Phone launch rush costing Samsung

In its rush to beat rival products to market, notably Apple’s new iPhone, Samsung Electronics has accelerated new phone launch cycles, but its haste is raising concerns that it is falling short on quality testing.

Since last year, the South Korean firm, the world’s largest maker of smartphones, has brought forward the launch of its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series models by roughly a month.

For the June quarter, the strategy helped Samsung to its best profit in more than two years, but it is also putting strain on its supply chain and its manufacturing reputation.

On Friday, two weeks after launch, Samsung recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones in 10 markets including South Korea and the US after finding its batteries were prone to ignite, and halted sales of the €798 device in those markets indefinitely.

The recall looks set to hamstring Samsung just as Apple gears up to launch its new iPhones this month.

“Samsung might have over-exerted itself trying to pre-empt Apple, since everybody knows the iPhones launch in September,” said Chang Sea-Jin, business professor at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and author of Sony vs Samsung.

“It’s an unfortunate event; it feels like Samsung rushed a bit, and it’s possible that this led to suppliers also being hurried.”

Samsung said it conducts “extensive preparation” for its products and will release them to the market “only after proper completion of the development process”. The firm said last week it had identified a problem in the manufacturing process of a battery supplier it didn’t name.

The scale of the unprecedented recall, which some analysts forecast will cost Samsung nearly $5bn in revenue this year, follows a separate supply-chain management issue that led to disappointing sales of the Galaxy S6 series last year.

Samsung executives said production problems for the curved screens and metal casings used in the Galaxy S6 edge led to a supply shortage for the device, leaving the firm unable to capitalise on the critical acclaim the phone received, sapping earnings momentum.

Counterpoint analyst Jeff Fieldhack said Samsung stole the thunder from local rival LG Electronics’ launch of the G5 smartphone this year by starting the sales of the Galaxy S7 smartphones a month earlier and backing them with an aggressive marketing campaign.

Samsung SDI, one of two makers of batteries for the Note 7 — the other has not been identified — said it did not get notice from Samsung regarding its batteries.


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