Samsung today finally re-launched the refurbished Galaxy Note 7 back into the Korean market with a new "Fan Edition" tag to its model name. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Fan Edition, looks the same as the original and it even comes with the same hardware specifications; save for the battery and some new and refreshed software. A move that should hopefully, help them move units back into some markets.
Inside the Fan Edition, lies a brand-new battery that is now toned down in terms of capacity to 3,200 mAh as compared to the 3,500 mAh unit in the original Galaxy Note 7. In its Korean press release, Samsung makes it clear that the new battery (and the smartphone) has passed its rigorous 8-point safety test, so in all probability we should not hear of any exploding batteries going forward, just like we haven't heard about the Galaxy S8, its newest flagship.
Apart from the battery, Samsung has also upgraded the Note 7's software to reflect the latest version shown on the Galaxy S8 and S8+ models. This would also make the Note 7 Fan Edition, the second smartphone from the Korean electronics giant to feature its brand new Bixby Assistant, one that has yet to go live globally.
So with so many fail-safe mechanisms in place. Why is the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 not coming to India?
We reached out to Samsung Mobile India, but failed to get a response, so we asked the IDC's head of mobile devices, research, India and South Asia, Navkendar Singh instead. As it turned out there are one too many reasons why Samsung should not bring those refurbished Note 7 units out here.
Singh said that Samsung's recently launched Galaxy S8 is already doing very well in India. This would be thanks to its updated feature set and the fact that it also packs in the new almost-bezel less 'Infinity Display' one that is unique to Samsung. With a flagship smartphone that already trumps the specifications of its older sibling. It indeed makes little sense for Samsung Mobile India to bring back a smartphone from its troubled past. But there's more.
That "refurbished" tag
According to recent Reuters report, Samsung made clear that its devices would be made from "recalled, unsealed Note 7 handsets and unused Note 7 components." Batteries for the refurbished devices will have a lower capacity than those of the original Note 7s, but have passed new safety measures implemented following the recall, Samsung told Reuters. Samsung went with the idea of a refurbished Note 7 model in order to reduce (or avoid) the environmental damage, had it purged the entire lot of smartphones for recycling. Clearly, Samsung is not reselling them to make a quick buck.
Singh pointed out that "There are only so many smartphones available on the premium end of the market.". He maintained that Samsung's Galaxy Note series customers are finicky and that the word "refurbished" itself had a negative connotation to it.
The Note 7 Fan Edition being sold in Korea is priced at 699,600 Won (approximately Rs 39,550), which is pretty expensive if you ask us. That too for refurbished device.
"Pricing is important. If the pricing is set at Rs 25,000 then and only then will the smartphone do well in India." he said.
While we are pretty sure that this cost includes the re-assembly of the Fan Edition with the new battery included, it still does not make too much sense since India has one too many brand new smartphone options on offer which feature with the latest chipsets, one of them being the recently launched OnePlus 5 that starts from Rs 32,999 for the latest 10 nm Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset and 6 GB RAM. The Chinese smartphone maker's high end offering tops out at Rs 37,999 that will get customers 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage. Even if the specifications do not matter, you are getting a brand new smartphone that can perform better on paper and this is what a consumer really wants.
The IDC head pointed out that Samsung customers would rather buy the latest smartphone offering from the Korean company given its quality offerings from the premium segment or go in for a Google Pixel or an Apple iPhone instead.
Reviving the negativity
While the Note 7 catching fire and exploding made tech headlines worldwide, it did little damage to the sales of its other products (smartphones included) nor did it damage its goodwill in reality. Had Samsung brought in the Note 7 Fan Edition to India, it would have increased the value of the brand even if its sold around 10,000 units. "People don't have a problem with Samsung, but why introduce a smartphone when there is a negative connotation to it?" said Singh. At the end of it all, Samsung Mobile India seems to have done the right thing, by continuing with new smartphone introductions (Galaxy C7 Pro, the A series and the recent J7 Max) while avoiding bad memories from the past.
Come September, we should expect the Korean giant to announce its all-new Note 8 with dual cameras on the back. Hopefully, things should go right this time around.
We have reached out to Samsung for comment. This article will be updated to reflect the company's inputs when available.