After several months of investigation, Samsung has revealed that the Galaxy Note 7’s overheating problems stem from two separate battery issues.
In order to uncover the root cause, Samsung tasked a team of 700 engineers with examining 200,000 devices and 30,000 batteries. In addition, the South Korean tech giant outsourced research to third-party investigation firms, which came to similar conclusions. Two design flaws were found: One in the upper right corner of the first run of the phone’s battery, and the second, a manufacturing defect that caused the battery to short circuit and ignite into flames.
During an interview with MobileSyrup, Paul Brannen, COO and executive vice president of mobile solutions at Samsung Canada, explained why his company needed to hold a press conference to outline the result of its investigation into the Note 7’s defects.
Q: Why hold a press conference for a recalled smartphone?
Paul Brannen: I’ve been in the industry for 14 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. My comments are coming from a Samsung perspective and I thought it was really important to go out and actually get third party agencies involved. We actually used people who are experts in this field and wanted their opinion. For me, it speaks to where we want to take the business longer term and how important it is to have a level of trust with the consumer.
What impressed me the most is that there were 700 Samsung researchers involved in this, with over 200,000 devices and 30,000 batteries. If you think that there were about 3 million devices in total, it’s almost 10 percent of all devices we put out in the market, have gone through some level of testing.
“We owned up and will make sure it does not happen in the future.“
We owned up and said there was a deformation on the battery itself and manufacturing issues, but we owned up and will make sure it does not happen in the future. We have put in an eight-point check that will are going to do moving forward and have actually started that process with future products and products that will come in the next couple months.
We not only want to own this from a Samsung perspective but want to own it on behalf of the industry. We want to create and share, even with our competitors, our findings. I think our actions moving forward will only demonstrate that we are better for this longer term.
Q: How has the Note 7 recall impacted your business?
Brannen: In Canada, we had our best fourth quarter from a sell through perspective than we’ve had in years. It’s interesting with the Note 7 because there is such a loyal following of that product, I think for us making these steps allows us to only further demonstrate to consumers ultimately how we feel about how the products we put out to the marketplace, and that they are in fact the most important to us.
Sure, there was financial damage done to the business, but that is a short term thing as I think the steps we took now will help our brand in the future.
Q: From a Canadian perspective, how many Note 7 devices have now been returned?
Brannen: There was about 67,000 devices out in the Canadian marketplace, between Battery A and Battery B. This includes product that was sold to consumers and retail outlets not yet sold.
We have taken 99 percent of the product off the carriers’ networks. Even if you have returned your device, they actually disabled it on their network, outside of the GSMA blacklisting. Bell went above, Rogers went above, Telus went above, Wind/Freedom went above… every Canadian carrier went above and beyond to disable these devices on their network.
Q: How many Note 7 devices in Canada are still outstanding?
Brannen: I have a number as of Friday that there were just over 200 devices still active on the Canadian networks. How that happens is that if you disable a device on the Bell network and move it over to Rogers, we have to go through the network by catching the IMEI and disabling it. I had a conversation with all the carriers and they are all committed to disabling those last 200 devices. We will have 100 percent of the product eradicated from the Canadian networks soon.
“I’m getting down to these small numbers across this vast land to get those products back.”
We have about 95 percent of the product back, the remaining in carrier or retail locations still waiting to be returned to us. Believe it or not, as a sidebar, there are 7 units in the Northern part of British Columbia that UPS, because all units have to be land transferred, does not go to. So I have to find a service that can actually go and pick up those devices that’s certified to handle dangerous goods. I’m getting down to these small numbers across this vast land to get those products back.
If you think about this device it’s a communications device. We had a way to communicate with the device and the consumers who had it. We made about 30,000 phone calls in the Canadian marketplace.
We created 103 push notifications between October 15th and December 12th. We delivered 14,000 SMS messages and pop-up messages of the Note 7.
When the Department of Transport banned the Note 7 on an airline, we installed airport kiosks in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal for customers to return your device and give you a GS7 or GS7 edge. We reached 1,380 people traveling this way and did immediate exchanges of 43 devices this way (YUL had 194 interactions and 7 devices exchanged; YYZ had 437 interactions and 16 devices exchanged; YUR had 749 interactions and 20 devices exchanged.)
Q: Does this mean the Note line will continue?
Brannen: I can’t really comment on future product or and the product roadmap. I think some things were mentioned this summer that would ensure us to believe that.
Clearly, our near-term focus is on the next flagship launch, which will happen in a couple months and it will be really critical for us. We will always be innovating and moving technology forward.