On Recalls and Shutdowns

Just wanted to quickly address a few bits of news that have zipped me by as I’ve been adapting to college.

Jethro Mullen and K.J. Kwon for CNN Money:

Samsung is recalling millions of new Galaxy Note 7 smartphones worldwide after reports that the devices can catch fire while charging. The massive recall of one of Samsung’s flagship devices is an embarrassing setback for the world’s biggest selling smartphone maker. The Note 7 was unveiled just a month ago, and big rival Apple is expected to show off its new smartphone next week.

Mark Wilson for BetaNews:

Google’s Project Ara – a modular smartphone that let users customize their handsets with a range of plugin modules – has been killed before it even got off the ground. Having started life as a Motorola venture, the first Project Ara smartphone was expected to launch later this year.

As recently as May, Google was talking about shipping a developer version of the phone this autumn, but now it seems that this is not going to happen.

Andrew Martonik for Android Central:

This year’s Google-branded Android phones will not use the “Nexus” name, Android Central understands, indicating a hard break from the past six years of flagship devices for the company. The widely expected HTC-built handsets — referred to as “Nexus” phones in recent online leaks — will instead come to market under a different brand name, according to several people familiar with Google’s plans.

Two things. First, regarding Samsung and Google.

A lot of bravado goes around the smartphone industry, which makes it too easy for me to dismiss most companies’ supposed flagship devices. But throughout the year so far I’ve tried giving Android phones a chance, as some have perhaps shown a new mindset from their makers that wasn’t all about oneupmanship and more about creating better user experiences.

For Samsung, alongside recent evidence that the Note 7 was outpaced by the almost year-old iPhone 6s (might want to mute this one), this is abysmal. There’s been an apparent resurgence of Samsung smartphone coverage since claims of them upping their design game. I don’t think there are enough fundamental changes made in the Galaxy lineup, besides its slightly better industrial design, that give that claim enough credence. The recent news regarding the Note 7 proves this isn’t the case, and that the natural progression in component advancements and same-old “we’re better than you” marketing simply isn’t enough to construct and sell a good smartphone, especially considering the maturation of the smartphone industry today.

Speaking of being too late, Google sacking Ara and Nexus might technically be a good thing – neither of these efforts drew in much for the company besides acclaim from tech journalists – but it really is too late for Google to backtrack and go back to the drawing board. Apple’s vertical integration and collaborative internal culture, established many moons ago, continues to reap benefits for the company – I’m pretty sure September’s offerings will prove that once again. The timing for Google can’t be any worse, I think.

My second thing: tech journalism. I already rambled a bit about that earlier this year, so I’ll save the gory details. I’m just a bit disappointed that nothing seems to have changed. Some tech companies continue to get these massive profile pieces that ultimately mean nothing even to those just one degree of separation from the tech nerds that tune into them. It’s also particularly disturbing that track records and intellectual honesty seem to have been thrown out the window, creating constant clean slates for tech sites to simply report the same potential flops in the tech industry as huge “next big things”.

What does it mean, though? I’m not totally sure, but being a writer that sources tech sites often, that might have to change. (Maybe that explains the latest shift towards design-related things on the site.)

Sources: CNN Money, Android Central, BetaNews