On 2 August, Samsung unveiled their latest flagship phone, Note7. The world took notice as it was one of the best phones around on paper. The reviews were quite positive as well and reports indicated that Samsung had booked a large number of pre-orders.
The Korean smartphone giant looked all set to give Apple, which had its iPhone launch planned for September, a good run for its money.
But things took an unexpected turn when, in the last week of August in China, the first incident of a Note7 phone exploding came to light. Many reports of Note7 exploding while being charged followed. Initially, the explosions were blamed on phone users using third party cables. But it then became clear that there is a defect in the Note7 battery.
On 2 September Samsung announced a soft recall of the product, saying that it will replace the old and faulty Note7s with new ones. According to Samsung, a total of 35 cases had been reported until 1 September.
"We are conducting a thorough inspection. We will share the findings as soon as possible. Samsung is fully committed to providing the highest quality products to our consumers," the company told The Verge.
But this step by Samsung proved to be inadequate. New instances of exploding phones were reported, some quite serious in nature.
A man blamed Note7 when his Jeep caught fire and burnt down. In another incident, a person's garage reportedly burnt down while he was charging a Galaxy Note7. A man in Australia reported that his Note7 spontaneously exploded in his hotel room while being charged and caused $1400 worth of damages to the room.
"Phone completely fried, I can't eject the SIM tray to retrieved my sim or the SD card. I was using original charger and cable if you are wondering. Charred the hotel room bed sheet and the carpet when I whacked it down to the floor, burnt one of my finger while doing that too," he said in a Reddit post.
A man in Florida got severe burns caused by a Note7 explosion and is allegedly suing the company because the recall came too late.
Samsung issued another notice to users on 10 September but still stopped short of asking users to stop using their Note7s altogether.
The cause of the exploding Note7s lies in their faulty Lithium Ion batteries. These batteries are highly inflammable and their positive and negative ends (diodes) are protected by a thin sheet of plastic. If a short-circuit goes through that protective layer, then the battery is bound to explode.
On 15 September, Samsung finally pushed the button and officially recalled all the Galaxy Note7 units it had sold. The notice was first issued in the US, followed by other countries.
The episode has cost Samsung dearly, both in terms of money and brand image. A report in the Independent says that Samsung has sold shares worth $1 billion to recover the losses caused by the recall.
Before the official recall, Samsung Galaxy Note7 had sold 25 percent more units than its predecessor Note 5 did last year. Many analysts believe that the Note7 recall will boost iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus sales.
Samsung's recall of Note7 might end up being the biggest smartphone recall ever, though back in 2005, Nokia had recalled 46 million phone batteries.
Samsung will commence the replacement and resale of Note7 in a few days. The phonemaker has introduced changes, such as a green battery indicator and a square on the packaging box, to identify new and safe Note7 units. But it will be tough to convince consumers to buy the device.
Some reports also suggest that the Note7 blunder will lead to an early release of Samsung Galaxy S8. Samsung has produced some of the best phones in 2016 but only time will tell whether the company will stay on top of the competition or not.