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Samsung wants to be back without a bang

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Samsung this week released its findings on the exploding batteries of the Note 7, but is ready to move on, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

It was one of the best smartphones ever made. And it was one of the most disastrous products ever launched.

That is the maddening ambiguity behind the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, which saw 3-million units recalled after batteries began malfunctioning. This week Samsung released its findings on what went wrong. Tellingly, however, the revelation was limited to the technical flaws, and did not delve into the strategic story. That, it appears, will remain an internal autopsy.

Koh Dong-jin, President of the Mobile Communications Business division of Samsung Electronics

Koh Dong-jin, President of the Mobile Communications Business division of Samsung Electronics.

Koh Dong-jin, President of the Mobile Communications Business division of Samsung Electronics, announced the results of the investigation. He was joined on stage by executives from three independent industry groups that had conducted their own investigations into the malfunctions, namely Exponent, UL and TUV Rheinland. There was to be no cover-up.

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They agreed that a design flaw had led to the first batch of phones catching alight: The battery’s external casing was too small for its components, leading to pinching of the top corner of the battery by the pouch that held it. This caused a short-circuit and, inevitably, ignition.

To make matters worse, according to UL, when things did go wrong, the high energy density of the battery design meant they went badly wrong.

The Note 7 could have survived the initial recall, but the batteries provided by a second supplier introduced a new flaw. Not only did it have defects in the welding, or what a Samsung YouTube video described as “an abnormal weld spot” that led to an internal short circuit, but some came without protective tape.

Guess which supplier won’t be invited back in a hurry?

Koh expressed his sincere apology and gratitude to customers, operators and partners, and unveiled new measures Samsung has taken to respond to the incidents.

“Based on what the company learned from the investigation, Samsung has implemented a broad range of internal quality and safety processes to further enhance product safety,” it said in a statement released on Monday. “These include additional protocols, such as multi-layer safety measures and an Eight-Point Battery Safety Check.”

Samsung also announced a Battery Advisory Group made up of external advisers “to ensure it maintains a clear and objective perspective on battery safety and innovation”. Members include a professor of chemistry from the University of Cambridge and professors of materials science and engineering from Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.

Koh added: “The lessons of the past several months are now deeply reflected in our processes and culture. Samsung Electronics will be working hard to regain consumer trust.”

The announcement came as a relief to local executives, who had to keep the media in a holding pattern, not only to explain the Note 7, but also to build anticipation for the forthcoming Galaxy S8.

“We are pleased that the reasons for the Galaxy Note7 incident have finally been clarified,” said Craige Fleischer, director of Integrated Mobility at Samsung South Africa. “Samsung is a company that learns from our experiences and we are committed to incorporate the learnings to evolve. Samsung’s heritage and commitment to innovation will continue.

Craige Fleischer, director of Integrated Mobility at Samsung South Africa

Craige Fleischer, director of Integrated Mobility at Samsung South Africa

And that brings us back – or rather, forward – to the phone that Samung hopes will make all the monsters of poor public relations go away. The Galaxy S8 was due to be released at about the same time as Mobile World Congress opens in Barcelona at the end of February. Traditionally, that has been both the time and venue for the new Samsung flagship phone for the past few years. This time, Samsung will give the MWC launch a miss.

This is also a tacit admission that Samsung had been moving too fast.

The Note 7 would have been regarded as a technological marvel had everything held together. Waterproof devices despite earphone and charger sockets, iris recognition technology that heralded the next generation of biometric identification, and the fastest-charging battery on a flagship phone, put Samsung on a different planet from its rival-in-chief, Apple.

The latter would later struggle to convince the market that the new iPhone 7 was a signifcant step forward from the previous version. But when the Note 7 phone and image blew up, the wannabe Samsung converts flocked back to Apple.

Fortunately for Samsung, the S7 edge launched in Bacelona last February remained one of the most desirable phones in the world. It had been launched six months before the iPhone 7, but was probably still six months ahead of it in terms of innovation. Its camera remained in a different league, while its curved edge design made it one of the few standout handsets on the market from an aesthetic point of view.

Samsung was this week expected to report record profits for the fourth quarter of 2016, which would cement its reputation as a broad-based company that could innovate profitably acrosss all consumer electronics categories. It supplies many of the microchips and display screens not only for its own appliances and handsets, but also for those of some of its competitors.

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This makes it all the more puzzling that Samsung pushed the technology edge of the Note 7 so hard. It suggests that it may have expected Apple to take the iPhone 7’s innovation much further than it did.  It also suggests that Samsung may backpedal a little in attempting to cram too much of the future into its next handset.

It says it deployed 700 researchers, working with 200 000 devices and 30 000 batteries, to uncover the flaws in the Note 7. Their job done, that army of professional fault-finders must be swarming all over any new devices being brewed in the lab.

Chances are, the next devices from Samsung will combine serious innovation with serious safety.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Appdate: No wallet? No problem?

In his app roundup, SEAN BACHER highlights VodaPay Masterpass, Charge Running, South African App Integrator Directory, uKheshe Health and LocTransie.

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VodaPay Masterpass

Digital mobility is now a way of life and most are using smartphones to pay bills. 

