Galaxy Lebanon [email protected] Abstract—In two months Samsung manage

Galaxy Note 7 Explosion

Case Study

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of Mechatronics Engineering

University of Science and Technology


[email protected]


of Computer and Communication Engineering

University of Science and Technology


[email protected]



Abstract—In two months Samsung manage to
lose the trust of its customer. The rush of launching a new smart-phone, the
Galaxy Note 7, without enough testing led to battery malfunctioning. The
company used all its power and wealth to protect its market share. The brand
eventually stopped the production of the phone after finding that the
replacement battery had the same problem as the originals. They failed in crisis
management to a point where they had to bribe the user, with cash and another
device, in return of giving the note 7 back.

Keywords— Samsung;
smart-phones; note 7; explosion; battery; 
ethical; case study;


Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was one of the biggest technological
failures of 2016, as the phone did experience many cases of battery
malfunctioning, from catching fire to explosion. Samsung has officially
recalled the Galaxy Note 7, and permanently stopped its production. What went
wrong with what was supposed to be the best smart-phone on the market when it
was lunched?

Case Summary

On August 14th, five days after the Samsung
Galaxy note 7 was released, a charging phone in Korea exploded. It was thought
to be a one-off, and no real investigation was conducted any further. A couple
of days after, other users around the world reported overheating phones with
some saying the phone had caught fire. This was when the crisis was first dealt
with. On August 31st Samsung delayed the shipments of note 7 for
quality control testing. After that, the brand issued an official recall of all
2.5 million devices in early September, and offered an exchange program for the
user of the initial batch of the note 7 phone. October 5th a
replacement unit caught fire in a Southwest Airlines. The note 7 filled the
cabin with smoke, and the flight was evacuated and canceled.

Two separate faults in battery manufacturing caused the
recall of the first and second shipments of the Galaxy note 7. The first defect
was in the original batteries made by Samsung’s SDI group. The plates inside
the SDI battery were too close to each other near the rounded corners, making
it vulnerable to a short circuit. The second set of replacement batteries
suffered a different problem. These came from a third-party provider, Amperex
Technology Ltd, in the rush to replace the first batch of the defected battery,
but the manufacturer was inattentive, and the separator was punctured leaving
the layers touching.

According to instrumental’s investigation, a manufacturing
engineering company, the note 7 battery didn’t have much room for error.
Samsung made the battery thinner, by making the separator too thin. “Looking at
the design, Samsung engineers were clearly trying to balance the risk of a super-aggressive
manufacturing process to maximize capacity, while attempting to protect it
internally,” said instrumental’s engineers.

Samsung had to suspend the production of the note 7.
Launched in August 19th and killed off on October 11th,
the phone lasted just two months in the market. Having a phone explode because
of charging wasn’t the only issue with the handset., but offering an explosive
replacement led to a bigger trouble for the company. Samsung said it had sold
2.5 million note 7 phones worldwide and by February 2017 it recovered 97% of
phones back.

Ethical problems

To answer the question whether Samsung engineers were
ethical or not by manufacturing a new designed battery without enough testing,
we will look at the case from several ethical theories.

A.    Utilitarianism

The interest of utilitarianism is the well-being of a
society, and what Samsung did by paying more attention to the product launch
deadline than the safety and satisfaction of their customers, is unethical from
a point of view of a utilitarian. Utilitarianism tells us what we can determine
the ethical significance of any action by looking to the consequences of that
act. Samsung should have considered the risk and rewards of adding all this
technology in such a small device. Over-heating would have been an obvious risk
to evaluate closely.

B.    Duty and Right ethics

Duty ethics considers the
action itself and not its consequences. Samsung duty is to deliver a safe
device, and have a better-quality control to ensure that the consumer will be
safe from any risk. Samsung failed in achieving such a duty by rushing a device
that had a serious issue with the exploding battery.

Right ethics is similar to
the duty ethics. As the customer has the right to use the device without
risking his life or his properties. Samsung engineers were unethical toward the
right of the consumer safety.

C.    Virtue ethics

According to virtue ethics theory, Samsung engineers were
not ethical. As virtue emphasize on words like responsibility, honesty
competence… Samsung were not responsible by choosing the importance of safety
over the deadline of lunching the device. Furthermore, Samsung did say that the
replacement battery was safe, but in reality, it lacked testing too, which was
not honest from Samsung part to state that the new replacement is safe while
there was another defect with it. They broke the customer trust when they said
they solved the problem without solving anything.

ethical problem-solving

To try and understand the ethical problems we will split
it into three categories. Factual, conceptual and moral. After determining the
issues, we will use two techniques to help analyzing a variety of cases.

A.    Factual

Samsung design for the better reduced the gaps around the
lithium-ion batteries to dangerously thin margins which ultimately led to
numerous note 7 batteries swelling during use and even exploding. With
expansion gaps ranging from 0.1 to 0.5 millimeters Samsung pushed the balance
between safety and capacity too far, putting the battery under tremendous stress.

B.    Conceputal

After recalling all 2.5 million devices, Samsung offered
up to 100$ and a replacement phone for every note 7 returned. This was a clear
move to try and hold of what is left of its stakeholders. This can be
considered as a bribe to attract the customer back to its products, so they
don’t lose all their market share.

C.    Moral

Samsung did fail in two consecutive opportunities to
redeem its fault, first by giving a bad replacement battery, and second by
offering a bribe in form of a cash reward for returning the faulty phones, and
making sure that the costumer keeps using their brand.

D.   Line drawing

For the
line drawing technique, we will choose 2 extreme paradigms. The negative
paradigm is: The explosion caused injuries of some users. The positive paradigm
is: The phone flawless.

There was a problem in the design and in manufacturing due to careless
from the company, but it was undetectable.

The company recalled the phone from the market after the first

Samsung stated that they released a software update to fix the problem,
but they knew it could not be fixed with that update.

Samsung restored the device from the market and gave a financial
compensation for the note 7 users.

The phone replacement is only applicable if the phone exploded.

The phone was overheating slightly while charging.

Many users suffered serious injurt due to the phone exploding.

Fig. 1.   
Line drawing

E.    Flow-Chart

Fig. 2.   



Charles B. Fleddermann.
Engineering Ethics, 3/E. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, USA: Prentice Hall,

M.W. Martin & R. Shinzinger.
Introduction to Engineering Ethics. New York, USA: McGraw Hill, 2010.

C.E. Harris, M.S. Pritchard &
M.J. Rabins. Engineering Ethics: Concepts & Cases. Belmont, California,
USA: Wadsworth, 2009.

IEEE Code of Ethics.







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