- Samsung is in the news again, and not in a good way. The Korean phone maker launched a Galaxy S10 into space on Thursday as a marketing stunt – but the contraption crash-landed in a Michigan couple’s back garden after two days.
- It’s one of several embarrassing setbacks for Samsung in 2019, including issues with its Galaxy Fold folding phone, security flaws in its Galaxy S10, and a corruption case involving its heir apparent Jay Y. Lee.
- Here is a breakdown of Samsung’s 2019 woes.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Samsung PR has had a rough year.
The world’s top smartphone manufacturer has had a 2019 plagued with PR nightmares – from the blighted saga of its flagship folding phone the Galaxy Fold, to the revelation that its Galaxy S10 had a glaring security flaw in its fingerprint recognition, to the botched celebrity launch of its “space selfie” satellite, which crashed into a Michigan couple’s garden this weekend.
Here is a breakdown of all the fires Samsung has had to put out this year. Thankfully none of them literal, unlike in 2017 when its phones started exploding.
1. The year’s biggest fiasco: the Galaxy Fold
Samsung first unveiled the Galaxy Fold to great fanfare at its Galaxy Unpacked event in February. It announced the phone would cost a whopping $US1,980 and launch on April 26.
Once reviewers got their hands on the Fold, alarming numbers of them started to break.
Four reviewers of the phone reported their models had broken after just two days of use. Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman’s screen broke after he uninentionally removed a protective film, as did a second reviewer’s.
The screen on my Galaxy Fold review unit is completely broken and unusable just two days in. Hard to know if this is widespread or not. pic.twitter.com/G0OHj3DQHw
— Mark Gurman (@markgurman) April 17, 2019
Two other reviewers reported problems despite having left the protective film intact. CNBC’s Steve Kovach shared footage of his phone’s flickering display, and The Verge’s model developed a bulge.
Samsung postponed the Fold’s release date four days before it was supposed to ship.
On April 22 Samsung announced it was delaying the Fold’s highly-anticipated launch, citing the breakages reported by the reviewers.
The company said in a statement the breakage showed that the device needed “further improvements,” and suggested the phone’s hinge could be the source of the problems.
The phone finally hit the shelves on September 6.
A report emerged that Samsung had rushed production of the phone.
One day after Samsung announced its postponement, Bloomberg reported that the firm had rushed the folding phone to market so as to be the first company to release a folding display, edging out rivals like Huawei and Xiaomi.
2. Samsung admitted its Galaxy S10 had a bug which meant it could be unlocked with any thumbprint.
The Fold isn’t the only high-end Samsung phone to have been hit with a major problem this year.
Samsung’s $US900 Galaxy S10 was revealed to have a pretty damning security flaw in October – it could be unlocked using any fingerprint.
The flaw wasn’t discovered by security researchers. A British woman uncovered it while applying a screen protector to her phone, noticing that her left thumbprint opened the phone. She had set it up to recognise her right thumbprint. Further testing found that her husband could also unlock the phone with his thumbprint thanks to the screen protector.
It was a particular blow as Samsung had touted the phone’s under-screen ultrasonic fingerprint-scanning technology as an exciting innovation. Several banks pulled their apps from the phones over the added security worries.
Samsung fixed the bug with a software patch six days later.
The company quickly patched the bug and issued an apology to customers on its customer support app. “Samsung Electronics takes the security of products very seriously and will make sure to strengthen security through continuing improvement and updates to enhance biometric authentication functions,” Samsung said.
Side note: earlier in the year a Reddit user showed how they could hack past the same fingerprint technology using a 3D printer.
Reddit user “u/darkshark9” lifted an image of his fingerprint from a wine glass, then scanned it into Photoshop. He then printed the image onto a thin piece of plastic using a 3D printer, and used it to unlock the phone. The whole process took about 15 minutes.
3. Samsung’s glizty “space selfie” balloon contraption crash-landed in a garden in Michigan.
This weekend Samsung suffered its latest PR blow as a space balloon constructed as part of a marketing stunt for the Galaxy S10 came crashing out of orbit.
A Michigan couple discovered the debris of the space balloon in their garden on Saturday. Nancy Welke shared footage of the pair discovering the wreckage, which bore Samsung’s logo.
“Look what just fell out of the sky and 911 is baffled and it is caught in our tree,” she said in the video.
The company had massively bigged up the stunt, booking Cara Delevingne to take the first “space selfie.”
The space balloon was part of a marketing stunt to promote the S10. The idea was that people back on Earth could take a selfie via their own phone, then upload it to a dedicated Samsung site. That would beam up to the space balloon containing a Galaxy S10. The photo would then beam back, showing the selfie against a backdrop of planet Earth.
Actress Cara Delevigne was the first to have her selfie snapped in space.
In a statement Samsung said the satellite suffered from adverse weather conditions: “Earlier today, Samsung Europe’s SpaceSelfie balloon came back down to earth.”
“During this planned descent of the balloon to land in the US, weather conditions resulted in an early soft landing in a selected rural area. No injuries occurred and the balloon was subsequently retrieved. We regret any inconvenience this may have caused.”
4. Samsung’s heir-apparent is back in court over bribery charges
Samsung Electronics Vice President Jay Y. Lee, the firm’s heir-apparent, has been called back to court in South Korea for a retrial over bribery allegations made in 2016.
Lee is the son of Samsung chairman and founder Lee Kun-hee, and is referred to by local media as the “crown prince” of Samsung.
In 2016 South Korea’s then-president Park Geun-hye was accused of taking bribes from Samsung via her close aide Choi Soon-sil. Lee was accused of bribing Choi with a gift of three horses, and the Samsung heir was arrested and jailed in 2017. The charges were dismissed by an appellate court in 2018, but the country’s supreme court has now ordered a retrial.