Wednesday 4 December 2013

An open letter to Samsung and Google - Android 4.3 update for the Galaxy phones

The bungled 4.3 update for the Galaxy phones is turning out to be an excellent case study of how not to run a PR department and a Facebook social media campaign. Since the details emerged of the unfolding problems with the update there has been a stony silence from Samsung apart from a canned 4 line response on the Facebook page. Even when the national media picked up on the thousands of cries from disgruntled users there came no official response from Samsung.

In the recent Apple issue where the iPhone 5 was released with poor mapping software I recall a very public apology and plan of action unveiled by the CEO of Apple to address the situation. I recently read that this ultimately resulted in far better mapping software due to the subsequent user contribution to map details provided by loyal iPhone owners.

Samsung clearly have a plan to be one of the biggest electronics manufacturers in the world. But if they hope to combat the incredible brand loyalty of Apple users then they really have a hard lesson to learn in Public Relations. I am no Apple fan but I really don't think I would have been left for 3 weeks with a useless £500 phone if a similar update had been released by Apple.

As for the Samsung Facebook page, this really is beyond hope. 3 weeks of constant complaints and gripes is no way to promote your products and brand. A recent Xmas promotion to ask the community which Samsung product they wanted for Xmas was completely mobbed with sarcastic remarks and suggestions of competitor products. What did they expect? Without a major and ongoing effort to communicate, explain and reassure owners of what caused the problem and how it is being resolved with some kind of hope for the thousands of disgruntled owners then this page is now just a GIANT embarrassment for Samsung. For such a huge global brand this shows incredible naivety and demonstrates that whilst their never ending product launches have raced ahead of their competitors, the rest of the company is lagging behind in how to manage and keep a huge user base happy and loyal. Samsung are clearly at the beginning of their journey in terms of developing brand longevity but unless serious action is taken to start "loving" their customers the Samsung brand could easily go the way of Nokia. Keeping on top of a global brand and its millions of users is no easy task but compared to Apple, Samsung are looking like complete amateurs.

And the problem does not stop with Samsung. As Google's biggest handset manufacturer this mess is shining a spotlight on the potential problems of the Open Source Android ecosystem and the problems that can result when different manufacturers cannibalise the system with their own user interfaces and add-ons. I have been a big fan of Android to date but now realise how fragile things can get when poor development and testing is applied by a manufacturer. The benefits of a well designed and controlled proprietary OS such as that provided by Apple can now be seen. So the whole Android project is weakened and discredited by this kind of mess. Google need to get involved and make sure Samsung realise what a bad advert this is for all current and potential Android users. How many iPhone users are laughing at the predicament that Samsung owners now find themselves in? How many Samsung owners will never trust Samsung or Android again? And how many iPhone users have now binned the idea of switching to an Android phone? I have never owned an Apple product but this mess certainly makes me consider the option. The quote I continually hear from iPhone owners is a simple one "it just works". And right now that is just what Samsung users want.