Galaxy Note 7 battery vs iPhone 4 Antennagate: how to deal with a crisis

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It hasn't been an easy week for Samsung. Its latest phablet, the Galaxy Note 7, has been experiencing some issues: there have been at least 35 reported cases of the battery exploding. Samsung has had to halt sales of the handset and recall those already shipped. 

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A problem of this magnitude is disastrous for a device like the Galaxy Note 7. This is a phablet series with a legion of fans and such an incident will no doubt put their brand loyalty to the test. Further, this was one of Samsung's top products, almost guaranteed to sell in large numbers until these incidents began to occur. 

This will hurt Samsung, but perhaps it deserves praise for tackling the crisis as quickly and seriously as it has. Compare this to Samsung's archrival Apple and its iPhone 4 "Antennagate" scandal, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Apple showed manufacturers how not to deal with crisis

Antennagate occurred in 2010 shortly after the release of the iPhone 4 in June of that year. The new smartphone had problems with its antenna, causing disruptions to connections and call reception. Disappointing, yes, but sometimes these things just happen. A swift recall, as Samsung is doing now with the Note 7, and a few adjustments should have straightened the whole thing out. 

Should have.

At the time, Apple – which was dominating the smartphone market – simply denied the existence of the issue. Even in the face of more and more complaints, the Cupertino company said that users just weren't holding the device correctly

iPhone 4: problems in call reception were said to be the result of users holding the phone wrong. / © Wikipedia

On July 2, Apple released an official statement in which it offered another excuse: "We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising. Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong."

The repercussions of the problem began to snowball when some users were able to prove the fault was there, regardless of Apple's claims that the signal simply wasn't being accurately measured, eventually reaching the point where respected publication Consumers Report suggested that people avoid the iPhone 4 altogether. 

Two weeks after Apple said it had just failed to properly calculate the signal strength, it held a press conference. It was only then that CEO Steve Jobs acknowledged that there was a real issue. "It's very hard to escape the conclusion that there is a problem," Jobs said, "but that problem is affecting a very small percentage of our users." Jobs also highlighted that smartphones from other manufacturers suffer similar service issues. 

Apple offered a free bumper case to iPhone 4 users to help correct the problem and vowed to reimburse those who had already purchased the accessory before the announcement. 

Would it not have been easier to accept and resolve the problem at the beginning? Apple – as arrogant then as now –showed that its methodology for crisis management was, at best, flawed, and at worst, non-existent. The company took weeks to take strong actions to help its users. 

Samsung dealt with a much more serious crisis more efficiently

In the case of Galaxy Note 7, Samsung proved to be much more agile in its measures to reduce the damage. In learning of the 35 reported cases of its devices overheating, the company took drastic measures consistent with the seriousness of the problem. 

First, Samsung stopped the worldwide sales of the Galaxy Note 7 – even in regions where no battery faults had even been registered. Next, the company reported that all users who had already bought the device could exchange it for a new unit in the coming weeks at the outlets where the device was purchased. 

samsung galaxy s7 bend
Samsung was very agile in dealing with an "explosive" situation. / © JerryRigsEverything

In short, Samsung showed respect and understanding for the end-user – as it should have. It took responsibility and accepted the losses that come with that. 

Samsung is now conducting further quality checks before while the future of the Note 7 hangs in the air. It might lose out to Apple in the fourth quarter, but at least it has shown itself to have more humility. 

What do you think of the way Samsung dealt with the Note 7 crisis? Let us know in the comments. 

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  • Rob Clancy Sep 16, 2016 Link to comment

    Look, people will always compare these giant rival companies whenever possible. I think a better analogy that focuses on a different angle is more useful. It's a lot more like the faulty Takata-made airbags that went into so many Honda vehicles. As in that story from a few years ago a third party is responsible for the malfunctioning component. There is so much witch-hunting that goes on in mobile tech because of the competitiveness of the industry and so people want to lambast Samsung as a knee-jerk reaction. Criticism is one thing, but there's a feeling of finger pointing and "ha-ha" sentiment that has its roots in the mean, childish part of our humanity. Like laughing at a school yard rival who's fallen down. I think Samsung has handled this well. I can't imagine what more they could've done. They're compensating those who've suffered as a result, and trying to replace millions of complex handsets as fast as possible. And they came up with a loaner program, so customers aren't without a phone.

  • Prasad Velkuri Sep 11, 2016 Link to comment

    Samsung said it will cost 1B for this replacement...they are right - they have to pay for all this crappy articles to regain confidence of their fans... comparing this to antenna gate which they fixed with software...? wow these Samesung paid articles dont have any shame.

  • José Furtado Sep 9, 2016 Link to comment

    I think Samsung reacted as it should have in a situation with the gravity of the one being treated, which might put in risk its client's safety.
    I don't agree though, that another company's approach to a totally different issue they came across, should be brought up to this discussion for not bringing any added value to the solution Samsung will now have to find out to be able to bring Note 7 back in the market.

    • Bojan M. Sep 10, 2016 Link to comment

      The issue that is discussed here and not "totally different" as you tried to note, is dealings of two large companies with their consumers' serious problems, and is totally the same and totally comparable.

      • Wayne Williams Sep 11, 2016 Link to comment

        That model iPhone was not the only phone with antenna bands that were affected by how you held it. That's been discussed enough. An exploding battery is a much more serious health and safety issue so comparing the two is completely bogus.

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