Galaxy Note7 Snaps, Crackles and Pops, Spurring Evacuation of Plane

Southwest Airlines on Wednesday evacuated a plane in Louisville, Kentucky, after a Samsung Galaxy Note7 began popping and issuing thick smoke.

Samsung last month began replacing Galaxy Note7s globally, following reports of several of the devices catching fire or exploding. It blamed the problem on an “isolated” faulty battery cell issue.

The device involved in the Southwest Airline incident reportedly was a replacement phone, according to owner Brian Green.

Samsung has said it will verify whether the phone actually was a replacement.

The latest incident throws a pall over the future of the Galaxy Note series, which had been Samsung’s flagship line.

“Wall Street and some retailers might understand that the problem may not have been created by Samsung, but they will not care,” said Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University.

“Consumers will certainly care less,” he told TechNewsWorld. “All will hold Samsung responsible for its supply chain — and as a result, all will now rethink buying anything Samsung.”

Samsung officials may “be in denial, since they will likely view it as not their fault — but they specified the battery and chose the suppliers, and they cannot ignore the lingering impact on the Samsung brand and reputation,” Chiagouris said.

No End in Sight

“We are still investigating the Southwest Airlines 944 incident,” said Tammy Jones, a spokesperson for the United States Federal Aviation Administration.

“The FAA has issued safety alerts for operators and advisory circulars advising the airlines that they must have procedures for fighting these in-cabin fires,” she told TechNewsWorld.

The FAA previously issued advisories to airlines and passengers about the Galaxy Note7 in response to Samsung’s recall.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has begun looking into the issue, and has reached out to the FAA and Samsung.

The problem with the Note7 “may drag on for several months,” said Neil Mawston, a research executive director at Strategy Analytics.

The company “has millions of models in many countries to replace,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Dell’s big recall of millions of laptop batteries in 2006 took around six months.”

As smartphones become more complex, product glitches and recalls will become more common, Mawston predicted. “The iPhone, for example, was recently accused of ‘touch disease’ for a display glitch.”

The Fiery Fallout

Airlines have begun telling passengers on all flights that they must shut off their Samsung phones for the entire flight based on government directives, Chiagouris noted.

“In effect, the entire flying public is being constantly reminded about Samsung’s problems,” he said.

Samsung “will have to retire the Galaxy brand and Note models and introduce new ones to replace them,” Chiagouris suggested. The company also may have to offer longer warranties and rebates to regain consumer trust.

Samsung has two issues to fix, according to Mawston. “First, its quality control during design and production needs improving. Second, it needs better contingency plans for product recalls when things go wrong. It was caught on the hop by the Note7 recall.”

“Samsung’s base is now pretty much gone,” observed Will Stofega, a research program director at IDC.

The company did its best to get the faulty phoned out of the market prior to the official recall, but “this problem will likely hurt their revenue for this quarter,” he told TechNewsWorld.

With its recently announced Pixel line, Google “has a golden opportunity to take market share from Samsung,” Mawston said.

Other Android flagship device makers likely will look to capitalize on Samsung’s problems as well, Stofega noted, but the opportunity will be limited for Chinese phone makers, which face distribution challenges in the U.S.

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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