Racing to Failure?

Reuters is reporting that Samsung has temporarily suspended production of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone after replacements for the first batch of devices also proved to be almost as good at spontaneously combusting as they are at surfing the Web.

One brand manager went so far as to compare the self-igniting smartphones to the Ford Pinto, whose rear-end fuel tanks had the unfortunate tendency to explode upon contact.

Samsung’s situation isn’t unique: Apple experienced similar problems with previous iterations of the iPhone. But given the speed with which new phone models are brought to market, one begins to wonder whether these defects are part of a larger failure of the process itself.

Is is possible we’ve reached an inflection point whereby, in the rush to get product to market, the validation phase is — pardon the pun — being short-circuited? Are suppliers properly vetted, product thoroughly tested, risks appropriately balanced?

Or has consumer electronics reached a point where it’s a race not to market but to failure?

Oct. 11 addendum: The Korea Herald and others are now reporting Samsung has decided to pull the plug completely on the Note 7. The estimated cost: Billions.



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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

One thought on “Racing to Failure?

  1. Hi Mike,
    As always, you provide good commentary on the state of the industry. I’d like to add a thought as to why this may be happening. OEMs rely on good communication with their component suppliers to integrate their respective technologies into the overall devices and help ensure these events don’t happen. My impression is that the speed at which new product development needs to occur has remained relatively constant over the past few years. What I see that’s changed is the level of compartmentalization and secrecy that OEMs have progressively increased since the Apple and Samsung legal battles over IP infringement. While the conflagrations have subsided in court, the residual impact is that suppliers can no longer work as intimately with the OEMs as they did before. Every potential leak must be addressed even at the cost of good– or in some cases responsible– product design. Because suppliers cannot be as engaged in product integration as they once were, they are limited in (or prevented from) helping OEMs prevent these component integration issues. I feel that unnecessary and detrimental secrecy is a root cause.

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