A big blow: Samsung recalls the Note 7

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 investigation

It is one of the biggest goof-ups in technology, and a huge embarrassment for the world’s largest phone maker. Earlier today, Samsung announced it will halt sales and recall its recently launched flagship — the Galaxy Note 7 — from all markets, including the UAE. And if you already have one in your pockets, the company will replace it with a brand new device. One that won’t explode.

The saga began over a week back, when reports started emerging of a Note 7 exploding while being charged. Gruesome photos were posted online and the tech media from around the world picked up the story. But before this incident could be brushed off as a freak accident, another phone exploded! Samsung launched an investigation and soon narrowed down the problem to faulty batteries provided by a third-party supplier. The company also reveals that, as of September 1, 35 such cases have been reported globally. Though we assume not all 35 phones went kaboom.

A Note 7 goes boom! Source: Baidu
A Note 7 goes boom! Source: Baidu

It seems the problem affects one phone in every 42,000 sold so far — or 24 phones per million. But Samsung claims the decision to recall every Note 7 was taken keeping “safety first” in mind. Though we suspect it is also being done to avoid expensive litigations down the road. Remember, the Gear VR is being hyped along with the phone, and watching VR tends to heat up the phone — it would be a horrendous health hazard and a PR nightmare if the phone were to explode on you face and so close to your eyes!

So if you picked up a Note 7 immediately after it was commercially launched in the UAE on August 19, how worried should you be about it exploding? Well, we have been tracking XDA — the most popular forum for smartphone users — and thankfully, so far there have been no reports of anyone in the UAE getting an explosive deal with the Note 7. But a recurring problem has been about the phone becoming uncomfortably warm — even toasty hot — when fast charging is enabled. So if you have experienced this problem, we suggest you immediately turn off fast charging, so that the phone can stay cooler. Besides, avoid wireless charging till your phone has been replaced.

Though there is no word yet on when that will happen. Samsung is working with mobile operators in the UAE to make it a smooth processes, which might include giving you a loaner phone till your new Note 7 swings by. We believe it is going to be a logistical challenge, and might take over a week for Samsung to work out the returns process. We will update you when we hear more.

Though the other worrying bit has been the long list of problems reported by users on various forums. These include the Note 7 randomly freezing, crashing, boot-looping, strange patterns appearing on the screen, light leaking out from a thin gap below the front glass, and a display that refuses to turn on. For example, on this thread from SamMobile, which tracks Samsung news, a user named DjNj reports that when he visited the Samsung service centre in Dubai, he counted 18 other defective phones, all received on the same day!

Moreover, the Note 7 is the first phone with Corning’s Gorilla Glass 5, and might also earn the dubious honour of having made a new word popular — Scratchgate. Seems the display might be shatterproof, but it is also softer and scratches rather easily. So if Apple had to deal with Antennagate and Bendgate scandals, well, Samsung might soon have a Scratchgate on its hands. Unless of course, the global recall fixes this problem along with the other bugs and explosions.

Though by the time the Note 7 returns from the engineering equivalent of a visit to a health spa, it will have to fight off an arch nemesis for your dirhams — yes, the iPhone 7 will be available by then.