“You cannot really calculate the loss of consumer trust in money.”
October 11, 2016 2:42 PM   Subscribe

A Bad Week for Samsung [The New York Times] “Samsung Electronics is killing its troubled Galaxy Note 7 [wiki] smartphone, a humbling about-face for the South Korean giant and its global brand. In an unprecedented move, the company will no longer produce or market the smartphones. The demise of the Galaxy Note 7 is a major setback for Samsung, the world’s largest maker of smartphones. The premium device — with a 5.7-inch screen, curved contours and comparatively high price — won praise from consumers and reviewers, and was the company’s most ambitious effort yet to take on Apple for the high-end market.”

Do You Have a Samsung Galaxy Note 7? Here’s What to Do [The New York Times]
“If you have a Galaxy Note 7 (either the original or replacement version), Samsung advises that you power down the device immediately. You should also contact the wireless carrier or retail store where you bought it for details about getting a full refund, or exchanging it for a Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge model. Those who bought a Galaxy Note 7 from Samsung’s website (or who want more information about the recall) should call the company at 1-844-365-6197 or visit http://www.samsung.com/us/note7recall.”
Man's Replacement Galaxy Note 7 Catches Fire, Samsung Accidentally Texts 'I Can Try and Slow Him Down' [Gizmodo]
Klering says he contacted Samsung after the incident, and the company asked to take possession of his Note 7. Klering said he refused, although he did allow the company to pay to have the device X-rayed. (It’s unclear why the company wanted the Note 7 X-rayed.) This is where the story gets crazy. Klering claims that he received a text from a Samsung representative, indicating their knowledge of his situation. The text was apparently not meant for him and sent by accident:
“Just now got this. I can try and slow him down if we think it will matter, or we just let him do what he keeps threatening to do and see if he does it.”
Conundrum for Justices: Does a Design Patent Cover a Whole Smartphone? [The New York Times]
“The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed inclined to let Samsung have a fresh shot at arguing that it does not have to give up all of its profits for copying a part of the distinctive look of Apple’s iPhone. “It seems to me that the design is applied to the exterior case of the phone,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. “It’s not applied to all the chips and wires.” It followed, he said, that “there shouldn’t be profits awarded based on the entire price of the phone.” Several justices seemed to agree that the damages Samsung must pay may well be less than its total profits of about $400 million on several phones. They said the right award might be limited to profits attributable to the protected features, including the iPhone’s rounded corners and grid of icons.” [Previously.]
Supreme Court Suspicious of Samsung's Defense of Copying iPhone Design [The Guardian]
“The ensuing discussion ranged from the original 19th-century statute used to determine the design of stoves and furnaces, to comparisons with other design icons where form was seen as just as valuable as function, such as the Volkswagen Beetle. Justice Stephen Breyer described the issue of separating out the value of design from overall profitability as a matter “of great importance across industries” and warned that Samsung’s approach could lead to “absurd results”. It was an hour of arcane discussion in court. The justices acknowledged the case was often confusing and could yet go either way, but the questioning of Samsung was noticeably more hostile than that of Apple. [...] Even Samsung does not dispute the principle, but argues that it should be down to the plaintiff to prove damages. “It should be open to the patent holder to prove that the bulk of the profits come from the exterior,” said Sullivan.”
Apple Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Co. [Wikipedia]
History of United States patent law [Wikipedia]
posted by Fizz (129 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 


I was on a plane last week, and they were very, very serious about people who have Galaxy Note 7s TURNING. THEM. THE. FUCK. OFF. during the safety lecture. Really quite emphatic. It was interesting to hear that addition, as it broke up the familiar rhythm of the standard "pre-lift-off speech," which I can't remember being changed since 2001.
posted by chonus at 2:49 PM on October 11, 2016 [31 favorites]


chonus, I think a few “fuck”s would be a welcome addition to most speeches and/or introductions:

• “Look to your fucking left, now to your fucking right, one of you fucking students won't be here by the end of the year.”
• “Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my mother-fucking Americans....”
• “DIRECTIONS: Apply to fucking wet hair. Massage into fucking scalp. Rinse thoroughly damnit!”
posted by Fizz at 2:54 PM on October 11, 2016 [23 favorites]


HAHAHA, GTA samsung bomb mod.
posted by FallowKing at 3:03 PM on October 11, 2016 [24 favorites]


Man, this is so crazy, and such a shame. I absolutely love my S7 Edge, and planned to happily go with Samsung for the foreseeable future, but who knows what's going to happen after this.

I've heard firsthand from Samsung people about the work culture being militaristic and hierarchical. No doubt that played a role - blame the outside battery manufacturer instead of taking a hard look at internal causes and suffering the wrath of your superiors.
posted by naju at 3:07 PM on October 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I absolutely love my S7 Edge, and planned to happily go with Samsung for the foreseeable future, but who knows what's going to happen after this.

Yeah, I'm on a Samsung S6 and I've been very pleased with the quality and its functionality. News like this does make me hesitate and reconsider my loyalty to the brand. I think I might go with a Google phone my next go around, though that won't be for another two years, so who knows what will be on the market by that time. I know they recently released their Pixel phone and it looks pretty badass.
posted by Fizz at 3:18 PM on October 11, 2016


Rumor has it that OnePlus might be releasing the 3 Plus very very soon. So there's definitely other new hotness out there in the Android world.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:30 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, I'm sure they'll find something else to make a cheap copy of, and the stock will recover.
posted by rokusan at 3:35 PM on October 11, 2016 [13 favorites]


If I can't take the battery out or put a memory card in then I don't want it.
posted by I-baLL at 3:36 PM on October 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


I've been an iPhone user from the start, and I don't have much love overall for Samsung given their generally shady ties within South Korea and the fact that their business has pretty much always been built on just copying whatever the market leader is (remember the BlackJack? Take a wild guess what fruit-named company that one tried to mimic).

But at this point, part of me just feels bad for Samsung, because at every single step of the way, they've handled this whole thing in the worst, most inept way possible. I'm one step away at this point from wanting to give them a hug, because my brain is apparently wired to interpret what has almost certainly been laziness, unwillingness to spend money, and unwillingness to do the work of a proper recall (brought about by a rush job caused, by all accounts, by an attempt to strike while the proverbial iron is hot because the new iPhone has a similar external case to the previous model, making it "unexciting") as simply being in over their heads when they make decisions like sending out a software update that limits battery charge to 60%. Because if there's one thing smartphone users all agree on, it's that their phones' batteries already last too long, if anything. Great user experience choice there.

John Gruber, in a recent episode of his podcast The Talk Show, made a really interesting comparison to when a batch of tainted Tylenol went out. The company knew exactly what batch it was, and could have sent out a recall notice saying something to the effect of "if the production code stamped on the bottle is between…"

Instead, they recalled anything with the word "Tylenol" on it, pulling completely unrelated products from stores that couldn't have even been conceivably tainted in some way, and in doing so established that Tylenol took safety very seriously; it's apparently still widely regarded by people who study this stuff that this action is the reason why the Tylenol brand still exists today.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:38 PM on October 11, 2016 [41 favorites]


If I can't take the battery out or put a memory card in then I don't want it.

Preserve your 2014 tech, I-baLL, because the number of phones like that is dwindling fast.
posted by rokusan at 3:44 PM on October 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


John Gruber, in a recent episode of his podcast The Talk Show, made a really interesting comparison to when a batch of tainted Tylenol went out. The company knew exactly what batch it was, and could have sent out a recall notice saying something to the effect of "if the production code stamped on the bottle is between…"

Instead, they recalled anything with the word "Tylenol" on it, pulling completely unrelated products from stores that couldn't have even been conceivably tainted in some way, and in doing so established that Tylenol took safety very seriously; it's apparently still widely regarded by people who study this stuff that this action is the reason why the Tylenol brand still exists today.


Said Tylenol was deliberately poisoned. I don't know if we should read anything into the story having become that the batch was tainted, but it seems worth noting. It is believed that the bottles were tampered with after reaching store shelves. AFAIK, there wasn't a specific batch of a specific product involved.
posted by hoyland at 3:45 PM on October 11, 2016 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I was about to say, I think you're talking about the Chicago Tylenol Murders.
posted by rokusan at 3:46 PM on October 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


There was a BBC Witness episode last week on the Tylenol deaths. Very moving, especially hearing how emotional the Johnson & Johnson executive in charge of reacting to the crisis still is, over 30 years later.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:52 PM on October 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Worth remembering - there was no very satisfactory conclusion to the question of why, exactly, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner lithium batteries kept catching on fire. Lots of interesting things came out of the investigation, but not the definitive answer to what actually went wrong. (Poor QA, poor design, poor regulatory oversight, but the actual mechanism for the fault? Not so much.)

