Samsung Note7 users may get interim phones

A woman tests a Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphone at a Samsung showroom in Seoul on Sept 2, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - They queued at shops to buy the smartphone when it was launched just over two weeks ago. Now they are back, asking for exchanges or refunds.

Singapore's Samsung Galaxy Note7 users have now been assured that details of an exchange programme are being worked out.

The users have been seeking information about this in the wake of a global recall last Friday, after 35 cases were reported of the phone's battery exploding while charging.

On Monday (Sept 4), the Korean company finally said that Note7 users here can borrow a replacement phone to tide them over the interim period. But details of an exchange programme here will only be made available later this week.

Over 2.5 million units of the Note7 have been sold worldwide. In Singapore, market intelligence firm IDC reported that in the second quarter of this year, Samsung led the market with a 40 per cent market share compared to Apple's 33 per cent.

In America, an exchange programme was announced on the day of the recall. Customers there have two options: A one-for-one exchange for another Note7 device, or an exchange for the older Galaxy S7 or S7 edge, with a refund of the price difference between the two.

In Singapore, telcos and Samsung stores said that customers have already have been enquiring about the exchange.

A spokesperson from M1 said that customers have called to ask about the replacement programme, while a spokesperson from StarHub said that it received enquiries from "a small number" of Note7 users.

An employee at the Samsung Experience Store at the Nex mall, where the Note7 is still on display, told The Straits Times that last weekend, that 20 to 30 customers a day had asked about the recall.

"Many of them are worried about the safety of the phone, and want to know if the phone is safe to use," he said. He advised customers with Note7 phones to use the device with caution, by monitoring its temperature when charging and not charging the phone overnight.

A Samsung Singapore spokesman said: "We don't know conclusively yet if Singapore sets are affected. We would like to assure our customers that the likelihood of incident is extremely low, and there are no reported cases in Singapore to date."

However, some Note7 users are still being cautious. Marketing manager Jem Loh, 29, bought the Note7 when it was released and then gave it to her mother.

She said: "When I found out about the recall, I texted my mum and told her to shut it down if it gets too warm," she said.

Marketing manager Sharon Ng, 38, wants the option of a full refund.

"I have always been a Note user, but the Note7 has been a disappointment -- after I updated the firmware, the phone refused to start," she explained.

While some customers welcomed Samsung's initiative in loaning out replacement phones, writer Charlene Koh, 25, will not be taking up the offer. "It is too troublesome to transfer the data back and forth, just for a few weeks," she said.

Analysts said that Samsung has to act quickly in order to mitigate the impact of the recall.

Mr Bryan Ma, vice-president of devices research at IDC, said: "They can't leave consumers in Singapore waiting for very long; in such a hyper-connected world that we live in today, consumers here can hardly go without their phones for a few hours, let alone days."

• For more information on the Samsung Galaxy Note7 and how to borrow a temporary phone, call 1800-7267864.

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