Users Loath to Shut Down Exploding Phones

Walking into the Samsung Service Center on Phnom Penh’s Mon­i­vong Boulevard on Wednesday, 22-year-old Long Pisal was skeptical of the recall of his month-old Galaxy Note 7.

“I don’t think there’s really a problem with these phones,” he said while checking his Facebook account on the device. “I’ve been using this one since August 24. It hasn’t exploded.”

A billboard advertising the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone is seen above a shop on Sihanouk Boulevard in Phnom Penh yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
A billboard advertising the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone is seen above a shop on Sihanouk Boulevard in Phnom Penh yesterday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

On Monday, Samsung’s regional subsidiary, Thai Samsung Electronics, responded to widespread media reports of exploding devices by urging customers to immediately shut down their Galaxy Note 7s and bring them to its Phnom Penh service center to be exchanged.

In another stopgap measure, Samsung said it would offer a system update next week that will prevent the Note 7’s battery from charging past 60 percent, which should keep the phone from overheating.

Some 1,300 Note 7s have been sold in Cambodia since they were first introduced in late August, according to Chher Sokleng, marketing and communications manager for the South Korean company’s Cambodia branch.

While many customers are aware that their phones might burst into flames while charging, most say they are less than eager to exchange them.

Mr. Pisal, who works for a telecommunications company, said he watched a video on YouTube which suggested that Note 7 owners “let your phone’s battery level go below 5 percent and then charge it up again.”

“If your phone becomes very hot during the process, then this means it will explode,” he recalled of the online advice.

Having tried this with his own phone shortly after the recall was issued, he said he was certain that it would not explode because “it did not grow unusually hot.”

After Samsung’s exhortations, however, which included recalling 2.15 million Note 7s globally, Mr. Pisal said he reluctantly agreed to return his phone.

“I need the Note 7 for my daily job,” he said regretfully, swiping through his e-mail one last time as he waited in the service line. “It is a secure phone and easy to use.”

Vong Nith, a spokesman for Apsara, one of Samsung’s three major retailers in Cambodia, said 60 percent of its 100 Note 7 customers don’t think there is a problem with the phone. Following Samsung’s announcements on social media, Apsara started calling customers about exchanging their phones, Mr. Nith said.

“Apsara managed to recollect some 20 phones so far,” he said. “Maybe 30, 40 percent of customers are scared, when they hear the phones explode…. But a number of them haven’t brought them back and still want to use them.”

Sophy Ea is among them. Although the USB connector gets warm when he charges his new Note 7, he said he was loath to swap it for different phone, only making the switch after Samsung ordered him to bring it in.

“I will wait to see if the situation cools down,” said Mr. Ea, who teaches at the Royal University of Fine Arts. “Then I might switch to the Note series again.”

Countrywide, less than a quarter—some 300 phones—have been collected so far, Mr. Sokleng said, so additional efforts will be needed to retrieve them.

“We will communicate through media, direct contact and all means,” he said in an email.

“If the phones were bought secondhand, we will still exchange them,” he said. “I don’t think it will be a large number…. Our stock ran out almost immediately. People like using them, and won’t resell them.”

So Maly, the owner of the Wing An phone shop south of Phsar Thmei market, said that while demand for the phones had been high, her shop would not purchase or resell any Galaxy Note 7s.

“I’m not brave enough,” she said. “I am afraid that there will be problems, like the battery burning. There was a video in America of a car bursting into flames after someone left a Note 7 inside it.”,

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