When Samsung reported its dismaying 52% plunge in third-quarter profit in recent days, the company — which is the largest producer of memory chips in the world — blamed the result on weakness in the market for memory chips. For Samsung, that weakness was part and parcel of the long, strange year that 2019 has been, which has included the US ban of Huawei products — prompting Huawei to (you guessed it) stock up on chips to fuel its own aggressive smartphone ambitions.
For Samsung, meanwhile, the quarter’s result was one more unfortunate reality to tally up among many others this year, with 2019 having produced a long string of embarrassing and regrettable gaffes and other bad headlines for the South Korea-based tech giant.
The Galaxy Fold debacle was bad enough, but it was also only the beginning.
In recent days, for example, a satellite connected to Samsung’s “SpaceSelfie” marketing campaign crash-landed in the front yard of a woman who lives in Michigan. The satellite included a box marked “SpaceSelfie,” inside of which was a Samsung phone and two cameras. Samsung tried to gently brush it off (according to a spokesman, the satellite was supposed to be brought back to earth once “weather conditions resulted in an early soft landing in a selected rural area”), but … yeah.
This next one, meanwhile, may represent the most cringeworthy “oops” moment from Samsung’s entire 2019 blooper reel. While most of the country was watching the World Series this past Wednesday night, Samsung’s community social app for its users had an image right there on its front page of, in the words of our science editor, “a big ole donger.” (“Okay gang, who’s responsible for this picture of someone’s member on the Samsung Members app?”)
With such an embarrassment (no pun intended) of riches, where do we turn next? How about the discovery of the Galaxy S10 security flaw that meant anyone could unlock the phone as long as the display is covered by a third-party screen protector not certified by Samsung. Samsung quickly acknowledged the problem and promised to roll out a fix post haste.
In terms of what the company will likely be remembered most for this year, however, the mess surrounding the Galaxy Fold has got to be at the top of the list.
To quickly recap, this $1,980 phone that folds down the middle sort of like a book was supposed to have launched at the end of April. Samsung sent out an early wave of review units, which immediately started manifesting a number of problems. The company got crucified by those bloggers and journalists who got the first hands-on with the phone, at which point Samsung scuttled the release. The company took a few months, worked out the problems behind the scenes, and tried again and finally released the phone a couple of months ago — at which point problems quickly started showing up again.
A durability test found that the phone crapped out before reaching the 200,000 folds and unfolds Samsung promised it could take. And one user was greeted to letters in the Samsung logo on the phone literally falling out of their engravings:
At least 2019 is almost over, and a new year is at hand. That’s good news, right?