As the NYT article says, Samsung originally blamed the problems on one of the manufacturers of the original S7 Note batteries - alas, another Samsung company, but one with a lot of experience - and switched entirely to the other supplier, a Chinese company which also makes the iPhone 7 batteries. So whatever's gone wrong this time may or may not be related to the original problem. Batteries in modern portable tech are part of a remarkably complex system that has to manage charging and discharging while monitoring cell conditions to maximise performance while keeping them out of various interesting zones which can drastically and permanently reduce capacity or shorten cell life (sometimes via violent exothermic reactions...).

It will happen again. Secondary Li batteries used to be considered too dangerous for consumer products until Sony did a lot of work to introduce safety features in the 1980s. Since then, they've increased in energy density through a lot of incremental improvements, including making the internal structures thinner, and also been put in regimes where charging currents are higher (because shorter charging times are great selling points), they're lighter (ditto) and they store a lot more energy (=bigger, brighter screens, more features, longer battery life - ie, ditto). So consumer pressure and an hellishly competitive market really keeps battery technology right on the edge of what you can do without the buggers combusting.

It doesn't help that these things can sell in the tens of millions, so that a 1e6 failure mode - which in any other component would be barely detectable even by the manufacturer - can combine with social media to kill the entire product stone dead overnight.

Harsh business.
posted by Devonian at 3:55 PM on October 11, 2016 [55 favorites]


Oh, I'm sure they'll find something else to make a cheap copy of, and the stock will recover.

Well, they're currently trying to establish how much that will cost them, it's up to the SCOTUS right now.
posted by Fizz at 4:01 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Due to desire to use high featured apps, battery life of a phone will always be ~1 day. Any improvement to battery life will be dedicated to apps that use more CPU. As batteries improve, people will grow complacent with apps that use more and more power.

Shitty application code is part of a systemic pressure that makes the threat of combustion a constant, regardless of how much the power and safety of batteries is improved.
posted by idiopath at 4:03 PM on October 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


Oh, I'm sure they'll find something else to make a cheap copy of, and the stock will recover.

For all Apple design superfans like to trot this out about Samsung, please note that Apple builds very little of their precious iPhone. Arguably they don't build any of it. Samsung at least is capable of making memory, microprocessors and screens. Samsung has manufactured many of the components in previous iPhone models, including the CPUs. They're actually really good at making things.

Except batteries apparently.
posted by GuyZero at 4:08 PM on October 11, 2016 [19 favorites]


Most people don't use that many apps. I'm more inclined to blame shitty mobile content, web pages full of gnarly poop, which not only eats CPU but hammers the radios - which latter thing is what really knocks my mobile battery life for six.

In other words, unusable mobile content is not only aggravating. it's a clear and present threat to public health and safety and perpetrators should be vigorously prosecuted.

I'm fine with that.
posted by Devonian at 4:12 PM on October 11, 2016 [29 favorites]


Not an expert here, but I think we're well past the days when Samsung was just a cheap knockoff of Apple. It's a genuine arms race now and Samsung + Android are frequently first to market with a whole load of features that Apple only gets to much later. I expect the Pixel series to make that arms race even tighter.
posted by naju at 4:16 PM on October 11, 2016 [35 favorites]


I've been, with a 4-year HTC EVO break, a Samsung guy since 1999. I had a black pseudo flip phone, the silver clamshell, the Blade, the Instinct and now the S5. Say what you will, they have always made exceptionally hardy phones. I used to literally throw my phone at a wall and watch the battery fly out, only to be put back together and function perfectly. This, of course, to impress ladies, with limited success. But they all had respect for the phones!

It is really a shame to seem them drive the truck into the river like this.
posted by grumpybear69 at 4:25 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Smartphones that spontaneously catch fire seems like a perfect symbol for late capitalism. There is genuine technological sophistication, combined with an obsessive corporate desire for selling the latest iteration and the demand that the device looks and feels a certain way, all combine to create a situation where a phone gets through to the public that bursts into flames.
posted by graymouser at 4:36 PM on October 11, 2016 [15 favorites]


Pivoting over to the other part of this post, the Samsung Patent Lawsuit. I feel like Samsung is in the right with regards to their claim. They did steal/borrow elements of design from Apple, so I understand having to pay a penalty but to give up ALL profits from those phones during those years seems a bit excessive. I'm hoping that common sense rules the day but I also have a feeling that Apple Inc. is a big enough company with a big enough influence (lobbying) on political groups in Washington that SCOTUS will side with them and force Samsung to pay out.
posted by Fizz at 4:37 PM on October 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am really amused at the extreme overreaction to a comparatively few number of devices having minor fires. I'm sitting here tapping this out on my Note7's glorious screen and
posted by AndrewStephens at 4:40 PM on October 11, 2016 [53 favorites]


-1, missed the NO CARRIER punchline
posted by GuyZero at 4:47 PM on October 11, 2016 [26 favorites]


I had a Note 3 and it was a good phone after I managed to remove the Samsung software. I was considering going back to samsung to get a Note 7 once my iphone 6 plus is paid off, but I guess I won't now!
posted by 81818181818181818181 at 4:56 PM on October 11, 2016


I-baLL, you can put a memory card in the Galaxy S7, for what that's worth.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:01 PM on October 11, 2016


as it broke up the familiar rhythm of the standard "pre-lift-off speech," which I can't remember being changed since 2001.

Actually, that part of it hasn't changed since at least 1974.
posted by Melismata at 5:02 PM on October 11, 2016


Yeah- so I think for my next phone, I'm going to stick with one of those Nexus ones that doesn't set your trousers on fire.

(although, I am a bit concerned that the Nexus 6 might try to break my neck with its legs)
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:34 PM on October 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


In the meantime, how's the Appleocalypse--you know, the End Times for the Beast of Cupertino foretold by the disappearance of the headphone jack from the iPhone 7--coming along? Oh, hey, whaddaya know.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:40 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Did Apple ever release sales numbers? I thought they weren't going to release early sales figures for the 7.
posted by GuyZero at 5:55 PM on October 11, 2016


there was no very satisfactory conclusion to the question of why, exactly, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner lithium batteries kept catching on fire.

Well, yes and no, I guess. I mean, the failure modes of lithium and lithium-ion batteries are pretty well known at this point. The problem with them, really, is that they're not very fault-tolerant. One failed cell can easily cause the whole battery to go because of the thermal runaway characteristics of these batteries.

I've done some battery work for a project at work, and the takeaways I've taken away from that are basically a) don't fuck with primary lithium batteries and b) don't abuse any kind of lithium battery. If you drop your phone with enough force that it dents the case or cracks the screen, I'd seriously consider replacing the battery.

Based on research that the FAA Tech Center in Atlantic City has performed, here's what to do if you have to deal with a battery fire:

For lithium ion batteries (any rechargeable lithium battery in your consumer electronics) - the goal is to both extinguish flames and cool the device as quickly as possible. Thoroughly soaking the device in any non-flammable liquid will be your first step. Don't use alcohol, but soft drinks, juices, etc. are all fair game. You really need to get a lot of liquid on the battery to get the temperature down and stop the runaway (the implication from the FAA was basically to dump the contents of the drinks cart on the fire). Ice should not be used because it will insulate the device rather than cooling it. Regular fire extinguishers won't work, either, since they won't cool the device; you might stop the flames but they'll come back quickly. Don't try to smother the flame with blankets or other physical barriers.

