Stephen Lepitak

A blog from The Drum's editor, Stephen Lepitak, covering reaction to events in media, social media, marketing, advertising and communications in general.

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Samsung will forever be known as the company that made the exploding phone

Samsung could have been forgiven for being pretty smug earlier this year as the electronics maker seemed to have dented Apple with its highly popular range of phablet handsets. 

But when one of its models, the Galaxy Note 7, is recalled for catching fire inexplicably onboard a flight, then reissued only for the same problem to occur, it's hard to see a way back – especially when the maker still doesn't know what is causing the devices to catch fire in the first place. 

This second recall will damage the company's reputation no end. As for what it could mean for the purchasing of other Samsung electronic products in the near future... well, I know I won't be buying one of its washing machines anytime soon let's just say.

It really puts Apple's technical problems with iOS 10 in perspective and opens the door for other high end phone firms to highlight their safety and reliability overall. 

Samsung has worked hard to solve the problem with the Galaxy Note 7; it thought the battery was the issue but that seems to not have been the case. Now the company has admitted that it doesn't know what the issue is and has asked users to power down the phone and leave it uncharged. 

Could there be a worse thing as a phone operator to be forced to do? 

When airliners are singling out the handset and asking owners to turn them off before flight there really isn't much else it can do but recall and scrap the product entirely. 

So how does Samsung recover? 

Well, fundamentally, it still has to discover the problem and ensure that the issue is not one that spreads beyond the Note 7. In the short term it must face facts that this is a disastrous blow to its reputation and will cost the company billions in refunds alone

Samsung is practically in limbo until it does discover the fault – with all subsequent phone launches threatened by the fear that those handsets could also become engulfed in flames. 

It has to rebuild trust with the customers who swore by Samsung handsets as the cult of Apple seemed to be plateauing following disappointing sales for its recent handset. 

Meanwhile, Apple and other phone makers will move fast to discount and target Samsung customers as a gap in the market opens and the opportunity to win over consumers appears. 

From years of research we know that the mobile device is the most personal one and that 21st century owners the world round won't live without one. 

Well Galaxy Note 7 owners are now being forced to do so and they will no doubt be on the hunt this week for a replacement phone which they won't be in danger of calling the fire brigade to use. 

There is no end in sight to this story that is for certain and no amount of crisis comms will help Samsung while the problem remains a mystery. 

Stephen Lepitak is editor of The Drum

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