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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Sept. 5)

All Headlines 07:08 September 05, 2016

Samsung's exploding phones
Tech giant should do utmost to recover reputation

Samsung, the world's largest smartphone manufacturer, announced Friday a mass recall of its Galaxy Note 7 model after reports that some of them caught fire while being charged.

The decision to recall all 2.5 million devices sold in 10 countries, including Korea and the U.S., came just two weeks after the product's Aug. 19 release. Customers who purchased the latest Samsung smartphone model will be able to swap them for new ones in about two weeks. The defective phones have overshadowed the strong reviews of the Note 7 and will likely dent the higher-than-expected demand. It also comes at a bad time for Samsung, as Apple will release its new iPhone later this week.

Samsung has already been hurt by a drop in smartphone profits and a lack of new businesses for growth. Against this background, the swift recall decision is a strategic move to protect the company's image. The costly recall, which is expected to be one of the largest in the smartphone industry, is a step in the right direction to recover its reputation. The recall is expected to cost Samsung about 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion).

Despite this, it is hard to deny that the brand's credibility has been damaged. It has caused a lot of dismay to customers that the model, which had been aggressively promoted by the company, was found to be defective only days after it was released.

Samsung Electronics should use the incident as an occasion to renew its commitment to the basics and the quality-first policy. The company had trumpeted new technologies such as the iris scanners applied to the Note 7 models. But no amount of technology innovation can inspire customers if the phone they have bought is unsafe and prone to malfunctions. Customers want quality, reliability and safety in their smartphones. Attention to the basics is crucial for Samsung to stay ahead in the increasingly competitive smartphone war.

A recall does little to assuage the frustration of the affected customers because there is much inconvenience from having to wait for a new product. And there is also no guarantee that the new product will be without defect. After experiencing this kind of inconvenience, customers are likely to shun buying products again from the company.

For more effective damage control, there are two things Samsung needs to do in the coming weeks.

First is a public apology from the company's top leadership given the gravity of the incident. This is necessary because Samsung is the nation's flagship conglomerate, and the company's exploding phones will undermine the image of other Korean brands in the global market.

Second, Samsung should conduct a thorough investigation into what caused the fires in some of its products and provide a clear explanation to assuage the customers' concerns. There is speculation that the explosions were due to defective batteries produced by Samsung SDI, the battery-making unit of Samsung Group.

If Samsung fails to satisfy customers in dealing with this incident, tech-savvy Koreans will dismiss the Samsung brand for more dependable and budget-friendly devices from its global competitors. There are many Koreans who are fed up with pricy local brands with substandard customer service.

(END)

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