For primary lithium batteries (non-rechargeable lithium batteries) - run. Stay well away from it and let it burn itself out. Primary lithium batteries contain metallic lithium which will react violently with water. You can't smother it, household fire extinguishers don't work, halon won't stop the reaction. There is no known way of extinguishing these fires. There's a reason air carriers won't take these batteries as freight.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:12 PM on October 11, 2016 [41 favorites]


There is no known way of extinguishing these fires.

well, there's a sentence to add to my anxiety dreams
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:27 PM on October 11, 2016 [40 favorites]


ALSO: My apologies for misremembering the poisoned Tylenol story early on in this thread! Please don't read anything into "the official line becoming that it was tainted," because it was just me being convinced that it wasn't the same story as the Tylenol poisonings.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:29 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I really really really like my Note 3. And I was looking forward to moving to the 7. Iphone and Samsung diverge greatly in the top tier products, the main draw for me is the larger screen and the stylus. It is a phablet, and the utilization is fantastic.

There really isn't a phone on the market like this and I'm going to hold of off on getting a phone for awhile longer because I want the stylus functionality.

Batteries are such complicated tech, and carring so much stored energy on a phone is dangerous. Primarily fires in the past have been mishandling (in coditions to hot or without airflow , using inappropriate powrsources to charge, using batteries that end up with physical deformities such as warping. I am interested in knowing what the problem is.

I'm fairly loyal to samsung, and I'm not sure I'd switch to another company if a viable alternative comes out fairly quickly, but I do love technology and am ready to move into some new features and design.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:34 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought it had been settled that the basic battery design was flawed insofar as it was so thin that mechanical flexing could put elements in contact with each other that started a short-circuit and led to a fire, and there was no way around this. I recall hearing this when a replacement phone burst into flames on a plane a couple days ago.

Is that no longer the accepted explanation?
posted by fatbird at 6:48 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, I'm sure they'll find something else to make a cheap copy of, and the stock will recover.

Samsung's aren't cheap, the Note retailed at over $800US.
posted by octothorpe at 6:53 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Retail prices of phones are kind of a slippery field, given the nature of the market (and the significant carrier subsidies built into the pricing structure from the start), admittedly.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:59 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


There is no known way of extinguishing these fires.

Copper powered D extinguishers will do the job of both smother and heatsink but planes only carry ABC extinguishers so just don't have them blow in the first place.
posted by Talez at 7:05 PM on October 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


For primary lithium batteries (non-rechargeable lithium batteries) - run. Stay well away from it and let it burn itself out. Primary lithium batteries contain metallic lithium which will react violently with water. You can't smother it, household fire extinguishers don't work, halon won't stop the reaction. There is no known way of extinguishing these fires.

I wonder whether an atmosphere of argon, krypton, or xenon would do the trick; they're all completely unreactive except with the most exotic reactants and even then under very exotic conditions, and all are heavier than air, though Ar is just barely.

Too bad the boiling points of argon (87.29 K) and oxygen (90.19 K) are so close, or fractional distillation of argon from the atmosphere -- where it has an abundance of almost 1% -- would be a snap.
posted by jamjam at 7:19 PM on October 11, 2016


Apple is a shitty goddamn company and i have no idea why people cut them SO FUCKING MUCH SLACK when they are so actively fucking evil rather than just incompetent, but note that Apple iPhones are exploding too (although certainly not (yet) in the numbers that Samsung phones are).
posted by adrienneleigh at 7:27 PM on October 11, 2016 [22 favorites]


More iPhone explosions, not that it'll change the minds of any koolaid drinkers.
posted by adrienneleigh at 7:31 PM on October 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


There is no known way of extinguishing these fires.

Fiendfyre??? We've invented Fiendfyre??? Salazar, we can be so short-sighted.
posted by greermahoney at 7:31 PM on October 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Apple is a shitty goddamn company and i have no idea why people cut them SO FUCKING MUCH SLACK when they are so actively fucking evil rather than just incompetent

Because comparing the Apple of Today to Microsoft in the '80s and '90s and IBM in the decades before... Apple under Jobs and now Cook is an actual Platonic Republic under the care of Philosopher Kings for its iDevice users and mid-size iDevice devs.

Mac users would like to jump ship, but Linux and the Beasties and the x86 thralls they run upon are as terrible as they've always been, they just seem good compared to the vanquished RISC/Unix OS varietals and whatever Microsoft has on tap.

Stop. Just stop. In the search field, of Windows 10, type "cmd" - great! Now in the little black window type "ssh" - ohhhh. No. Sorry. Still can't compete. There are many websites there to teach you how to install OpenSSH and well, yeah, it's baked in along with the rest of bash and Unix userland on the Mac. Or, you know, pay cash money for SecureCRT. Or try to deal with cygwin. Lots of options, all of them borked. I'll wait while you decide.

Mac hardware is built like a tank, and about as slow. Unacceptable. Either jump back to IBM RISC on the OpenPOWER platform or move forward to ARM-based SOCs, just dump Intel on the Macintosh already. It's unnatural and weird and holding everyone back.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:50 PM on October 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Fortunately, the sort of lithium primary cells you're likely to come across don't have very much Li in them - you can make them go pop-whoosh if you try hard, but I've seen more anger come out of a faulty Chinese USB charger.

When I was much younger, I tried to get some hot action out of the square flat primary cells that Polaroid used to power their cameras, but it was all very disappointing.
posted by Devonian at 7:52 PM on October 11, 2016


Devonian's post explains why the new batteries as well as some iphone 7's batteries are exploding. Thanks for that nugget!

As for Samsung: as a mobile dev (hey, who is going to the BABBQ?), I have a rational HATE for Samsung phones: they lie! I ask it what it's screen pixel density is and on certain phones it just plain lies to me (because Samsung thinks high density icons look better). I ask it where a file is in storage, or where to find it's external storage, it lies to me again. On a lot of phones pre a certain version of android, I try to run certain animations, it turns out they've fucked with their implementation of AOSP (the Android OS) and just plain crash.

And their UI layer on top of stock android is ugly and requires many more clicks to get to where I want. And is rediculously cumbersome. It's like they saw PalmPilot's 'always try to get the minimum amount of clicks to get things done' and did it the other way around.

I HATE Samsung phones.

The hardware is nice, though. I will definitely give them that.

So, for me, it couldn't have happened to a nicer company.

I just wish HTC had made the Pixel phones just a bit nicer/cooler ... and not have ditched the IR Blaster. I would have gotten an M10 (beautifull phone!) or a Pixel if only it had the IR functionality I need to control hotel TV's so I can plug in my laptop :(

Guess the LG V20 is my next phone, IF the bootloader is unlocked so I can get rid of their horrid UI.
posted by MacD at 7:54 PM on October 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


"Look to your fucking left, now to your fucking right, one of you fucking students won't be here by the end of the year."

I actually remember getting this speech with my freshman class during orientation week at Cornell, September, 1980. Minus the "fucking," of course. Is this a more widespread thing than I realized?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:21 PM on October 11, 2016


Stop. Just stop. In the search field, of Windows 10, type "cmd" - great! Now in the little black window type "ssh" - ohhhh. No. Sorry. Still can't compete. There are many websites there to teach you how to install OpenSSH and well, yeah, it's baked in along with the rest of bash and Unix userland on the Mac. Or, you know, pay cash money for SecureCRT. Or try to deal with cygwin. Lots of options, all of them borked. I'll wait while you decide.

*cough*
posted by Aleyn at 8:36 PM on October 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


MetaFilter: there's no known way of extinguishing those fires...
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:41 PM on October 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


I've said it before, but it's really weird how any discussion of technology inevitably devolves into a heated argument about the relative merits of Apple product strategy.
posted by aramaic at 8:56 PM on October 11, 2016 [33 favorites]


Oh, I'm sure they'll find something else to make a cheap copy of, and the stock will recover.

For all Apple design superfans like to trot this out about Samsung, please note that Apple builds very little of their precious iPhone. Arguably they don't build any of it. Samsung at least is capable of making memory, microprocessors and screens. Samsung has manufactured many of the components in previous iPhone models, including the CPUs. They're actually really good at making things.
The appeal of this argument is that Samsung is a great manufacturer, and so they may be. However, such an appeal doesn't much affect the opinions of "Apple design superfans" because they are 1) more concerned about design and 2) don't really care who manufactures the components of their integrated devices.

I'll put this two ways: 1) do people concerned about car design really care which company manufactured the transmission or do they care about the design specifications to which that transmission was built? 2) Consider HTC's having recently been relegated to the status of mere manufacturer now that their own smartphone efforts have failed.

For better or worse, design is a rarity, and manufacturing a commodity.

