Samsung has a problem. It started with the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade on its Galaxy Note which has rendered many phones unable to charge up properly.
The symptoms are that, once upgraded to Android 4.03, affected Notes will spew out a message saying charging error, voltage too high.
One of my journalist friends had his phone updated over the air via a push update in mid August, and expressed in no uncertain terms his anger and resentment at the Korean company pushing out a new ROM without properly testing it first.
However, last week, Thai daily newspaper Naewna published a story on “many” users experiencing problems with their Note after the ICS upgrade related to battery life, and how one user was charged 300 baht (€7.47) for a software downgrade.
The story quoted Thailand’s consumer protection agency head talking about how false advertising could be punishable by jail under domestic law.
Intrigued, I emailed Samsung PR to ask if they were aware of ICS upgrade problems on the Note and, in particular, about that journalist’s rather high profile rant on the battery voltage error. It took them almost a week to reply and what I got was not very convincing.
Samsung Thailand’s press statement said that one customer had encountered a problem with the battery after upgrading from Android 2.3 to 4.03. The company blamed a miscommunication for the 300 baht charge to downgrade back to 2.3, which should be free within the one year warranty period.
The firm added that is has not had the opportunity to test that particular phone, and asked the customer to return the phone for further investigation.
Obviously it was not just a one-off, but just how prevalent was the problem?
My family has four Galaxy Notes, three of them Thai units and one UK-sourced. None of them have encountered problems with the upgrade. I cast my net a bit wider and apart from an Australian friend on Facebook, I uncovered a friend of a friend who encountered the problem when upgrading from 2.3 to 4.03.
However, in that case, the charging error went away when the firmware was again upgraded from 4.03 to 4.04.
Asking the Singapore Android device owners group for a quick show of hands yielded a score of 5-1. So, out of a dozen units surveyed in my immediate circle, three had a battery charging problem on 4.03.
Googling for “Note voltage too high” yielded around four pages of relevant bug reports in various forums - around 30 hits. To be fair that’s not a huge number, but it obviously isn’t an isolated case.
Samsung has a problem. No, it is not the charging bug, rather the arrogance and denial. As any rehab clinic would tell you, to solve a problem, first you have to admit you have a problem.
Not long ago HTC was king of the hill when it came to Android. But a combination of heavy-handed modifications (Sense) and non-removable battery caused people to upgrade in droves to Samsung’s better mix of features as switching between Android vendors is totally painless.
The same can happen to Samsung unless they prove themselves worthy of loyalty. Abandoning people with genuine hardware problems is not a good way to start.