Samsung didn’t send exploding phones to China, but it still ended up apologizing to Chinese customers

Caution: filling may be hot.
Caution: filling may be hot.
Image: Reuters/Kim Hong-ji
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Unlike the phones that shipped in other markets, some of which have caught fire, Samsung has yet to find any battery safety issues for the Galaxy Note 7 devices it sent to China. So its worldwide recall of the phone doesn’t include China. That has created some backlash to Samsung among Chinese consumers, who complain that the company doesn’t value the safety of customers there as much as other parts of the world.

That’s why Samsung found itself writing a letter of apology to its Chinese customers—whose phones appear to be perfectly safe. The letter (translated in part below) shows just how badly the Korean conglomerate needs the Chinese market.

Yesterday (Sept. 29) Samsung issued a long statement (link in Chinese) apologizing for any confusion and worries it might have caused consumers in China after reports of exploding Galaxy Note 7 devices surfaced there.

The company claims that the faulty devices it examined in China exploded due to “external elements” unrelated to the phones or their batteries.

But whether or not Samsung is responsible, it can’t afford to lose Chinese customers. As the world’s largest consumer market, winning China remains critical to the company’s smartphone unit—and this will be more difficult as the market for handsets becomes saturated. Last year the company shipped almost 325 million phones to China, a marginal increase from the year prior.

In order to keep that number from sinking, it must do everything it can to keep consumers ready and willing to purchase its products—even if it means writing apology letters for mishaps potentially it had nothing to do with.

After summarizing the timeline of explosions and recalls, the letter reads:

Samsung very much values the Chinese market. It has never and will never apply a double standard towards China. Right now, the new, exchanged Note 7 devices overseas use the same battery supplier as the domestic version. To this day, of the 1 million consumers [with this phone] globally, 150,000 are from China, and all are using this battery.

Before the Note 7 officially hit the market, in order to let users who love and care for Samsung experience the new product early, we ran an old-for-new exchange program through the Galaxy Club fanclub channel to and gave consumers 1858 beta [Galaxy Note 7] devices. Since these devices used the same batteries as the ones in the US and Korea that required recall, there was possibly a serious problem. After we proactively notified officials, in accordance with international standards, we recalled and replaced [those phones]. By now, we have already received the vast majority of these beta phones, and we continue to communicate with users who have yet [to return them].

We take the Galaxy Note 7 explosions in China very seriously. When facing each incident, we always immediately, proactively contact the user and obtain the relevant information. With the user’s permission, we then work together with the battery supplier and third-party testing organizations to carry out a complete examination of the device. Right now, preliminary results from the tests we’ve performed on phones we have received show that the internal battery shows no signs of exploding. Meanwhile, in line with our fair and transparent principles, we also have invited overseas and domestic third-party testing companies CTTL and Exponent to conduct additional tests. The tests show that the burnt parts were not located in the battery section, and the battery did not show any signs of exploding. They determined that external heat outside the internal system caused phones to explode. These results are in line with our initial tests. As we continue to receive more reports of exploding devices, we will continue to use the same process to conduct similar tests, and will report to the relevant government bureaus and release the test results publicly.

The letter closes:

Samsung Electronics will continue to stick to our promise to be “A company favored by Chinese people that contributes to Chinese society,” and continue to value quality and service as number one. We hope to bring the best products and experiences to Chinese consumers.

For any confusion or anxiety we have caused Chinese consumers, we once again express our deep apologies, and sincerely hope everyone continues to support Samsung Electronics.