The unfortunate fate of Samsung's Note 7 shows that Samsung can't design very reliably and, as a result (as noted by Horace Dediu), a single manufacturer may now capture 100% of smartphone profits this quarter (or more than 100%, depending on Samasung's final liability for the failed Note 7).
posted by mistersquid at 9:03 PM on October 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


*cough*
To get started, ensure you’ve install the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. This only works on 64-bit builds ... Once you’re sure you’re using the correct version of Windows 10, open the Settings app and head to Update & Security > For Developers. Activate the “Developer Mode” switch here to enable Developer Mode. ... Next, open the Control Panel, click “Programs,” and click “Turn Windows Features On or Off” under Programs and Features. Enable the “Windows Subsystem for Linux (Beta)” option in the list here and click “OK.” ... After you do, you’ll be prompted to reboot your computer. Click “Restart Now” to reboot your computer and Windows 10 will install the new feature. ... The first time you run the bash.exe file, you’ll be prompted to accept the terms of service. The command will then download the “Bash on Ubuntu on Windows” application from the Windows Store. You’ll be asked to create a user account and password for use in the Bash environment...
Yep, that's Windows all right.
posted by traveler_ at 9:10 PM on October 11, 2016 [33 favorites]


I'm sad at this. Was looking foreward to upgrading. Still have my trusty Note 4 - removable battery (2 backups charged for potential GearVRing), SD card now adding an additional 200GB (VR movies are enormous space hogs), tiniest bezel ever, superlight. It's a beast of a phone, with a screen to die for, that manages to be a "compact" phablet. And the Note 7's screen is even better, literally the best tested by DisplayMate so far. I do hope they fix the bug and get a revised version out - this time with a removable battery. The recent QC3 phones alfready charge ridiculously fast - would happily go back to QC2 or even 1 for safety - waiting an extra 45m to charge is no big deal.
posted by meehawl at 9:33 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


For better or worse, design is a rarity, and manufacturing a commodity.

Name every company in the world that can fab a 10nm processor.

Intel, TMSC and Samsung.

Now name every company in the world that has "good design".

Go ahead, I'll get a drink. Take all the time you want.
posted by GuyZero at 9:37 PM on October 11, 2016 [9 favorites]


a single manufacturer may now capture 100% of smartphone profits this quarter (or more than 100%, depending on Samasung's final liability for the failed Note 7).

Yeah, certainly Apple is the only company that's managed to escape the race to the bottom in terms of profitability. Samsung probably does some funny stuff wither inter-group pricing though - I wonder if they can lose money on phones while at the same time have profitable processor and chip divisions?
posted by GuyZero at 9:41 PM on October 11, 2016


Consider HTC's having recently been relegated to the status of mere manufacturer now that their own smartphone efforts have failed.

Yeah but they're making the Pixel phones for Google now. And it's not like HTC phones were bad, it's just that there's a winner-take-all effect in the phone market and it's not possible for HTC or anyone who isn't Apple to spend their way to profitability through marketing. The notion that "failure to thrive in the market" is the equivalent to "great design" just isn't true. Apple had first-mover advantage and has an amazing supply chain (that is only partly Apple, unless you consider Foxconn to be Apple) that was an outgrowth of their days as a laptop manufacturer.

While I'm sure that no one at HTC is all that happy that they lost at being a manufacturer of record, it's not a given that they'll do any worse financially as a contract assembly shop. Besides, they're still selling phones for now. Maybe business with pick up since they don't seem to explode.
posted by GuyZero at 10:00 PM on October 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


it's not possible for HTC or anyone who isn't Apple to spend their way to profitability through marketing.

Well, you know… unless you're Samsung. There's a reason why Samsung is the only Android handset maker to ever reach profitability. Though Samsung likely has some tough days ahead, no doubt.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:16 PM on October 11, 2016


Name every company in the world that can fab a 10nm processor.

Intel, TMSC and Samsung.

Now name every company in the world that has "good design".
To my mind, there's only one company that designs smartphones that might lay claim to purveyor of "good design" but even that single company is not so good that I'd identify them as the uncontested source of good design. Depending on the weather, I might say they offer better designs than most others, but this is quibbling and equivocation because, like I said, manufacturing is a commodity, design a rarity.

So, yeah, design is rare enough I wouldn't even pretend to name even one.

I'm not trying to engage competively, GuyZero (the challenging tone of your last unquoted sentence is a bit puzzling). To me, that a list of "top" manufacturers can be constituted from a single spec (e.g. 10nm fabrication) supports the idea that the domain has been commoditized.
posted by mistersquid at 10:39 PM on October 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just dropping in here to point to a possible reason the Note 7s are blowin' up regardless of whether they use the new battery or not. Looks like it's the case design.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:40 PM on October 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Apparently, Samsung can copy everything but product safety. I feel bad for their customers, but then that's the bargain they made and there are consequences for that, at least.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:56 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've had several Samsung phones, including the Note 3 and the Note 5. The note 5 is just about my favorite phone ever. I've had iPhones, they just couldn't compete. Maybe the newer ones can.

But I love the stylus. I use it a lot for stuff. I'd miss not having it. Also, the phones are super durable. I've dropped this phone a lot and there's no cracks at all and maybe like a teeny scratch on the plastic case. It's amazing.

I hope they can come back from this because whenever I've gone phone shopping nothing else seemed as good as the Samsung phones. The note 5 also has an amazing camera, so good that's it's stopped me from throwing down cash on a dslr because I can just zoom in later. IPhones have always seemed on have grainy photos for some reason.
posted by sio42 at 11:03 PM on October 11, 2016


I wonder if the "grainy photos" thing is just a matter of the amount of noise reduction applied after taking the photo. I say this largely because iOS 10 introduced RAW shooting, and one thing that surprised pretty much everyone was that, straight out of the sensor, there's actually a lot of noise on those ordinarily smooth-looking photos, on account of that being kind of an unavoidable thing with any sensor that small. There's a good chance that Samsung/Google applies more and/or a different kind of noise reduction to photos, making it potentially more of a software thing than a hardware thing in that case.

I admittedly don't actually know, but there's a bit of largely baseless speculation for ya.
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:35 PM on October 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Did Apple ever release sales numbers? I thought they weren't going to release early sales figures for the 7.

Numbers weren't officially released by Apple, but T-Mobile and Sprint sent out press releases along of the lines of "375% more preorders than last year!!!!!", which made my stock go up like $8 over two days, so thanks T-Mobile/Sprint.

The next earnings call is October 25th, so I'm guessing there will be official numbers then.
posted by sideshow at 12:38 AM on October 12, 2016


Am I alone in puzzling over the title as follows: why would this make consumers stop trusting money?
posted by thelonius at 1:01 AM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


They're saying that loss of consumer trust in samsung in terms of dollars is incalculable.

Not thst consumers don't trust dollars/money
posted by sio42 at 1:15 AM on October 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was just looking at latest iPhone and remembered the other reason I didn't get one. 1gb of ram. My note 5 has 4! I can't remember the last time I had to restart it or had any issues. It never overheats. The screen is incredible.

I really don't understand how this stupid case from Apple can even compare. I didn't buy the samsung phones bc they were Apple clones. I think they look better than Apple! If anything I feel like apple phones are becoming more like Samsung phones in terms of design. This whole case is insane.

I'm also glad I didn't get the note 7 but I'm hoping they fix that.... This will die someday. Who knows what we'll be using by then?
posted by sio42 at 1:19 AM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Amount of RAM in a phone is kind of an interesting issue, because to a very large extent it's like comparing vehicles' gas tank capacities without taking mileage into consideration. Having more RAM than necessary is a net negative for a portable device, because all of the RAM needs to be powered at all times.

The reason this is interesting is that, according to folks who study this sort of stuff, Android's OS-level design actually wound up meaning, in the long run, that you need something like 1½–2× the amount of RAM in a system running Android to get the same effective result as an equivalent system running iOS. Now, admittedly, the iPhones Plus have apparently still had Not Enough RAM up until this year, so it's not as though running a more efficient operating system is some sort of panacea, and the 2GB (or 3GB for the Plus) this year is certainly welcome.

