Now that Samsung will be making replacement Galaxy Note7 smartphones available to consumers under a U.S. recall starting Sept. 21, the company is advising customers how they can determine that the replacement phone they receive does not have the original defective battery that caused some Note7 phones to burst into flames or explode.
All new corrected Note7 handsets that are safe for use include a green battery charging light on their displays (pictured), in contrast to the white charging light indicator that was included in the original Note7, which had the battery problems, according to a Sept. 19 announcement by Samsung.
"To help users easily understand if they have a new device and use their new Galaxy Note7 with confidence, the company has introduced a green battery icon that has been included in three specific software changes," the company said in a statement. "The new green battery icon will be visible on: 1) the Status Bar; 2) the Always On Display screen; and 3) the Power Off prompt screen, which can be accessed by long-pressing the power key."
The green lights will appear after software updates are applied to the new phones, the company said. Users can also check the original display box that came with their phones to check for a solid black square on the top right of the label on the box. The solid black square indicates that the Note7 inside is one of the updated, non-defective units.
"Our highest priority is the safety of our customers, and we strongly urge Galaxy Note7 users to immediately participate in the replacement program based on local availability."
Analysts Weigh In on Samsung's Note7 Recall Performance
As the formal recall by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) gets under way this week, several IT analysts told eWEEK that Samsung's response to the original reports of Note7 battery fires could have been faster and more organized as reports of the problems began spreading.
"The communication has also been a little muddled in that a lot of the messaging has been about recalling all the devices, while the more recent communication has made clear that it's only phones with certain battery cells," said Jan Dawson, chief analyst for Jackdaw Research. While Samsung announced its own product recall in early September, "they didn't involve the CPSC until much later, and so the formal recall from the U.S. authorities didn't come until about two weeks in."
Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, agreed, saying that Samsung's initial move to deal with the problem on a region-by-region basis was a mistake that kept the issue "trending at the top of the news cycle, resulting in a PR-style 'death by a thousand cuts.'"
Instead, a "centrally-managed universal recall would have established a single source for news, updates and progress reports," said King. "The problems wouldn't be any less significant but they would likely be perceived differently."
Another analyst, Rob Enderle of Enderle Group, was more critical of Samsung's actions. "They handled the problem very poorly damaging both the product and the Samsung brand as a result," he told eWEEK. "These phones should have been recalled as soon as it was clear the problem was both endemic and catastrophic. These phones and Samsung will now have a stigma associated with them coupled with putting customers at risk."
Enderle said he expects that Samsung will "need to cycle this phone quickly as customers will likely continue to avoid them" until the prices drop due to the problems they originally experienced with some batteries.
So will Samsung itself be able to come back from this debacle with the new Note7?
"Absolutely," said Dawson of Jackdaw Research. "This is a black eye, but that will heal and they'll recover OK. But it will have an impact in the short-to-medium term, both on the perception of the reliability of Samsung devices, and on their customer service reputation."
Note7 sales, on the other hand, could be a tougher situation, he said. "That's going to be really tough, because they're going to have to spend another few weeks just getting enough inventory into the channel to replace the affected phones, before they can start selling new devices in large numbers," said Dawson. "Even after that, people may be hesitant to buy the new Note7 devices, even with assurances that they're perfectly safe. For the most part, I would guess sales will go to other Samsung devices instead, but Note7 sales will be considerably lower than planned at least for the next couple of months, and for this edition, in general, over the next year or so."
King said he also thinks that Samsung as a brand will recover from this episode. "This isn't the first time that battery overheating has resulted in damage and consumer injuries, and Samsung isn't the only vendor that has been affected. In the end, the company will be judged by the effectiveness of its response, and how well it treats its customers."