Samsung Electronics

Safety takes back seat in the rush to roll out ever newer gadgets

The fiasco over Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone reveals that pushing too far, too fast, without regard for exhaustive testing, is dangerous

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 October, 2016, 3:35am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 October, 2016, 3:35am

The safety of electronic products is scarcely given a thought in the rush to acquire the latest offering. Samsung’s most loyal customers certainly had no doubts about the stringency of testing procedures for the flagship Galaxy Note 7 when it was launched less than two months ago. And why should they have? After all, tens of millions of the South Korean company’s phones are in use and problems have been rare.

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Perceptions have changed now that there have been fires and the company has shut down production without being able to resolve the problem. Samsung’s inability to ensure one of the fundamental principles of doing business has understandably harmed its value, damaged its reputation and perhaps even given the upper hand in the highly competitive sector to big rival Apple.

What caused the phone to burst into flames, resulting in scores of US cases of property damage and burns to some users, is still being investigated. The battery has been the focus of attention, but circuitry could also be involved, as previous cases with other models and makes have proved. The rarity of incidents and the popularity of smartphones have shown the regard firms have given to quality control.

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But within days of the Note 7’s launch, social media was abuzz with pictures of charred phones.

Sales were halted in early September in the US, but users in Hong Kong and elsewhere in the region were assured their phones were not affected. Only when replacement devices were found to also be catching fire and amid warnings from regulators, phone carriers and airlines, were global sales halted and as of Tuesday, the model scrapped. The confusion in our city and Samsung’s delay in announcing a refund and exchange programme, highlights the need for authorities to review policies. Competition and pressure from consumers are driving smartphone makers to push the boundaries of technology and creativity. That is to be expected, but the fiasco over the Note 7 reveals that pushing too far, too fast, without regard for exhaustive testing, is dangerous.