But yeah, comparing RAM specs across differently structured operating systems and bragging about how This One's Bigger is in many regards akin to bragging about the huge number of gallons of gas you can put into your SUV's tank.
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:31 AM on October 12, 2016 [16 favorites]


sio42 I worked that out, yes. But thanks.
posted by thelonius at 1:44 AM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


DoctorFedora - that's really interesting! i used to stay much more on top of these things than i have in the past few years. i do remember my iphone 4 and 4S freezing up a lot and being very laggy.

the recent election threads have not even made a dent on my note's ability to deal with them but i probably don't know enough to understand why that is.


thelonius - sorry - thought you were actually asking ;-)
posted by sio42 at 1:49 AM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, I'm sure they'll find something else to make a cheap copy of, and the stock will recover.

Just wait until it comes out that Xerox PARC had the original design patent on the rectangle with curved corners.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:16 AM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I paid all this money for a phone, and it exploded! Fuck money, it's no good!"
posted by thelonius at 2:21 AM on October 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


In other news, Samsung's Hanwha Techwin armaments subsidiary is now marketing an innovative new slimline incendiary grenade.

However, you can't use it for invading other countries unless you enable international roaming.
posted by cstross at 2:38 AM on October 12, 2016 [15 favorites]


As for Samsung: as a mobile dev (hey, who is going to the BABBQ?), I have a rational HATE for Samsung phones: they lie! I ask it what it's screen pixel density is and on certain phones it just plain lies to me (because Samsung thinks high density icons look better). I ask it where a file is in storage, or where to find it's external storage, it lies to me again. On a lot of phones pre a certain version of android, I try to run certain animations, it turns out they've fucked with their implementation of AOSP (the Android OS) and just plain crash.
Samsung's Android Camera API implementation is also a mess. On some devices it lies about what resolutions are supported (leading to exceptions thrown when trying to use them), and there are also weird issues like API calls having to be done in a certain magic order (that isn't in the API spec) or else you get a crash: not your regular fail with an error code but where it freezes up the device for a couple of seconds and then crashes the app. Sometimes there's just a workaround you can do to make it work on the Samsung device and everything's rosy, but worse is when the "fix" is something that degrades performance (e.g. having to close and reopen a device - taking a second or so - because a faster state change doesn't work) and then there's a contagion where users of other more functional devices end up with the low performance version because it's too much of a hassle to have different versions for each device.

All that said, their camera hardware is actually pretty awesome.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 3:26 AM on October 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


tbh thelonius, I thought it was a post on central banking before I read the summary closely
posted by indubitable at 3:56 AM on October 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Due to desire to use high featured apps, battery life of a phone will always be ~1 day.
I wonder if the main issue are apps, or the arms race for gigantic screens with UHD screens brighter than the sun.

I have a shitty Vodafone-branded Alcatel Android 5 smartphone with a 5" FWVGA (854x480) screen. Considering the main power hog is usually the screen, I can't imagine it gets any better with a larger screen with more pixel density and much larger resolution.
posted by lmfsilva at 4:09 AM on October 12, 2016


I was just looking at latest iPhone and remembered the other reason I didn't get one. 1gb of ram.

This is false. The iPhone has had more than 1 GB of RAM for two generations now.
posted by LoveHam at 4:23 AM on October 12, 2016 [8 favorites]


I can believe the case design scenario. Mechanical robustness and resistance against flexing and distortion get much harder to manage the thinner you make things, and you're always going to need physical separation of internal components of the cells. Plus, gluing the battery in place will couple case flexing more strongly, so... this is all seeming plausible, and explains why batteries from different sources behave similarly.

And that's not something you can fix without a mechanical redesign.
posted by Devonian at 4:53 AM on October 12, 2016


Not a good year for Samsung.

We bought a washing machine from Samsung over the summer. Liked it fine. When the exploding SmartPhones started, I joked about hoping their washing machines did better.

It wasn't a joke; it was a premonition. My washing machine is impacted, and they don't know what to do about it yet.
posted by MrGuilt at 5:18 AM on October 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was on a plane last week, and they were very, very serious about people who have Galaxy Note 7s TURNING. THEM. THE. FUCK. OFF. during the safety lecture.

How long before they're confiscated by TSA?
posted by Mental Wimp at 5:41 AM on October 12, 2016


I was just looking at latest iPhone and remembered the other reason I didn't get one. 1gb of ram.

In fact, the iPhone 7 has 2GB of RAM and the iPhone 7+ has 3GB of RAM.
posted by fairmettle at 5:46 AM on October 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I like the misinformation in this thread, too: 'no other company than Apple has been able to make phones profitably'? WTF?

Or 'Apple will now have 100% of market profitabilty'? You realise Samsung is only one manufacturor? There's Oppo, OnPlus, HTC, LG, Blu etc etc etc all maki9ng quite a bit of money off mobile phones.

And even if you take Samsung out of the eqaution, Android phones STILL outship Apple phones. By a large margin.
posted by MacD at 5:53 AM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


could we not, again

could we just talk about the exploding phone implications

please, just this time
posted by middleclasstool at 6:16 AM on October 12, 2016 [16 favorites]


MacD: the other manufacturers make revenue, but they apparently don't make profits.

(It's therefore possible for Apple to have over 100% of profits in the smartphone market, if the other manufacturers make a net loss.)
posted by Richard Holden at 6:18 AM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Apple under Jobs and now Cook is an actual Platonic Republic under the care of Philosopher Kings for its iDevice users and mid-size iDevice devs

None of them know who their parents are?
posted by XMLicious at 6:20 AM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


"In the meantime, how's...the disappearance of the headphone jack from the iPhone 7--coming along?"

I have an iphone 7 and the lack of a 1/4 jack on the headphones really pisses me off because:
1. Listening to spotify in the car means I have to remember that stupid fucking dongle.
2. Remembering to keep my other set of headphones for work for listening on my laptop.
3. Using the headphones in my purse as a spare set of headphones when my wife and I are both listening at the same time to mixdowns on our 4-track.

It really does annoy the shit out of me and I would *LOVE* to have iPhone SE.

"But where did your other headphones go Annika, the one from your old phone?"

I have three teenage kids. They have no concept that I am allowed to keep a set of headphones, or phone charger, for myself.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:22 AM on October 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


Fortunately, the sort of lithium primary cells you're likely to come across don't have very much Li in them

Yeah, the problem is really when you store a bunch of them in tight quarters, like, say, the cargo hold of an airplane. Since they feed off of each other, it's easy to go from a single short circuited cell to catastrophe in a short amount of time. Some examples:

UPS Flight 1307, Philadelphia, 2006
UPS Flight 6, Dubai, 2010

There have been some safety recommendations and improvements since then. Notably, the NTSB has found that fire suppression systems built in to air freighters don't do much to extinguish fires that occur inside Unit Load Devices (those curved boxes that get loaded in to planes like cargo containers). They only really start working after the fire has penetrated the ULD, which is pretty bad news when it gets that far. Also, there's been a ban on carrying lithium batteries as cargo for quite some time.

Here's a link (pdf) to some research the FAA tech center performed. This (download, wmv) is a movie from the tech center on how to extinguish these kinds of fires in an aircraft setting.

The tech center posts all of their research online, and it's really very interesting (if you're interests include watching ULDs explode from lithium fires, that is).
posted by backseatpilot at 6:26 AM on October 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


“You cannot really calculate the loss of consumer trust in money.”

You cannot really calculate in money the loss of consumer trust. #fify
posted by greermahoney at 6:49 AM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have an iphone 7 and the lack of a 1/4 jack on the headphones really pisses me off because:

(iPhones (and phones) have never had a 1/4" jack; you may be thinking of a 3.5mm one.)

Let me strike a dissenting note. I have expensive taste in in-ear cans (currently: Westone W40s) and don't want to give them up or switch to listening to crappy low bitrate mp3 or AAC. (I usually carry around about 130Gb of high bit rate compressed or lossless audio files for listening.)

The new iPhones ship with a basic lightning-connected DAC in the box; so, after some research, I went up-market and spent £100 on a medium-grade third party DAC dongle to hook my £500 earphones to my new £900 media player. A comparison test using the DAC inline between my headphones and my previous phone vs. a direct headphone connection showed me that the third-party DAC was noticeably clearer than the built-in one in the phone itself (and Apple have form for relatively good audio reproduction compared to other phones: it's the iPod legacy). Indeed, if I'd realized how much of an improvement it would deliver I'd have bought one ages ago.

