A desperate bid to save the smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Fold

The smartphone may be reaching the end of the road.

Speaking after the less-than-successful pre-launch of the Samsung Fold, CEO DJ Koh predicted that:

‘Once 5G and the internet of things are available together, we must think rather than smartphones, we must think smart devices. Smartphones may decline but new devices will emerge.’

Elaborating on this, Head of Design Kang Yun-Je, added:

‘Smartphone design has hit a limit, that’s why we designed a folding phone. But we’re also focusing on other devices that are beginning to make a wider impact on the market, like smart earphones and smart watches. In five years or so, people will not even realise they are wearing screens. It will be seamless.’

samsung-galaxy-note-7

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And yet, the foldable phone was supposed to be the next big thing that would help Samsung breathe fresh life into the design and manufacturing initiatives that had flatlined to minor updates of cameras and tweaks to screen resolutions.

But it wasn’t alone in developing a phone that folds: Huawei and Xiaomi had announced their own plans.

The pressure was on, and Samsung’s rush to market may have won them the race but it left them with egg on their face.

Screen malfunctions caused the Galaxy Fold sent to reviewers to cause the company to fold the planned launch just days before it’s official launch date.

Samsung CEO DJ Koh admitted:

‘It was embarrassing. I pushed it through before it was ready, I do admit I missed something, but we are in the process of recovery. At the moment, more than 2,000 devices are being tested right now in all aspects. We defined all the issues. Some issues we didn’t even think about, but thanks to our Samsung Fold reviewers, mass volume testing is ongoing.’

Or, to paraphrase, we’re shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Testing is not ongoing after a launch. It takes place at the earliest stage of a product’s development and throughout its manufacturing. When your product hits the ramp you need 100% confidence in it.

We’ll come back to this, but first a few more product launches that have failed disastrously due to lack of testing.  

Other epic fails caused by lack of testing

Samsung Note 7

In actual fact, the Galaxy Fold fiasco was nowhere near as damaging to Samsung as the issues that emerged with its Note 7 in 2016.

Having been launched onto the market reports started filtering – and then flooding – through of batteries spontaneously catching fire and exploding or overheating and burning users.

The brand issued a voluntary recall of the devices, during which they recalled 2.5 million units, according to Time magazine.

To make matters worse, Samsung replaced the Notes with new devices, but the problem persisted. It is estimated that it lost $14.3 billion in investments, but the cost to its reputation and brand are incalculable.

What went wrong?

The problem proved to be improper product development and QC testing:  One mistake was committed by Samsung themselves, in regards to battery size. The other was incorrect welding of batteries by a third-party manufacturer.

Fitbit Charge HR & Surge

After the Pulse, Fitbit continued to experience issues with their fitness monitors. The Fitbit Pulse was recalled because it caused some users to have allergic reactions. After that, the Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge fitness monitors were met with a class-action lawsuit in 2016 from users claiming the devices provided false reports.

Fitness Trackers May Trigger allergic reactions

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What went wrong?

Here the issue lies both with selection and testing of materials and rigorous testing that the device performs under all conditions.

Hoverboards

Another product badly burned by lack of testing was the Hoverboard, the self-balancing scooters that created a craze 2015. But it wasn’t long before they were creating a blaze, many of the fires started while the boards were charging but others occurred while users where riding them.

By July 2016, the U.S. CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) had recalled half a million units in the U.S. It was determined that the root cause of the fires was overheating lithium-ion batteries.

What went wrong?

Top retailers like Amazon and Target had ensured that each individual component passed a safety test – but issues with the whole product are often more than the separate sum of its parts.

Hoverboard was at pains to point out that there were no safety guidelines for the manufacture of its products. But, if you’re manufacturing something with no safety guidelines, you need to personally take it upon yourself to run thorough tests.

Why design-test-launch is not enough

OEMs need early engagement with EMS partners to ensure that testing strategies are implemented at every stage of a product’s development, from design to supply chain to each phase of manufacturing.

And we specifically call them strategies because there isn’t a fixed set of tests to run – you must let the product’s development, its profile of risks and the characteristics of each component guide you.

This is why OEMs need an EMS partner with a variety of testing capabilities and a track record of ensuring integrity in products far beyond the ramp and into the product’s full life-cycle in market.

Any test process that relies solely on design engineers testing for design validation is inadequate.

It is not operationally efficient and may not even be appropriate, within a manufacturing environment.

For manufacture the key objectives for testing are:

  • To ensure the test captures the actual profile of risks likely at a given stage, such as construction and assembly, components and workmanship, rather than design.
    (Remember the Note 7’s welding?)
  • The ideal manufacturing test is a quick go/no-go, pass/fail test that any operator can perform. It shouldn’t require any complex software setup or interpretation of results.
  • Single tests are not enough. Investing in an expensive fully automated, high-speed test solution is possible, but if a number of more modest setups can be run concurrently, then the overall throughput and cost-per-test can be better.

At Chemigraphic, we offer comprehensive quality control programmes and test services that ensure you have complete confidence in your products before they go to ramp.

Our testing capabilities include:

  • Inline automatic optical inspection on all SMD lines
  • Endoscope for defect analysis
  • ‘Bed of Nails’ ATE for MDA, or where appropriate, combinatorial testing
  • JTAG – boundary scan
  • Device programming
  • Numerous bespoke functional test rigs
  • On-board programming of electronically programmable devices (EPDs)
  • Safety testing
  • X-ray technology on site

And our services don’t end when your product goes to ramp – we test for its full lifecycle after launch.

To find out more about how early engagement with our team can identify faults early and ensure your launch runs smoothly, call us on 01293 543517

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