Samsung's latest flagship Galaxy Note7 smartphone remains in the crosshairs of a worried market as new reports are coming in that the replacement phones are experiencing battery fires and explosions like the ones that caused a global recall in September.
Samsung addressed the initial reports in late August by investigating the devices that had fires and starting its own global recall, and then in September cooperated with U.S. regulators at the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) when the agency issued a government recall of a million of the handsets due to at least 100 reports of fires and explosions from consumers.
But still, after all of that, the problems continue. Since late September, reports have come in from a consumer in China who said that his brand-new, post-recall Note7 smoked and caught fire, while earlier in October another replacement Note7 reportedly began smoking in a Southwest Airlines jet in Texas as the aircraft prepared to depart.
Now the company has reportedly halted production of the replacement phones, at least temporarily, as it tries to figure out what is happening with a smartphone model that was supposed to show off its brand and capture millions of sales for satisfied users. Instead, the Note7 starts and stops at this point are at best delaying sales and at worst turning off customers to the phone model, and possibly to Samsung handsets overall into the future.
I first saw the Note7 in New York in August at a special "Galaxy Unpacked" event where company officials were excited to show off the new phone and its improved stylus, its brilliant screen, its powerful cameras and its built-in enterprise security features. After seeing and handling the Note7, I was excited to get one of the handsets for a test drive after finding that the stylus had the potential to be a must-have feature for enterprise and consumer users who want to get the most out of their smartphones.
So far, though, I haven't been able to get a Note7 for a review, due to the initial battery fire problems and the ensuing recall.
Samsung has a mixed record on how it has handled the Note7 problems. At first, by issuing its own recall to start, it acted decisively, but it might have been confusing for consumers because that effort was followed by the CPSC's official recall.
At the same time, Samsung has not reacted swiftly enough with updates about the status of the phones as more reports of problems have come in. In my mind, more openness is needed from the company about what it is doing right now in response to the new round of problems with the replacement handsets.
The question now becomes, can Samsung fix the problem permanently before the Note7 is relegated to history as a smartphone model that crashed and burned after its launch?
I still look forward to reviewing this innovative smartphone once it is fixed. But if Samsung doesn't solve this massive problem quickly, that may not be possible.