Yes, there's an extra lump in the headphone cable, and an inability to charge the phone while using the wired headphones (because the phone has one fewer hole in its case). But the flip side is that I've got double the storage capacity for big-ass music files, and really nice sound quality with the offboard DAC. And a phone that's water-resistant.

(I don't use streaming services ... I'll start paying attention again when someone finally starts streaming uncompressed music.)
posted by cstross at 6:51 AM on October 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


(completely off topic, then I'll quietly step away)

For anything more than casual listening (like say a 10 hour recording and mixing session) I use my Shure Studio 440's... And yeah...I meant 3.5mm jack. How did I type that wrong...I'v been at this "making music stuff with jacks of all types" for over 20 years now.

I completely agree with you though, good DAC's make all the difference.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:57 AM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Having more RAM than necessary is a net negative for a portable device, because all of the RAM needs to be powered at all times.

Phones are so integrated that I'm surprised none of the relevant players has made a memory controller that can power off areas of RAM not in use.
posted by Jpfed at 6:58 AM on October 12, 2016


Don't know if anyone else has suggested it but the whole thing reminds me of the Capacitor Plague. Maybe someone's copied someone else's battery tech and accidentally missed out a vital ingredient.
posted by jiroczech at 6:59 AM on October 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


One thing I noted on Twitter when this whole thing began is that bad batteries could happen to any company. It's not unreasonable to imagine a plague of bad, exploding batteries hitting an iPhone batch.

That said, the poor handling of this is entirely on Samsung.
posted by SansPoint at 8:03 AM on October 12, 2016


I've had to bite my tongue a couple of times in this thread, and I don't want to get into the perennial Apple v Android argument. I have some sympathy for Samsung here - this is the kind of engineering problem that probably could happen to anyone. In fact, if the problem had been in the batteries as they originally claimed, then it would have been sheer bad luck, since third parties make all the batteries anyway.

But the ham-fisted response to the crisis has me deeply worried - the longer this drags on, the more likely it becomes that the airlines just ban all portable electronic device usage on board. It would be a simple blanket announcement, power off everything, not sleep, power off, without having to worry about model numbers or green squares or whatever. For frequent air travelers, that would be an existential horror.

I'm not even thinking about how bored I'll be - I can carry a p-reader (aka paperback) - I'm thinking of all those kids who aren't kicking my seat or screaming through flights now because they have Blue's Clues or Candy Crush or whatever keeping them happy. Nightmare scenario.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:04 AM on October 12, 2016 [5 favorites]


As another Android dev, I've been amazed at the way that no two Samsung phones have the same software. It's like they've got a workshop of gnomes cranking out Android variants....
posted by kaibutsu at 8:06 AM on October 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


Having more RAM than necessary is a net negative for a portable device, because all of the RAM needs to be powered at all times.

You're not wrong, but the power budget for RAM is negligible compared to the screen, three radios and the CPU/GPU. Phones in airplane mode can be left on in a drawer for a week or more at a time.

The reason big phones are a thing is because screen power consumption doesn't increase that much as the screen gets bigger while you can get more battery in the body of the phone.

Really new phones use dual-core CPU architectures to reduce power consumption by having both low and high power cores available to do different kinds of work. ARM calls this "big.LITTLE" and I guess it's the "Fusion" in Apple's A10 Fusion. The tradeoff here is complexity as it's not simple to migrate tasks between cores and you have to build a more complex scheduler and power management system to get any benefit from the multiple cores.
posted by GuyZero at 9:15 AM on October 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


the longer this drags on, the more likely it becomes that the airlines just ban all portable electronic device usage on board. It would be a simple blanket announcement, power off everything, not sleep, power off, without having to worry about model numbers or green squares or whatever. For frequent air travelers, that would be an existential horror.

And it would be completely ignored. The Note 7 ban is specific enough to make the few people it affects care while everyone else continues to crush all the candy they want during takeoff. If cabin crew tried to make everyone turn off their phones no one would do it.
posted by GuyZero at 9:17 AM on October 12, 2016


Diehard Samsung fans would rather be burned than return their Note 7s

I'm not sure whether this kind of consumer reaction is good news or bad news for Samsung.
posted by GuyZero at 9:44 AM on October 12, 2016


Apple is a shitty goddamn company and i have no idea why people cut them SO FUCKING MUCH SLACK when they are so actively fucking evil rather than just incompetent

Um...wut

Literally every thinkpiece of scandal that's affecting multiple manufacturers always gets ten "IS APPLE FUCKING THIS UP OMG" articles. Even when dell, or samsung, or whatever other companies are doing the same damn shit or manufacturing their devices under identical conditions.

And then there's always comments like this.

Apple is practically the default scapegoat. So i say again... what?
posted by emptythought at 10:16 AM on October 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


The company I've felt sorry for the last few years is actually (gulp!) Microsoft, who did things the right way -- licensed what they needed from Apple and others, and actually tried to do new things with good design, novel interfaces and innovative tech. Some things have worked out for them (the new Surface Pros are actually really nice subnotebooks/tablets, and they're doing PC gaming right, finally) while others that perhaps deserved more time in the sun (the last gasp of Microsoft phones, the fitness Band) have been crushed by the umpteen interchangeable Android-powered copies of earlier Apple decisions.

Apple's not a saint, but they're a far sight better company by almost any measure (equal pay, minority employment, US-ownership and employment, the environment, respecting designers and IP, and so on) than any of the others at the table. Perfect, no. But almost always top of the list in those measures and others, not just top of the satisfied-customers list.

Worse from a consumer perspective, long-term, is that they move and progress much too slowly without competition to push them, and when the competition has made billions with lower-cost imitators, there's not much reason to move quickly. Again, it's a shame Microsoft stumbled so many times in the phone space, because they're the only one who seemed to be, um, thinking different.

Now that there are flagship phones and tablets that are at Apple's price points (or higher) for similar tech, it'll be interesting to see if anyone else can make money at it. I'm dubious of Google's chances with that awfully-familiar-looking pair of Pixel phones, but if anyone should be nervous, it's all the other Android makers, now that Android-daddy Google is taking making their OWN Android phones seriously. No wonder Samsung and others are toying with new operating systems like Tizen et al.

Competition is good, when there's differentiation and a level playing field.

Do I need disclosure: there are about seventy-nine Apple, Microsoft, Google and other-Android devices in my homes. I use at least one of each flavor every day. Apple's are still the most pleasant to use, overall, but there are bright spots here and there with the others, to be sure.
posted by rokusan at 10:27 AM on October 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I wish one day Samsung's postmortem becomes public. I'd love to know if anyone internally expressed any concerns with the design or the batteries, or if it was really a surprise.

From my experience collaborating with Samsung engineers, the company has a culture similar to the one at NASA that allowed the Challenger disaster to happen.

The engineers I worked with were terrified of losing their jobs. I pointed out flaws in their design, they admitted that they knew, but they could not do anything about it. The design came from a boss that would not tolerate dissent or criticism. Apparently Samsung can and will blacklist engineers in Korea, and kill their careers forever, and they'd seen it happen to their friends.

They could not go above their boss or use alternate channels to voice their concerns, because ultimately all communication would be filtered by the same executive, and the executive was terrified of delivering any bad news to their bosses.

So they shipped with the flawed design. And it broke exactly the way we had predicted. And we were prepared on our side with a software workaround that masked the issue for the two years it took Samsung to fix it.

It took two years partly because the team that wrote the fix and the team that packages and deploys firmware updates have no direct line of communication. Messages have to go up all the way to a VP, then all the way down to a manager.

I have never worked directly for Samsung, I learned all this from talking to a few of their engineers 6 years ago.

BTW, two of the engineers spent 6 weeks working at my office in the USA. They both got job offers at that company, they accepted. One of them cried with joy on his second day at the new job, when his new boss told him he should take the afternoon off to go pick up his family at the airport when he heard that the plan was for them take a taxi and wait in the lobby until 6.
posted by Dr. Curare at 10:44 AM on October 12, 2016 [18 favorites]


I worked with Samsung's Android teams in another job. They have a hard life of it as described above. I would prefer working at AMZN and wild horses could not make me work there again.

Samsung is also quite hard to deal with from a supplier and carrier viewpoint. They are (were?) at the top of the pile, they knew it, and they would let you know it.

