The Samsung phone debacle: Trouble in tech paradise | Technology for ‘Us’

  • Friday, January 6, 2017 5:20pm
  • Opinion

It’s not often that tech talk dominates the nation’s headline news, but this one has been unavoidable. Samsung, the giant South Korean technology company, has been shaken to its roots by the exploding batteries in its new flagship mobile phone, the Galaxy Note 7.

After reports of upwards of 90 incidents, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission formally recalled the devices, banning them from use on planes and, until recently, making it illegal to sell them in the U.S. More than a million have been recalled.

When the Galaxy Note 7 was released last August to rave reviews, Samsung for the first time had a legitimate shot of challenging Apple as the world’s top-selling, most advanced phone. This tech debacle all but shattered the Note 7’s reputation and left the company’s role as the phone world’s newly minted top phone maker in doubt.

But don’t count out the Note 7 quite yet. All four major U.S. phone carriers have quietly begun selling the phone again, albeit with a built-in safety feature identifying the “good” Note 7s from the defective ones. There’s also the reality of the public’s memory.

Who remembers the multi-million vehicle recalls from Toyota in 2010, Firestone tires in 2000 or the devastating exploding gas tank that caused Ford to permanently retire the 1978 Ford Pinto?

And then there’s always this year when the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 comes out.

With consumer technology so much a part of all our lives, we’re all well into tech whether we like it or not. To ignore tech news, to not understand some of the basics of the tech you use every day, is to invite folly if something really goes bad.

This is not a sales pitch for anyone to become a techie. It’s hopefully a plea for you to learn enough about the basics of the stuff you use to know where to go if something does go wrong.

If you’re using a device with an Apple, Google or Microsoft operating system inside, spend some time exploring the device’s settings. Pay particular attention to which WiFi network you’re hooked up to; be sure it’s your secure service. Learn the setting that tells you how much storage you have on your device.

And find out if your device needs to be “cleaned up.” Generally speaking, all devices need periodic refreshing. If your device is running slowly, it could be due to a slow WiFi signal, too many apps or pictures on board, or a need to rid of the digital junk inside. (CleanMaster is a free well-known cleanup app.)

It’s just like owning a car. You can drive it assuming everything is all right, but do you know how much gas you have in your tank, how hot is your car’s temperature or whether your spare has enough air? You get the idea.

Above all, if your device suddenly starts becoming hot, really hot, turn it off. And find out why. Now.

Skip Ferderber is a technology writer and editor. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he has written locally for Alaska Airlines Magazine,, Seattle Business Journal, Puget Sound Business Journal and Contact him at

More in Opinion

Viewers in the gallery applaud as Gov. Jay Inslee makes his annual state-of-the state address before a joint legislative session Tuesday in Olympia. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.

Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.

Eyman isn’t letting a bad 2017 slow him down in the new year | The Petri Dish

The year ended as Eyman did not get enough signatures for a ballot to reduce car tab fees.

Displaced by a hurricane: Disaster relocation lessons

Editor’s note: This is the last of a three-part series by Bellevue… Continue reading

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks with Sound Publishing staff during a meeting on Jan. 20 at the Bellevue Reporter office. Photo by Matt Phelps/Kirkland Reporter
Judge delivers crushing blow to Inslee’s Clean Air Rule

It was the centerpiece of the governor’s crusade against climate change. Now it’s gone.

KCLS unveils its Best Books of 2017

And the envelope, please. Continuing an end-of-year tradition that dates back more… Continue reading

Displaced by a hurricane: The quest for housing | Guest Column

Woman describes challenges of helping family move from Puerto Rico to Bellevue

Firearms banned from state Senate gallery during sessions | The Petri Dish

Lt. Gov. Cyrus Habib calls for prohibiting overcoats, large bags

Is someone you love experiencing memory loss? There’s a road map to help | Guest Column

By Shirley Newell Aegis Living At first, it might seem inconsequential, misplaced… Continue reading

What tax reform means here at home | Guest Column

Tax reform proposals swirling around Washington, D.C. right now make some sweeping… Continue reading

Global warming impacts | Letter

10-year-old writes about climate change concerns

Tax overhaul plan does not add up, Democrats insist | The Petri Dish

A tax overhaul plan drawn up by Republicans in Congress will be… Continue reading