Samsung faces the prospect of having to permanently scrap its fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 and take a US$17 billion (A$22.5 billion) hit, unless it can find a way to resurrect the smartphone.
The South Korean phone maker has been on the back foot since the Note 7's launch in August when early adopters started reporting their purchases catching fire.
Telcos across the world temporarily pulled the phones from shelves; a recall was initiated, and replacement devices offered.
But when some of the replacement devices also caught fire, Samsung was forced to take drastic action.
The company put a stop to all production, sale and exchange of the Note 7 on October 10. The company asked users with either an original or replacement device to “power down and stop using” it.
Even before that occurred, most of the world’s top airlines were already asking Note 7 users to power them off in-flight.
Check-in counter staff asked each passenger if they owned one; in-flight entertainment systems periodically reminded device owners not to switch them on.
While Samsung engineers have not been able to replicate the Note 7’s issues in the lab, they are taking no chances when it comes to getting the devices back.
In the US, XDA said it had received a full kit to return the devices to Samsung – via ground shipping only – which include “a thermally-insulated box for the device and safety gloves for handling the procedure”.
Mail operators in other countries – including Britain and New Zealand – are taking even fewer chances, telling customers not to mail Note 7 devices and instead drop them to the store where they bought them in person.
What the Note 7 disaster means for Samsung is still an open question.
Though the company has been trying to offer Note 7 buyers a chance to replace their device with another Samsung product, it’s unclear how many will bother, compared to switching to another premium product – for example, Apple’s iPhone or Google’s Pixel.
In a detailed post-mortem, the NY Times said that the Note 7 may also be just the beginning of Samsung’s problems.
“Scotching the Note 7 does not end the questions facing Samsung,” the paper said. “It still has not disclosed what specifically caused the Note 7s to smoke and catch fire – or even whether it knows what the problem was.
“And the company may face questions about the safety of its other products, such as kitchen appliances and washing machines”.
It, of course, has already faced extensive questions on the latter in Australia after a string of fires.
The Wall Street Journal noted similarities in Samsung’s approach to both issues, which led to reputational damage. (Samsung disagreed, saying the issues were “entirely separate”).
“Samsung needs to make sure that the perception consumers have remains on ‘there is something wrong with the Note 7’ and does not become ‘there is something wrong with Samsung,’ ” Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi told Recode.
“Unfortunately, the messier this whole thing gets, the more consumers will start to question Samsung.”