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.”
Samsung Note7 Recall Update: How to ID a Non-defective Handset
It’s harder to say whether the Note7 itself will recover as quickly as the company, said King. “The problem appeared so soon after the Note7’s launch that there wasn’t much time to establish its brand. While reviews of the new device were almost laudatory, the battery issues have dealt the Note7 and Samsung a substantial setback. How injurious it actually is remains to be seen.”
Another analyst, Tuong H. Nguyen of Gartner, told eWEEK that the original battery fire problems and the recall efforts that follow “may derail the initial momentum” of the Note7’s original Aug. 19 launch in the United States, but that he doesn’t expect a long-term impact for Samsung from consumers. At the same time, he said, “It’s very hard to predict consumer sentiment and reaction.”
Samsung, the CPSC and major mobile carriers recently announced that Galaxy Note7 smartphone owners can begin exchanging their now-recalled phones for new non-flawed devices starting Sept. 21, according to an earlier eWEEK story.
Some 1 million Note7 smartphones were recalled Sept. 15 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission after at least 92 battery fires or explosions were reported with the new phones due to a defect in the handsets’ batteries. The recall, known as Recall No. 16-266, applies to all Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphones sold before Sept. 15, 2016, according to the agency. The move comes because “the lithium-ion battery in the Galaxy Note7 smartphones can overheat and catch fire, posing a serious burn hazard to consumers,” the agency said.
AT&T issued a statement telling its customers that it will have supplies of new CPSC-approved Note7 phones with non-defective batteries starting no later than Sept. 21 under the terms of the CPSC recall campaign. The carriers can also provide loaner Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphones to customers who need to use another phone until new inventories of Note7 handsets are received. Or customers can choose refunds for their recalled Note7 handsets or an exchange for any other phones.
Under the recall, the CPSC is advising owners of the affected smartphones to “immediately stop using and power down the recalled Galaxy Note7 devices purchased before September 15, 2016” to prevent further fires or injuries.
The Samsung Note7 has been sold through AT&T, Best Buy, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon, as well as through Samsung and other websites from August 2016 through September 2016 for between $850 and $890, the agency said.
The CPSC recall, which applies to about 1 million phones, is being conducted in conjunction with Canada and Mexico, according to the agency. Consumers are being urged to contact their wireless carriers or the store where they bought their phones for a replacement Note7 phone that is free of the defect or for a refund of their purchase price. Galaxy Note7 owners can also contact Samsung toll-free at (844) 365-6197 anytime or go online at www.samsung.com to replace their phone or arrange a refund, according to the CPSC.
“The recalled devices have a 5.7- inch screen and were sold in the following colors: black onyx, blue coral, gold platinum and silver titanium with a matching stylus,” the CPSC recall announcement states. “Samsung is printed on the top front of the phone and Galaxy Note7 is printed on the back of the phone.”
Consumers can determine whether their Note7 phone has been recalled by checking the IMEI number on the back of the phone or the packaging, and entering the IMEI number into an online registration page on Samsung’s website or calling the company.
The U.S. government recall comes after Samsung received 92 reports about Note7 batteries overheating in the United States, causing 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage, including fires in cars and a garage, the agency said.
Note7 owners will also receive a one-time $25 credit on their mobile phone bills under the terms of the recall.
Samsung had recently been in talks with the CPSC to create plans and procedures for a formal recall of the Note7 devices. Reports of fires and explosions with some of the phones began shortly after their late August release, according to a previous eWEEK story. Earlier in September, Samsung announced that it was voluntarily recalling and replacing the handsets for users.