But what Samsung is still missing is its Tylenol moment. In 1982, Johnson & Johnson issued a massive recall after 7 people died from taking Tylenol products laced with cyanide. It led the company, and then the rest of the industry, to rethink pill packaging. Consumers saw the new seals as a mark of safety and protection. Samsung’s work on a seal that consumers can understand is still incomplete.
A quick recap: Note 7’s with 2 different versions of the battery–Samsung calls them A and B–were released last August. Soon after, some of the phones with Battery A started to burn up. Samsung recalled the phones, quickly replacing them with just Battery B models. Some of these phones started to burn up also, compelling Samsung to yank the phone altogether.
After erecting labs with 700 staff to test 30,000 batteries, Samsung has concluded that neither its hardware nor software was to blame. Instead, Samsung says the battery had issues.
Battery A had a design issue: There wasn’t enough room inside the battery for routine expansion of its component electrodes. Battery B had a welding issue caused by a manufacturing defect, which didn’t appear until production ramped up after Battery A was pulled from the market. (The resulting microscopic burrs poked through barriers inside the battery).
The core of the problem was that Samsung didn’t have the quality controls needed to identify the battery problems before they reached consumers.
Classroom discussion questions:
- What responsibility might Samsung share in setting the specifications and requirements for the Note 7 batteries?
- How can a phone maker prevent this kind of problem in the future?