At the time Samsung used 3 different teams to deliver AOSP drops on 4 month timelines. There was limited communication and coordination due to the super tight deadlines. The result is that the releases can look a bit incongruous from a technical level.

The various pro/con statements for Apple/Samsung/foo above seem to come from people with limited (or no?) actual experience in the field or have not worked closely with the companies. These companies respond to market dictates and try to use hardware and software differentiators to drive profit and vertical integration.

You probably should reconsider loving/hating any of the companies, or perhaps hate them all equally.

Modern batteries are very hard to get right. Our battery gurus were using black magic. The line between "just works" and "on fire" is pretty tight. I imagine that the engineers pushed the suppliers in order to hit the marketing screen on numbers and pushed just a hair too far. The management team had marching orders to not slip the ship date due to losing face to Apple and took the risk. Oops.
posted by pdoege at 11:06 AM on October 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


> The reason big phones are a thing is because screen power consumption doesn't increase that much as the screen gets bigger while you can get more battery in the body of the phone.

This is more subtle than you'd expect.

The power consumption of a screen scales with its area. More surface area to light up = more power consumed.

The power storage of a battery scales with its volume. Larger volume = more power stored.

So a bigger phone should need more power proportional to area, and store more power proportional to volume = area*thickness. For two phones of the same thickness (like the iPhone and the iPhone Plus), the advantage would seem to cancel out. Hmmm.

The tricky bits here are that (1) the phones are not *all* battery, just mostly battery. The rest of the guts (processors and memory, speakers, cameras, headphone jack) take up the same fixed amount of volume, independent of phone size. So a bigger phone has more battery space than a strict scaling argument would give you. And (2) many operations don't require the screen to be on. Playing music, podcasts, some aspects of processing for games - all these consume a fixed amount of power regardless of screen size.

So even though a lit screen dominates power usage, a bigger (but no thicker) phone does get better battery life.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:43 AM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


Piggybacking on RedOrGreen, battery capacity seems to scale up at a rate that outpaces screen size, since (for example with same OS only) the iPhone 6 battery lasts all day, the iPhone 6+ (larger screen, larger battery) lasts a day and a half, an iPad mini lasts a couple days, and the 12-inch iPad pro, lasts, god, a week? Forever, basically. New York to LA to Tokyo, at least.

That said, I can't stand Apple's predilection for thinness, which (natch) every other maker seems to be following on with lately. I'd rather have a substantially thicker iPhone if that meant battery for days and days, as it seems it would.
posted by rokusan at 11:57 AM on October 12, 2016


Anecdote's not data, but yeah, I too have known a handful of Samsung engineers and even marketing people desperate to work, basically, anywhere else. Not a nice place, by those accounts, and this fuels my dislike of the firm, fairly or not, just as much as their apparent desire to copy-and-swamp-the-market with pretty much anything, from phones to refrigerators.

Damn high-quality and efficient manufacturer, usually, though. I imagine their trains run on time.
posted by rokusan at 11:59 AM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


Apple's lack of updates to their Mac hardware when several generations of newer Intel CPUs have been released in the meantime is strange. There surely must be something going on between Apple and Intel to explain the long time between Mac hardware refreshes.

Either jump back to IBM RISC on the OpenPOWER platform
The OpenPower CPUs are powerful but extremely power hungry. They are in no way fit for mobile computing which is the majority of Macs sold today.

or move forward to ARM-based SOCs, just dump Intel on the Macintosh already.
Why? There would be no performance advantage with this move. Sure, Apple could vertically integrate a major part (more profitable, in theory), but they'd also be giving up compatibly with other x86 operating systems on Mac hardware. A potential sticking point in the corporate world.

It's unnatural and weird and holding everyone back.
I don't understand this statement.
posted by LoveHam at 12:24 PM on October 12, 2016


Apparently Samsung can and will blacklist engineers in Korea, and kill their careers forever, and they'd seen it happen to their friends.

I've heard it claimed that Samsung (the whole thing, not just the electronics division) accounts for 15-20% of the GDP of the RoK - that's a crazy powerful company.
posted by atoxyl at 12:46 PM on October 12, 2016


Yeah but they're making the Pixel phones for Google now. And it's not like HTC phones were bad

I had an HTC M6 prior to my Samsung G6 and I loved the hell out of that phone, the camera, the speakers, everything about that phone was amazing. What always killed me about HTC was that they were great at making phones but really lousy at advertising them in the North American market. I switched mostly because I had heard such good things about Samsung, but knowing that they're producing the Pixel phone makes me feel even better about Google. I'll consider them the next time I'm up for a phone upgrade.
posted by Fizz at 12:55 PM on October 12, 2016


The company I've felt sorry for the last few years is actually (gulp!) Microsoft, who did things the right way

No sympathy, they killed Nokia and the Maemo/MeeGo N-series smartphones.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:59 PM on October 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


"It's unnatural and weird and holding everyone back."
I don't understand this statement.


I was just being nostalgic for the old PowerMacs and 680x0 Macs, where it was fun to argue endlessly with Intel fans.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:02 PM on October 12, 2016


There surely must be something going on between Apple and Intel to explain the long time between Mac hardware refreshes.

What's going on is that the incremental value of staying current on high end x86-64 chips has been shrinking for a decade now. Clock speeds have topped out, architecture tricks like hyperthreading and pipelining have been thoroughly exploited, and shrinking dies get power consumption benefits, mostly. Since Apple consciously restricts its set of supported hardware to save money, buy in larger volumes, and generally have fewer, better known specs, it makes sense for them not to try to keep pace with Intel's release schedule.
posted by fatbird at 1:03 PM on October 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


NYT: Why Samsung Abandoned Its Galaxy Note 7 Flagship Phone

Includes some starkly bonkers reporting:

It did not help that the hundreds of Samsung testers trying to pinpoint the problem could not easily communicate with one another: Fearing lawsuits and subpoenas, Samsung told employees involved in the testing to keep communications about the tests offline — meaning no emails were allowed, according to the person briefed on the process.

Also, I feel like this is the kind of marketing puffery that makes me want to point and laugh - from Park Chul-wan, "former director of the Center for Advanced Batteries at the Korea Electronics Technology Institute": "In a race to surpass iPhone, Samsung seems to have packed it with so much innovation it became uncontrollable."
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:04 PM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


The reason big phones are a thing is because screen power consumption doesn't increase that much as the screen gets bigger while you can get more battery in the body of the phone.

That makes sense. Ironically the reason I got into Samsung, and the phablet realm with reluctance, was because of the battery - the S7 Edge had the biggest battery of all the major phones, iirc, bigger than the iPhone 6 Plus. It had a nice big screen too, but that didn't seem to matter as much as you'd think (confirmed in comments here.) With moderate-to-heavy usage, the S7 Edge tends to last all day and night (not always, but usually), which was such a godsend after my iPhone 5 would barely last through the morning.

Which phone has the biggest battery at this point?
posted by naju at 1:13 PM on October 12, 2016


LoveHam: "or move forward to ARM-based SOCs, just dump Intel on the Macintosh already.
Why? There would be no performance advantage with this move. Sure, Apple could vertically integrate a major part (more profitable, in theory), but they'd also be giving up compatibly with other x86 operating systems on Mac hardware. A potential sticking point in the corporate world.
"

OS X SysAdmin here, They don't give a fuck about enterprise / corporate world.
posted by wcfields at 1:17 PM on October 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


OS X SysAdmin here, They don't give a fuck about enterprise / corporate world.

Apple really, really doesn't. It cares about the generic professional individual, of the class that buy Mac laptops, and the designer tribes who can do their thing on Mac desktops, but that's as far as it goes. And the 'there's no point in keeping up with Intel, because nothing's really changing' argument shows how much Apple bothers with the content creators/wranglers who actually appreciate even incremental changes that speed up transcoding, rendering times - so even its traditional niche business chums don't get much love any more.

If I were Apple I'd keep up the high-end pro workstation side and pay for it out of the marketing budget.

Samsung's corporate culture - oh, yes indeed. Motorola used to have some of those aspects, too, and I think you can tell when a company's like that from incoherent product ranges that embody incoherent software and hardware strategies. And grotesque misfires - like the Note 7 - that show that either people are incompetent or that they're competent but unable to demonstrate it.

