Cracked Samsung screen

Cracked Samsung screen

As a loyal Apple user for many years, friends were surprised that I had decided to switch to a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 edition – what a mouthful!) last year. It was mainly because I like to draw, and write notes by hand. Also I liked being able to customise my screens so they would display information immediately, like ‘widgets’, rather than requiring an app to be opened first.

And I did indeed write notes – over 300 pages’ worth so far. Hopefully that has saved a tree or two as I cut down on paper notebooks. While S Note has been generally satisfactory, particularly with its ability to sync with Evernote now, one thing which has annoyed me is how my Note tablet has three buttons at the bottom that are rather easily activated. These buttons tend to get in the way when I write notes and my arm presses down on them, resulting in me going back or exiting the app suddenly. Of course, I could just turn it upside down to avoid touching the buttons, but still it made me think that it was a design oversight. Apple’s single Home button is less intrusive and I didn’t feel a loss of functionality from having two fewer buttons. Less is more.

Too many SKUs

The other thing I noticed about Samsung is that it has too many different variations of phones, phablets and tablets. This makes it hard for find suitable accessories at times (presumably because it makes things harder for manufacturers making these accessories in the first place). When I purchased the Note, I had to wait for another month or two before I was able to get hold of a third-party case from Amazon. It took even longer for the official Samsung case to be available in Singapore. Again, Apple would have been more ready to cross-sell their accessories to complement new products.

This trickles down to the software. I found Samsung had cluttered my Note with pre-installed apps that I didn’t find useful. Why have a separate Samsung app store when there was already a Google Play store? I also found the Google Play store is nowhere as organised or well-curated as the Apple app store. Also, many apps are designed for Android phones, not tablets. This wouldn’t have been an issue with the Apple app store because search results would have filtered unsuitable apps out, depending on what type of device you were using (i.e. iPhone, iPad or Mac).

Samsung should trust its customers more, like Apple

Someone knocked my Note onto a concrete floor this morning and the screen cracked. So I went about getting quotes from various repair shops around town. Two third-party shops said that my Note was a ‘rare’ device, and because Samsung had too many different models to support, it would take another week for the parts (which cost between $280-350) to arrive. I was told that my best bet would be Samsung itself.

At the Samsung store, before I was allowed to talk about my broken Note, I was presented with an A4 sheet of Terms and Conditions emphasising that Samsung was not liable to repair anything due to accidental breakage. I wondered if some customers had tried their luck, so Samsung was reacting to them by becoming more legalistic towards *all* of us. I don’t recall ever being confronted with legalese when I last got an Apple product repaired.

After getting through the Samsung T&Cs, I was told that my model was an ‘export’ version, the parts might be slightly different and thus they could not repair it! I was stunned. I told the Samsung rep that “this would not have happened in an Apple store” and he acknowledged it. He later added that Samsung had “too many conditions and procedures”.

It also sounded like they had a more complex production line, if the same type of product could be made of different components, depending on where you bought it from. Even if so, they should recognise (like Apple did, years ago) that customers these days are globalised and you may very well have to support and repair products that were made in other regions. That is, if you want to be taken seriously as a global brand yourself.

In addition, even if they repaired my Note, under the new Personal Data Protection Act, they were obliged to wipe out all my data – even though they were fixing a hardware problem, not a software problem. I had not linked my Note to Samsung Kies which apparently was their backup system (not very well marketed to me at least, compared to the obviousness and ease of using Apple’s iCloud). While my note data was backed up to Evernote, I was not keen to lose my son’s drawings nor my customised screen settings. They advised me to go home first to sync my Note using a cable (no direct, wireless syncing to the cloud, like Apple?). But having braved the MRT crowds just to get to the Samsung store, and with little time left before my next appointment, I was certain there could be some other way to preserve my data.

After I demanded to speak to the manager, they thought about it again and eventually agreed to 1) repair my Note and 2) not to wipe out my data (reason being that since it was an ‘export’ version, the usual rules apparently did not apply). So they *were* flexible! But it took some effort and made me feel rather vexed with them. So my repair will cost almost half the price of the original Note, because even though it’s just my screen that’s cracked, we need to change BOTH the screen and LCD as they’re fixed together.

Now, I’m not a hardware expert but could there be the slightest possibly of Samsung designing their products so that one does not have to spend an unnecessary amount of money replacing a part that is still working? I could say ditto to the car manufacturers. It just makes me feel like I’m paying more for something that isn’t needed and we’re wasting resources. It’s not very green, either.

Thus ends my rant against Samsung, having been their customer for just one year. And it does look like my next tablet will be an iPad, once again – if just to preserve my sanity.