Correction: Hoverboards were introduced in 2015. This story has been updated to reflect that.
LOS ANGELES — Tech products have failed and gone through recalls before, only to live another day. Not so with the Samsung Galaxy Note 7.
Samsung’s decision to stop producing the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 “phablet” due to exploding batteries is unprecedented, says Tim Bajarin, an analyst with Creative Strategies, who has been covering tech since the 1980s.
“No tech product has had this kind of massive recall, based on a faulty design, and then got killed,” he says.
Hoverboards, those little stand-up scooters without a handle, introduced at the end of 2015, also contained lithium-ion batteries that set off fires. But the manufacturers fixed the problem and many went back on the market. Amazon’s e-store is chock full of hoverboards that tout their new safety and are available for purchase.
The product most similar to the Note 7 disaster is the Ford Pinto, the once popular car now remembered for gas tanks that exploded in flames after collisions. The model was first recalled in 1978, and the car stopped production in 1980. Ford was also battling several lawsuits at the time from families that either died or were injured from the Pinto.
There have been multiple reports of the smoking Note battery injuring and burning customers. By mid-September, Samsung had said it had recorded 26 instances of burns and 55 of property damage.
That also sets the Samsung Note 7 apart.
In tech, “there have been cases where PC monitors were faulty, but they didn’t cause any fires,” says Bajarin. “There were computers with design flaws that got pulled, but they were minor compared to what we’ve seen here.”
After the revised, second and supposedly fixed edition of the Note started smoking and popping on a recent Southwest Airlines flight, “Samsung had no choice but to kill it,” Bajarin says.
Most gadgets were pulled off the market because they were poor sellers.
— The Flip Cam was a popular portable video camera, so much so that parent company Pure Digital Technologies was acquired by Cisco in 2009 for $590 million. Just two years later, at the dawn of the smartphone revolution, Cisco shut down the Flip in 2011, saying the company wanted to focus on other areas for its business. (Camera phones started becoming popular in 2010, with the launch of the iPhone 4.)
— In 2011, Microsoft killed the Zune MP3 player due to poor sales, the problem that ailed most now defunct tech products, from Amazon’s Fire Phone (2015) to 3D TVs from LG, Sony and Samsung.
In 2014, Apple stopped selling the original iPod as consumers gravitated to just using their iPhones and other Mac products for music listening.
And of course, BlackBerry last month said would no longer manufacture the cell phone, known for its QWERTY keyboard that was so popular in the last decade it became known as the CrackBerry.
— Outside of tech, “New” Coke was killed in 1985 just two months after its introduction when consumers complained about the new taste. No recall was involved, and the revamped soda quickly disappeared.
— Beyond the Pinto, the other most notorious recall of all time —Tylenol — is still on shelves.
Manufacturer Johnson & Johnson yanked 31 million bottles of the pain reliever in 1982 when it was discovered that several bottles had been tampered with in the Chicago area. Seven people died. J&J and competitors changed their packaging to tamper-proof, and the product withstood the storm.
The Galaxy Note 7 is the flagship of the Samsung mobile brand, first introduced in 2011 as the largest smartphone to date, with a unique stylus that helps users navigate, jot notes and draw on screen. Samsung’s best-seller, though, is the smaller Galaxy S line, which is No. 2 to the iPhone in the United States for sales of a specific phone.
Bajarin says the Note as a brand could return, as a “Note 8,” and live on, but that this time, Samsung will “go through the proper quality control,” he says.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham on Twitter, @jeffersongraham.
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