The president of Samsung has confessed that recalling 2.5 million of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones will cost the company a “heartbreaking amount”.
According to Bloomberg, the comment came on Friday when the head of Samsung’s mobile business Koh Dong-Jin was asked by reporters about the financial impact of having to recall the phones, following the discovery of a defect in the batteries that caused some handsets to explode while charging.
Some analysts forecast that the scale of the recall will cost Samsung anything between $1 billion and $5 billion in revenue. Given that Samsung’s projected net income is $20.6 billion this year, the firm will undoubtedly absorb the loss. But Dong-Jin’s comment could just as easily refer to the cost to the company’s manufacturing reputation in its rush to beat Apple’s iPhone 7 to market.
In Samsung’s haste to beat Cupertino to launch, beginning last year the South Korean firm had brought forward the release of its Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series models by roughly a month. The move was initially deemed a success after it helped Samsung report on its best profit in more than two years, but the strains on its supply chain appear to have backfired disastrously.
“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, a history of the electronics giants.
Speaking to Reuters, Sea-Jin called the recall “an unfortunate event; it feels like Samsung rushed a bit, and it’s possible that this led to suppliers also being hurried.”
Samsung said in a statement to Reuters that it conducts “extensive preparation” for its products and will release them to the market “only after proper completion of the development process”.
However, many view the recall as a gift for Apple, which is currently dealing with depressed phone sales and relatively lukewarm anticipation for this year’s devices as analysts speculate the company is holding back its most impressive upgrades for 2017.
Indeed, since news emerged of Samsung’s mass battery defect, Apple has alerted iPhone parts suppliers to increase production rates, suggesting the company is confident of a late surge in sales of its latest flagship smartphones.
“The time advantage that [Samsung] had on the iPhone, that’s evaporated now,” said Bryan Ma, an analyst at IDC in Singapore. “It’ll hit them this quarter obviously, but if it’s something they immediately address and immediately turn around, then there won’t be a long-term impact.”
With Apple said to be overhauling its mobile design for a tenth anniversary “iPhone 8”, and Samsung clearly keen to bounce back and impress after its latest troubles, everything points to 2017 being potentially one of the most ultra-competitive years the smartphone industry has ever seen.
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