To meet this need Vodacom and Mastercard have launched VodaPay Masterpass, which enables Vodacom customers to load any bank card into a secure digital wallet, downloaded as an app on their smartphone. Once loaded, these cards and the secure credentials associated with them are safely stored, enabling customers to start transacting immediately without the hassle of entering card details each time they make a purchase.

Vodacom customers can buy prepaid data, airtime and SMS, or voice bundles, directly through the app. They can also select the Pay Bills menu option to settle their DStv accounts, pay a utility bill or take care of a traffic fine.

With the app’s Scan to Pay functionality, users can scan a QR code to pay for goods and services wherever Masterpass is accepted, including all SnapScan and Zapper merchants. Once a QR code is scanned, users select the card they wish to use, and enter their bank PIN number on their own device to complete the transaction.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download and users will not be charged for any transaction fees.

Stockists:  Download VodaPay Masterpass for iOS here and for Android here.

Charge Running

Most running apps track data like pace and distance and, in some cases play audio designed to motivate you, but don’t give you the push you get when you run with a friend. Charge Running is an app that lets you run alongside other runners, virtually, as well as giving live coaching to help you go the distance.

The app includes features such as:

·       Unlimited access to live running classes and virtual races  

·       The ability to compete with runners anywhere in the world in real-time

·       A live leaderboard that shows where you are in the pack to keep you pushing

·       Live, personalised feedback from professional trainers 

·       Group chats with coaches and fellow runners throughout the run

·       On-demand runs for times when you can’t join the live groups 

·       A choice of difficulty levels and race types 

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free seven-day trial; thereafter R150 per month

Stockists: Visit the Charge Running site here for downloading instructions.

South African App Integrator Directory

The South African App Integrator Directory from Xero is designed to solve the complexity of choosing apps for small business owners.

The directory is now available in South Africa with six partners, including Realm Digital, Radical Cloud Solutions, Nimacc, Insights, Iridium Business Solutions and Creative CFO. According to Xero, these are all organisations with a proven track record of successfully integrating marketplace apps into Xero businesses. There are also currently over 700 apps in Xero’s App Marketplace worldwide, 21 of which are South African born.

As small businesses become more tech-savvy, they need to know exactly which apps to install on their devices and how the apps will help them. They also need to be able to install these apps from a trusted integrator so they know for what they are paying. 

Platform: Any device with an up-to-date Internet browser.

Expect to pay: A one month trial version is offered, after which the App Integrator ranges from R125 to R245 per month, depending on the company’s needs.

Stockists: Visit Xero here for downloading instructions.

Click here to read about uKheshe Health and LocTransie.

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Prize offered for drone films

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DJI and SkyPixel, the world’s most popular aerial photography community, have announced the first short film contest inviting users to submit cinematic stories shot with camera and gimbal products. The 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest will accept entries until 14 October 2019. It welcomes submissions from all creators, ranging from hobbyists to social media users and professional videographers. around the globe.

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The 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest consists of three storytelling categories—‘Big Moments Start Small,’ ‘Make Your Move’ and ‘Adventure Starts With You.’ There is no restriction on the type or brand of equipment participants use, and they can submit as many videos as they wish.

A total of 100 winners can win a range of prizes totaling $48,600 USD in categories including Recommended Films, Best Editing, Best Story, Nominated Entries, People’s Choice Prize as well as This Week’s Most Popular, sponsored by the partner SanDisk and WD brand from Western Digital Corp. This year’s Best Short Video winners will each receive the new Ronin-SC Pro Combo, Osmo Action as well as WD 2TB My Passport Wireless SSD.

Winning entries will also be showcased on the SkyPixel website as well as to DJI’s millions of fans and followers across its social media platforms.

“DJI has redefined how people capture stable video for all of life’s moments. The compact size, portability and powerful imaging system of our Osmo and Ronin series have also made it possible for anyone to take their creativity and inspirations to the next level,” said Basile David, Director of Brand and Content Partnerships at DJI. “With this contest, we hope to encourage more people to embrace and share their own creative way of storytelling.”

Since 2014, the SkyPixel online community has attracted 16 million professional aerial photographers and content creators from more than 140 countries, growing into the largest aerial photography community today. Over the past five years, SkyPixel has received over 150,000 submissions, becoming a go-to platform for original aerial masterpieces and extraordinary footage powered by other gimbal products focusing on various themes.

Details of the 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest

The short film contest consists of three categories:

Big Moments Start Small: Create a video showcasing the small, lightweight design of your camera device and your best cinematic scenes. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Osmo Pocket or other devices.

Make Your Move: Create a video showcasing the stabilized footage from your device. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Osmo Series or other devices.

Adventure Starts With You: Create a short, cinematic narrative film to showcase your creative skills and visual effects. Users are recommended to include at least 10 seconds of behind-the-scenes clips of their product such as DJI Ronin Series or other devices.

*Video submissions should not be longer than three minutes in length.

Submission Details

Submission Start Date: August 15, 2019, 2:00 AM (EST)

Submission End Date: October 14, 2019, 2:00 AM (EST)

Award Announcement: October 31, 2019

Interested participants can visit the 2019 SkyPixel Short Film Contest website for more information on contest rules and guidelines. For more information, contact: Skypixel.campaign@dji.com

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