. This resulted in a sweeping recall of the handsets and was a huge blow to the Korean smartphone manufacturer.
In August 2016, Samsung announced they were delaying the Note 7 to address issues with the stability and performance of the device. However, by September 1 of that year, it was evident that something was wrong with the handsets. Videos of the phones overheating and literally exploding due to their faulty batteries went viral.
Of course, this was made into something of a meme on social media, with many iPhone users joking that Android phones will literally kill you, so you should use iPhones instead. However, the threat posed by these exploding batteries was no joke, and Samsung quickly issued a recall for the products.
On September 15, 2016, Samsung issued a formal recall in the US for the phones. This recall swapped the batteries out for new ones from a different supplier in the hope that this would fix the issue. However, these replacement batteries also caught fire and exploded in some cases.
As a result of the first recall failing, Samsung recalled the products again worldwide on October 10, 2016. On October 11, the company officially ceased all Note 7 production. The failures in some models were so bad, and so frightening, that Samsung took the unprecedented step of issuing updates to the phones that, in some cases, rendered them useless as mobile devices to encourage people to turn them in for the recall.
Many publications criticized Samsung’s handling of the situation, alleging that the company was slow to respond to the threat and did not communicate properly whether the phones were safe or not until after the first recall was taking place.
Some analysts believe that Samsung may have lost as much as US$17 billion from the bungled Note 7 launch. In many ways, the damage to their brand and to consumer trust in them could have been even greater than the simple lost sales and costs of recalling the products.