Conspiracy theorists are an interesting bunch of people. Fuelled by a very vivid imagination and a great level of mistrust in the human species, they can find underhand plotting and planning in the most mundane of happenings. And the absolute masters of this strange obsession are tech conspiracy theorists. I was subjected to one such group very recently.
At the IFA, in Berlin – a certain group of journalists were completely convinced that the all-new Samsung Note 7 phone and its all-new spectacular unwanted feature of bursting into flames was not as innocent as it was being made out to be. They were absolutely sure the timing of the flaw as well as the enormity of the problem was brought about by a conglomerate of rival companies. Also, the battery And it went exactly to pllan. The Note 7 was announced, the whole world loved it, milllions of devices sold within days, all the reviews were super positive,p the ‘phone of the year’ title was cemented, and then alla hell broke loose. News of phones exploding started to emmerge from all over. Some claimed the phone burst into flammes in a person’s pocket, there were cases of cars that caught fire as the person was charging the phone within, airlines altered their take-off script to “put your phone in airplane mode and if you have a Note 7, please power it off completely”. And then, hundreds of photos of exploded phones went viral! Mission ‘Take Samsung Down’ was complete.
The story seemed plausible to most people, except for a few small problems. Exactly how do you go about bribing ‘someone’ at the battery factory? Who is that one person who can make this happen? What about checks and balances and people in-charge of quality other than the ‘bribed individual’? Who was this conglomerate of rival companies that plotted such a brilliant sabotage plot? Who headed this and where did they all meet? Who funded it? How much money was needed to pull off something so deliciously wicked? And which mafia group of rival companies would be so terrible that they would be okay with batteries exploding and endangering the lives of people? Somehow my pertinent questions were brushed aside and I was politely but firmly thrown out of the room!
THE REAL ISSUES
So, what is the real story here? How does a company as big and as credible as Samsung make a mistake like this? Most of the answers are speculation at best but here are my thoughts on this.
The constant churn of technology, the fact that almost every phone now must be released at a particular time of the year, the absolutely essential killer feature that fuels millions of sales, the fact that you can’t have a new flagship without a dozen disruptors and the race to make it all happen by a particular time and date, is leading to both technology compromises and problems. The Note 7 is one of them.
Samsung has done things right in the aftermath. The fact that it accepted the problem, has apologised for it, and has taken on a global recall in a professional manner and it is releasing a new Note 7 in record time, should all help in making consumers feel that this is a brand that responds correctly to a crisis. Heck, they could even win some brownie points for being a company that cares and takes responsibility, and come out of all this muck smelling good!
Meanwhile, a few classic rules for all phones still apply. Don’t talk on the phone while you charge it, avoid cheap phone chargers for your home or car, don’t leave your phone out in the sun, avoid using it when it feels hot and don’t keep the phone in the front pocket of your jeans or trousers. Break these rules and your phone just may live up to its reputation and have a real ‘killer’ feature!