Samsung to reveal root cause behind exploding Notes

LAS VEGAS—About those Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones that burst into flames: Yes, a top U.S. Samsung executive  addressed the recalls that cost it billions  as he began his remarks before a packed group of journalists at CES Wednesday.

Tim Baxter, president and COO of Samsung Electronics America,  acknowledged that 2016 was a “challenging year,” and said Samsung would very soon reveal the root cause behind the exploding phablet phones that led to two separate recalls before the devices were pulled from the market altogether—and subjected the global tech titan to widespread ridicule. He said Samsung is reflecting and listening to third party experts “to understand what happened, and to make sure it does not happen again.”

Baxter didn’t mention Samsung’s other major debacle, the top loading washing whose upper portion could “unexpectedly detach,” posing a potential risk of injury to customers, leading to another recall.

Clearly, Samsung is anxious to move on and put the consumer debacles of 2016 in the rear-view mirror. Samsung has already acknowledged that the recall of 2.5 million phones would deliver a financial blow of at least $5.3 billion.

From Samsung’s perspective, CES has never been a major showcase for its latest flagship phones anyway, though it did announce some lower-priced, waterproof Galaxy phones earlier in the week. Samsung’s more prominent flagship devices are typically unveiled  later, starting around the time of another major industry event in late February, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Meanwhile, a report from BusinessKorea says that Samsung plans to stick with the Note brand with a new model to come in the second half of 2017.

Instead, the primary focus at CES has been around a series of gorgeous new thin QLED smart televisions, which are based on advanced versions of technology known as Quantum Dot and which Samsung claims results in more vibrant lifelike color and deeper black levels, at any viewing angle. To emphasize the point, Samsung showed screens with pictures of stained glass windows.

I can vouch for the beautiful pictures, at least in the environment in which Samsung chose to demonstrate the latest TVs, but as stunning as the picture is, consumers are likely to appreciate other details.

It starts with an “almost invisible” 5-meter optical cable that you use to connect your TV to a box hidden away in a media console or entertainment cabinet. That box has all the jacks and ports reserved for your various peripheral devices, and the spaghetti tangle of wires and cables that goes along with it.

Moreover, the backs of the QLED TVs are recessed, so that you can mount your TV flush to the wall. And the no-gap mount itself swivels so you can easily level the TV even after its been hung up.

Samsung says some of the new TVs will hit the market in February. Pricing wasn’t announced yet, though Samsung executive Joe Stinziano said we "expect these to be volume pieces, not museum pieces."

For now, there was no obvious spillover effect tarnishing the Samsung brand or other products. According to Baxter, Samsung gained market share in the U.S. in TVs, home appliances, wearables, smart phones, and even the phablet category.  . Nearly half of all UHD TVs sold in the U.S., the company reported, are Samsung TVs.

The 28,000-square foot Samsung CES booth will showcase numerous other products, of course, including premium sound bars, a second generation UHD Blu-ray player, and an update to the company’s Family Hub refrigerator that will let you talk to the fridge.

Samsung is also pushing smart watches such as the Gear S3 with LTE connectivity and Samsung Pay, along with other wearables.

On the mobile side, Samsung introduced new Chromebooks that support 2 million Android apps and that come with a digitizer pen.  And the company announced Windows 10 gaming laptop called Notebook Odyssey, available in 15 and 17-inch rigs and featuring the latest Intel chips.

“Despite our setbacks, we have not, nor will we stop innovating,” Baxter.

USA TODAY


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