Samsung’s Biggest Problem Are Not Exploding Phones

The timing could not be worse: the iPhone 7 is hitting stores today. But Samsung’s botched response to the exploding Galaxy Note 7 compounded matters. The company issued a series of confusing messages since the problem was first identified, in a sequence the Wall Street Journal chronicled.

A statement on Samsung’s U.S. website on September 2 said that there were issues with the batteries. The note, however, did not identify the problem, nor did it advise customers to turn off their phones. Only a week later the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued an advisory on the matter. Two weeks and 92 exploding phones later, the company in conjunction with the CPSC issued a formal recall that affects between one and 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones.

The U.S. is the largest market for Samsung’s smartphones so the company’s caution can be understandable. But it cannot be justified. Surely, the company will take a hit for the scale of the recall. Yet not owning up to the defective devices and its botched response magnified the problem.

“Consumers should immediately stop using and power down the recalled Galaxy Note 7 devices purchased before September 15th, 2016,” CPSC’s recommendation says. “Contact the wireless carrier, retail outlet, or where you purchased your device to receive free of charge a new Galaxy Note 7 with a different battery, a refund, or a new replacement device.”  This is the exact wording of what should have been said the first day. It would have saved consumers a lot of misery, and would have allowed Samsung greater damage control. No matter how painful, truth is always the best policy.

Mobile devices of the 15th century


The Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice is hosting an evocative exhibition on Aldo Manuzio, the celebrated 15th century printer and publisher. With a vision to broaden the reach of the classics in Europe, he set up shop in Venice in 1489, just a few years after Gutenberg’s introduction of movable type printing, the defining technology of his era. He harnessed it to become the first to ever publish the works of Aristotle, Euclid, and many other ancient philosophers, scientists and authors, ushering progress by making their ideas available in the West.

To make texts easier to read, Manuzio introduced many innovations. One was italics, to mimic the manuscripts that the literate were used to reading. Another one was the book layout used to this day, with text arranged on a 1:2 box in the middle of the page, surrounded by blank space; an indescribable waste of precious paper, rare stuff back then. Perhaps his greatest invention was the pocket book, neat six-inch stacks of clearly legible paper bound in leather. It allowed nobles, generals and scholars to carry the classics wherever they went—even into portraits such as the one adorning this post. Many did, turning Manuzio’s books into status symbols, and making his vision a reality.

The exhibition’s curators point out that Manuzio’s work made Venice “the Silicon Valley” of the time, attracting technicians and editors to produce the books, inspiring scholars and curious readers to discuss them, and promoting writers of new content. It is hard to imagine that present day mobile devices will set in motion a transformation comparable to that which Euclidean geometry or Plato’s “Republic” started in the 15th century. For that, the exhibition does an important job of recognizing Manuzio as the original Renaissance man.

Samsung May Launch Bendable Screen Mobile in 2017


Bloomberg reports that Samsung is considering introducing two smartphone models that will feature bendable screens, including a version that folds in half like a cosmetic compact. Plasticity will allow the device to function both as a 5-inch handset and, if unfurled, an 8-inch tablet. The new product line, made with organic light-emitting diodes, may be launched as soon as February 2017, in time for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Samsung is already the biggest supplier of OLED panels for mobile devices. It is also a pioneer in the development of new screen formats, with its multi-sided Edge smartphones. As tantalizing as all this may appear to our jaded minds, we are perhaps only emerging from the prehistory of mobile communications. At Verb, we hope we may live to see the electronic paper, one that you can fold and unfold, hold, and write on, but also endowed with digital capabilities like any smart electronic device. It heartens us to see that developments seem to be pointing in that direction. This writer enjoys nothing like sinking on an easy chair, holding a broadsheet. Modern bad habits, however, have seeped in. More than once, he has found himself drawing his index finger over the unresponsive letters and photos.