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Pro and Con: Should Samsung sell refurbished Galaxy Note 7 phones?

We take a look at the pro and con arguments for Samsung selling refurbished versions of its recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones.

Published onMarch 29, 2017

Earlier this week, Samsung officially confirmed what was previously rumored on the Internet. The company is considering selling refurbished versions of its recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphone in some markets, as part of an overall effort to recycle the phone.

How to return a Galaxy Note 7 bought second-hand

The company has since clarified that, if it does sell the Galaxy Note 7 again, it will not be in the US or Canada. That means the company is looking to other markets to resell the troubled phone. To be fair, Samsung says it will also be removing components from other recalled Note 7 units, including semiconductors and camera modules, so they can be used for testing purposes. Other Note 7 models that won’t be resold will have their materials recycled, like copper, nickel, gold and silver.

But should Samsung really be trying to resell a phone that, in its previous incarnation, was in serious danger of exploding, due to issues with its battery? Or is the company trying to be responsible to both its shareholders and the environment by attempting to sell at least a portion of its Note 7 units, which likely number in the millions? That’s the debate that we will have today as we examine the pros and cons of this issue.

A brief history lesson

First, a quick look back at this entire situation. Samsung launched the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 7 in September 2016. Within a few days of the phone shipping to customers in the US, many people reported on the internet that their units had started smoking or had caught on fire, in some cases causing considerable damages to their homes, cars and other property. The company issued a recall of the currently shipped units in mid-September, stating that it would release “safe” Note 7 units to replace them.

Unfortunately, even some of those “safe” Note 7 phones started catching on fire as well. In mid-October, Samsung said it was issuing a full and final recall of all Note 7 units worldwide and stopped selling the phone entirely. This came after the FAA issued a blanket ban on the Note 7, making it illegal to have one on board on both commercial and cargo flights.

Samsung later released software updates to the Note 7 for anyone still using them, which either cut its battery life down considerably or killed it outright. In January, the company announced the results of its internal investigation into the Note 7 fires, and put the blame on the battery. It revealed that for its future phones, it would put in an eight-point testing process to make sure its mobile batteries would be safe.

The pros for reselling the Note 7

The hardcore fact is that, for Samsung, it makes sense to get back some of the many billions of dollars it lost as part of the Note 7 recall by cleaning up the recalled units and reselling them, hopefully with batteries that won’t explode. There’s also the fact that the Note 7 is actually a great smartphone, and would have been a huge seller if it were not for that whole “blowing up” thing.

There’s also a serious environmental issue surrounding the Note 7, as was pointed out by Greenpeace in its protests at Samsung’s press event at the MWC 2017 trade show in February. Having millions of unsold or recalled phones lying about could be a huge hazard. Putting revamped versions of the phone back onto the market would help that situation.

The cons for reselling the Note 7

The most obvious issue with Samsung putting back the Note 7 to the marketplace, even with a new name and a smaller battery, is that if just one of these units catches on fire or explodes, that puts the company’s considerable efforts to repair its reputation down the tubes. Samsung cannot afford to issue yet another recall of the Note 7, even a small one, and it may be too big of a risk, even if the phone is only sold in a few markets outside the US.

There’s also the fact that Samsung has already announced it plans to keep the Galaxy Note brand going. If something goes wrong with one of their refurbished phones, we would suspect that would be the death knell for the Note brand. While we think it is a great idea to recycle and re-purpose some of the Note 7’s components and materials, it does seem risky to relaunch the phone itself.

Finally, Samsung will have to chat with wireless carriers and, more importantly, government regulators, for permission to resell the Note 7 after its recall. The ban on using Note 7 phones on planes remains in effect, and even if Samsung were to start reselling the phone, owners could run into those same restrictions.

What do you think?

While there are certainly many benefits to reselling the Galaxy Note 7, even in a limited manner in some markets, it’s possible that the risks may outweigh those positive moves. However, we want to know what you think. Should Samsung try to resell refurbished units of the Galaxy Note 7, or should they cut their losses for the final time and just recycle and reuse the materials and components of the phone instead? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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