I do think that in a number of key technologies, we've reached what a friend calls the Concorde nexus - where further advances in technology get you places from which you can't make your money back, but you go there anyway because until you do, you're impelled by previous dynamics and focus on continuing doing things you understand. Thinness, CPU design, screens, wireless, OS design and many classes of application fit here, I suspect, and which doesn't leave a lot left, at least in phones.

Most advances in the near future will be made by those who can deploy spooky AI services on global infrastructures: I'd hope UI too, but that may be linked to the former anyway. I've long since stopped caring much about my phone's specs; I've never stopped caring about how well Google Maps works.
posted by Devonian at 2:08 PM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


OS X SysAdmin here, They don't give a fuck about enterprise / corporate world.

Yes, yes, Apple is no Dell or HP(E) that bend over for their corporate contracts. Yes, Apple has essentially zero presence in servers.

I guess I'm talking about end user laptops who also dual boot Windows and/or run Fusion or Parallels. I remember a few years ago (2012?) I saw a couple of consultants onsite from VMware who had MacBooks as their corporate laptops. It was at that point I realized Apple was making inroads in the corporate laptop world. Macbooks are now an option at IBM for a corporate issue laptop. Going ARM will kill that market and x86 emulation isn't feasible at current ARM performance level.

I can only wonder at Apple's decision making but I don't think ARM is a viable alternative to Intel in power user machines yet.
posted by LoveHam at 2:33 PM on October 12, 2016


The Intel vs. ARM thing is tricky. Apparently the newest iPhone CPU is roughly on par with Intel CPUs from, what, two years ago? And ARM is known for its better performance per watt. However, the Macintosh line is fast becoming something that is relegated more and more to being plugged in all the time anyway, and relegated more and more to older and/or power users, so the loss of cross-compatibility in VMs or dual-booting would likely hurt more than it's worth.

I'm fairly curious to see what comes of the Macintosh line, as a self-identified power user myself. It's a bit distressing that in the three years since I bought mine, there have been something like two non-insignificant spec bumps. Come on, guys.
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:28 PM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


DoctorFedora: "cross-compatibility in VMs or dual-booting"

Based on the switch to x86 from PPC my guess is they're building their own chip with an x86 translation layer alongside a desktop ARM concurrently with OSX for ARM. Heck, even Windows 10 has an ARM port.

As I understand modern intel x86 chips are actually RISC with an x86 translation layer on top, so a laptop made ARM could have a x86 abstraction layer on top

Or, chips are so cheap they could do a beefy ARM side-by-side with an underclocked Celeron?
posted by wcfields at 3:43 PM on October 12, 2016


You probably should reconsider loving/hating any of the companies, or perhaps hate them all equally.
I hate all corporations, is that good enough for you? I understand Samsung is shitty to its employees. (Apple is also shitty to its employees; for example, many departments are sexist AS FUCK in practice despite a "commitment to diversity" on paper. Also, they just outsource the worst of the terrible corporate cultures and suicidal working conditions to their OEMs - that doesn't actually take the blood off their hands.)

Corporations are soulless monsters; it's what they do. The thing is, there's a large number of bootlickers who don't seem to realize that about Apple. There is no ethical consumption under capitalism, but tons of Apple folks just loooove to pat themselves on the back about how enlightened they are. So yeah, i'm generally angrier about that than i am about "oh, another shitty soulless corporation being shitty and soulless again", because why the hell would i expect anything different from a corporation?

Samsung's handling of this whole situation is lousy. Their corporate culture is apparently fucking appalling. I'm irritated about all of this because they have tended, in the past, to make really good hardware.

I'm also irritated because Apple fans always rush into the breach on this shit to talk about how great iPhones are. iPhones have been exploding too. Not in the numbers Note7s have, as of yet, but they have. But oh, Tim Cook is our savior! Have you heard the Good News about walled gardens and patent litigation and capriciously putting app developers out of business?
posted by adrienneleigh at 4:03 PM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


I mean, nearly all of us are carrying around devices built by human misery and the exploitation of labor. There's really not much to choose from, there.
posted by adrienneleigh at 4:05 PM on October 12, 2016


There's Intel ecosystem that isn't easily portable on high-end machines; the GPU makers can barely get their drivers running well on a single architecture. I'm not sure there's enough slop in the margins in that market to comfortably support cross-platform, especially when there won't be any advantages to buying the secondary platform, even if it's mostly 'just set the target flag in the compiler'.

Low end is different - I've got two Chromebooks, one ARM and one Celeron. They operate identically. But they don't do much. I suspect Intel made it very attractive to the OEM to get that design win: the ARM market has competitive pressures within it that Intel doesn't experience unless it chooses to go there.

The way things are at the moment, ARM owns mobile, Intel dominates server, and neither's going to change any time soon. Where the stuff in the middle fits in will vary, but given that this is the mature and static-to-declining bit of the market and has few big wins left in it, I wouldn't expect to see any revolutionary moves unless there's a significant economic reason or Something Odd Happens.

(And good luck signing the licensing deal with Intel for the x86-ARM translation block...)
posted by Devonian at 4:06 PM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Intel vs. ARM thing is tricky.

Apple's chip designers are doing some interesting things that make their platform energy-efficient. Further, the logic board of a MacBook is a very small fraction of the volume of the laptop enclosure — the rest is a battery, keyboard, trackpad and screen — which hints at the general direction that Apple is going with their portables.

A hybrid ARM/x86 laptop with a 24-hour runtime between charges would be a difficult hardware platform to copy, and a difficult software platform for developers to ignore — there are many thousands of iOS applications that would immediately run natively on this laptop on release day, including Microsoft Office! (An ARM-only device running an x86-capable version of Rosetta would probably get even better runtime than a two-chip board, at the cost of performance.)
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:24 PM on October 12, 2016


iPhones have been exploding too

I mean, there's a difference between "yes, this has now happened, ever, in a product line that has sold a billion units" and "fifty verified cases in one weekend, of a product released a month or two ago"
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:39 PM on October 12, 2016 [7 favorites]


Apple's apparently had MacBooks running OSX on ARM chips in their labs forever, but it's not like the market is crying out for another architecture shift. I imagine it's just hedging bets in case Intel gets unworkable sometime, but with current MacBooks getting like 13 hour battery life, I really don't see a pressing need.
posted by rokusan at 5:37 PM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


with current MacBooks getting like 13 hour battery life, I really don't see a pressing need.

Unless Apple can get A11 (or whatever) CPUs from TSMC for half the price they pay Intel for Core i5s.
posted by GuyZero at 7:52 PM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been playing around with OSX - El Capitan recently, and what strikes me is all the little things Apple has started to get wrong: CMYK to RGB conversion issues with my monitor causing everything to be a blurry mess; unkillable white drop shadows that bork transparency with text; a complete lack of good window manipulation hotkeys; and the inability to increase the OS font size without third party tools (or by literally changing the resolution of my monitor).

I am stuck with so many annoyances that I don't want to even bother understanding the Apple metaphor of computing. I'd rather go back and play in any of the Windows, or better yet XFCE.

All of this pales of course in the face of Samsung's literal exploding phones.
posted by pan at 10:44 PM on October 12, 2016 [1 favorite]


In Sierra's defense, the lack of any meaningful window manipulation hotkeys is nothing new for the Macintosh platform. ; )
posted by DoctorFedora at 11:07 PM on October 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


So in a thread about Samsung's appalling corporate culture leading to defective products which have actually endangered lives onboard aircraft people make up idiotic attacks about Apple to try and deflect attention. The first containing this truly irrelevant and cretinous derail "please note that Apple builds very little of their precious iPhone". This is like Trump talking about Bill Clinton all the time.

The issue here is that Samsung have been wilfully reckless and with any luck will be driven out of the mobile phone market. (Full disclosure, I have a Samsung washing machine, it works well and hasn't burst into flames yet.)
posted by epo at 2:21 AM on October 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


Apple is a shitty goddamn company and i have no idea why people cut them SO FUCKING MUCH SLACK when they are so actively fucking evil rather than just incompetent

You're right. Apple washing machines just suck!
posted by MrGuilt at 6:22 AM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Guys, I think we're missing the most important thing about this whole story, and that is that the official battery expert talking about how the phones' issues were being caused by being just too darn packed full of innovation is VERY CLEARLY Donald Trump's doctor
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:30 AM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


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