The Galaxy S8 looks like it will be very sleek, but Samsung will need to convince shoppers that its new handset is safer than its Galaxy Note 7, which was recalled last year following reports that nearly 100 devices overheated.
On Friday (March 24), Samsung reiterated that it has implemented an eight-point battery safety inspection, which it described in January as including a visual inspection, durability testing, an x-ray inspection, a battery charge and discharge test, a disassembling test, an "accelerated use" test, a voltage test and a check for possible chemical compound leaks.
Last fall, 700 researchers tried to replicate the Note 7 overheating problem and found different problems in the two types of batteries used in the devices, according to the company. In one battery, electrodes weren't positioned correctly, making them susceptible to overheating. The other battery was welded incorrectly, which could cause a short circuit in the device.
"As always, our commitment to innovation will never stop, and we will continue to put safety first and deliver the innovative experience our customers deserve, because innovation is our legacy and quality is our priority," a Samsung spokesperson said in a video posted on the official Samsung Mobile YouTube page in January.
The first Note 7 recall, which involved a million devices, was issued this past September, after dozens of reports of the smartphones overheating. At that time, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said that Samsung received 92 reports of the batteries overheating in the U.S., including 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage. Users had the option of getting a refund or exchanging their device for a new Note 7.
By the following month, Samsung recalled all Note 7 devices, including replacement models that were supposed to be safer. By then, there were a total of 96 reports of Note 7 phones overheating in the U.S., including 23 new reports since the September 15 recall announcement. Worldwide, 4.3 million Note 7 devices ended up being recalled.
As of January 22, 96 percent of the 3 million Note 7 devices sold in the United States were returned, according to Samsung, but its reputation is still recovering.
According to an independent survey by marketing firm Fluent, 41 percent of U.S. consumers say that the Note 7 battery explosions had a slight or major negative impact on Samsung's reputation. About 30 percent said that they had no impact on the brand's reputation at all. Fluent's survey was conducted online and involved 1,541 U.S. consumers, 27 percent of whom owned a Samsung phone.
About 40 percent of those who owned Note 7 devices, 78 people surveyed, said they were concerned about the safety of the Galaxy S8. Of Samsung phone owners overall, only 14 percent said they were concerned with the S8 phone's safety. Note that Fluent's study was not funded by Samsung.
"We are creatures of habit and do tend to trust technology companies quite a bit, unless our own ear was accidentally burned by a faulty device." says Fluent Director of Research Tanya Levina.
The Fluent survey found that cost, not safety, was the ultimate factor in deciding whether or not to buy a Galaxy S8.
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Althea Chang is Associate Director of Content Development for Consumer Reports and was previously a Senior Writer for Tom's Guide, covering mobile devices, health and fitness gadgets and car tech.