(Repeats article first published late on Tuesday. No changes to
* Samsung to unveil Galaxy S8 smartphone in New York on Weds
* Little made of safety issue so far in S8 media campaign
* Co. opting not to remind buyers about Note 7 issue - brand
By Se Young Lee
SEOUL, March 28 After the damaging recall of its
fire-prone Note 7 smartphone, you could be forgiven for thinking
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd would make a song and
dance about battery safety in its new flagship phones, due to be
launched in the United States on Wednesday.
But in the run-up to the launch, crucial to the South Korean
technology giant winning back consumer confidence, it's
marketing effort so far makes little mention of safety.
"If you talk about safety, it presupposes a rationale for
why, unconsciously, and they know this; and they also know the
media will pick up that narrative," said Los Angeles-based Eric
Schiffer, a brand strategy expert and chairman of Reputation
"Highlighting the safety issue at this point will cause the
other narrative to be recycled, so they have elected to suppress
Samsung declined to comment ahead of the launch.
To be sure, Samsung announced a comprehensive safety plan
after concluding in January that faulty batteries from two
suppliers caused some Note 7s to catch fire.
It now has an eight-point safety check protocol that
includes x-raying the batteries. And, at the design level,
phones have more room to properly house the battery. Such steps
have been reflected in the S8's development, the company says.
Executives have said there will be no repeat of the Note 7
debacle, and one person familiar with the matter told Reuters
the S8 launch was pushed back to ensure it is safe to use.
"The additional measures Samsung has taken should certainly
improve battery safety and durability," said Lewis Larsen,
president of Chicago-based battery technology consultancy
Lattice Energy LLC. "These are most definitely not just cosmetic
steps 'for show.'"
The company has also this month put a long-time mobile
executive in charge of a new product quality improvement office,
and affiliate Samsung SDI Co Ltd has invested 150
billion won ($135 million) on improving battery safety.
"NEEDLE IN A HAYSTACK"
Samsung recalled the Note 7 last September to replace faulty
Samsung SDI batteries, but replacement batteries from Amperex
Technology Ltd also proved faulty due to different problems - an
embarrassment for a company that prides itself on product
quality, analysts say. The Note 7 was eventually pulled from the
market in October.
The company said earlier this week it plans to sell
refurbished versions of the Note 7 smartphones, equipped with
new batteries that have gone through new safety measures.
Downplaying the battery safety issue may also be a sensible
marketing option as the new quality measures can't guarantee
there will be no future problems. Any failure rate would likely
be very low at first.
Samsung said last year it confirmed just 140 faulty
batteries in more than 3 million Note 7s it sold - fewer than
five in every 100,000.
"How confident are they that they can actually find a faulty
cell with these additional checks," said Venkat Viswanathan,
assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon and a battery technology
expert. "It's sort of finding a needle in a haystack."
And safety is still on the minds of potential buyers of the
In one poll asking people what features they were looking
forward to most in the S8, one Twitter user quipped: "A non
And at last week's annual shareholder meeting, one young boy
stood up and asked Samsung to double down on safety. "In future,
even if it takes time, I hope there will be no incidents like
the Galaxy Note 7 explosions," he said.
Some analysts expect the S8, expected to go on sale next
month, to outsell the Galaxy S7, which was Samsung's best seller
in its first year from launch.
Others, though, say consumers may prefer to wait a few
months before buying, just to be sure the new phones are safe.
($1 = 1,111.5900 won)
(Reporting by Se Young Lee, with additional reporting by Joyce
Lee and Hyunjoo Jin in SEOUL and Jeremy Wagstaff in SINGAPORE;
Editing by Ian Geoghegan)