Galaxy Note 5 #pengate and why it matters.
I know I’ll always remember where I was during the iPhone 4 ‘antennagate’ scandal, you can’t forget a thing like that, no matter how many drugs you take or electroshock you undergo. Imagine, telling users that blocking the antenna on their phone affects reception! It reminds me of the time I held my phone in such a way that the speaker was blocked and I couldn’t hear any sound. Honestly, right in the middle of watching a video! Now I’ll never know what the fox says. Where’s my ‘speakergate’? After somehow surviving that, I had to live through the iPhone 6 ‘bendgate’ scandal. Incredible, did you know that if you sit on a thin piece of aluminum it may slightly bend? Oh, the humanity! Think of the children! Before I could even schedule a session with my therapist to work through this pain, disaster struck again. That’s right – ‘Hairgate’. I was busy rubbing my face all over my iPhone like a cat in heat and the seam between the glass and aluminum slightly pulled one of my hairs. I was in traction for weeks and had to take a leave of absence from work to fully recover from the trauma. I can’t get that time back and I think Apple should have to pay for this.
While I am obviously being dismissive of these issues, and in come cases with good cause, the fact is that some users, or groups of users, will experience problems with their devices and they need to be heard… Except for the ‘hairgate’ people. Seriously, stop being stupid with your click-bait nonsense.
For those of you that are unaware of what I am talking about, consider yourselves lucky. At is core, these ‘-gates’ are names given to consumer grade devices that contain glitches in hardware and/or software. These glitches range in impact, severity and scope with some of these issues being as benign as the aforementioned ‘hairgate’ while others represent a more severe issue where the fundamental usage of the device is impacted, which many argue the iPhone 4 ‘antennagate’ was guilty of. Obviously the suffix ‘-gate’ is an allusion to the scandal of Watergate because calling it ‘antenna-caust’ or ‘bend-ocalypse’ would be too ‘real’ for our sensitive ears. You may also notice that these ‘-gates’ have something else, other than the idiotic name, in common – they all involve the iPhone. Well, now it is apparently Samsung’s turn in the hot seat and in what has become a yearly tradition, Samsung was ‘inspired’ by Apple, with their new Samsung Galaxy Note 5 ‘Pengate’ scandal. Oh Samsung, you so crazy.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5. Now available in totally original gold colour!
So what is ‘Pengate’ and is it worthy of the ‘-gate’ suffix or is this just more theatre that deserves to be dismissed?
‘Pengate’ (aka Pen- ghazi, aka Pen-Oshima, aka Pen-ocide, aka Tiananmen-Pen massacre, aka Nightmare on Pen street) is the latest tech issue that is making a splash on social media. Recently some users have encountered an issue where they accidentally, but permanently damage, their Samsung Note 5 device by placing the included S-Pen (stylus) in the holding port backwards. Much like the other ‘-gates’ I mentioned above, ‘Pengate’ is very divisive within the tech community – some are calling this a design flaw on behalf of Samsung, while others are calling the users imbecilic for getting themselves into this situation. All this is caused by the new re-design of the S-Pen from the previous Note 4 version.
Unlike previous iterations of the Note, the Note 5 offers little to no resistance when placing the S-pen in the device incorrectly. This means that users can easily make the mistake of entering the pen incorrectly if they are not being hyper vigilant. This has the unfortunate effect of damaging the sensor / detection lever that signals to the device that the pen is in its holding port. According to Android Police this lever can become so damaged that it becomes detached from the main board, and as they put it, becomes “essentially irreparably damaged.”
The Sensor / Detection Lever that becomes damaged
In a perfectly normal Note 5 if you remove the S-Pen from the port, the sensor signals to the operating system that it needs to prepare and load a special stylus menu. When this sensor is damaged however, the menu no longer launches when the pen is removed. If this wasn’t bad enough, the pen can get stuck in the device altogether and can only be removed by using excessive force. Inside the port there is a second lever that latches onto the pen and traps it so when a user tries to force remove the pen, they can further damage the device or even the pen itself. Samsung has referred impacted users to the online instruction manual which basically states “Do not put the ‘f’-ing pen in backwards you stupid son of a …” I may be paraphrasing here, but their statement does imply that Samsung will not be accountable for any mistakes the user makes with the S-Pen. Based on this response, it would appear that ‘Pengate’ is classified as user error in their mind so the carriers and Samsung are under no obligation to offer refunds or replacement devices to impacted users. I believe this is officially known as the ‘sucks to be you’ clause. At least after ‘antennagate’ we all got free cases…
Admission is the first step towards healing…
This essentially means that a user can easily place the pen in backwards with no resistance just by being distracted for a split second and find themselves in a situation with a broken pen, a broken device and a patronizing support centre agent telling them the warranty doesn’t cover that type of damage. By the way, a new Samsung galaxy Note 5, without contract, is being sold here in Canada for approximately $860.00. I just thought you would like to know.
For those that argue that it is the user’s fault for “using it wrong”, think about a generic USB port on your computer. Have you ever tried to put it in backwards by mistake? What would you have done if that little mistake cost you $860? Do you still think it’s the user’s fault? It is just too easy to make an innocent mistake, especially if in the process of doing it wrong no resistance or feedback that a mistake is being made is provided to the user. There are plenty of ways that this device can become damaged innocently, be it distractions from a peer at work, children playing with it, using the device in the dark or hastily trying to put it away during a UFO abduction scenario. The users impacted by this are not stupid; it is not as if they are not forcing the pen into the port like a barbarian or beating it with a club or chewing on the pen like some rabid animal to the point that it doesn’t fit right, or at least I assume they are not. If these users are not given any feedback when they try to put the stylus away then that is a design failing, not a user failing. If users cannot use the damn thing in the dark without potentially breaking it, that is also a design failing, not a user failing. Users should simply not be allowed to make this mistake and that is clearly a design mistake.
Good design is supposed to encompass not only style but function as well. Samsung should have known that someone would put the pen in backwards at some point, and this should have been part of testing. Not every customer is a power user and mistakes will happen, so if the design of the device ignores or at worst, enables or encourages mistakes, some responsibility needs to be taken on the part of the manufacturer. If Samsung wants to copy Apple, maybe they should copy Apple’s incredible level of service and customer dedication and take care of their customers impacted by this design failure.
What are the chances anyone will notice?
Samsung, you need to fix this. A simple warning in an instruction manual that you know nobody will read may cover you legally, but it’s a cop out and you know it – the fact you even mentioned it in the manual in the first place means you knew it was going to happen. You messed up, you know it, we know it, and now you need to warn your users and fix the damage your negligence has caused and will continue to cause.
As you may have concluded, as far as I am concerned ‘Pengate’ (aka Pen-asaki, aka Pen Harbour, aka the Korean pen-saw massacre) is real and needs to be addressed. OK, maybe there are more important things going on in the world, but as far as Samsung is concerned, this should be the most important thing in their world at the moment. In all honesty, I was not this upset by Apple’s ‘antennagate’ or ‘bendgate’ despite owning both the impacted devices so perhaps my obvious bias for Apple is obvious… obviously. However by addressing these ‘-gates’, Apple listened to the criticism and changed the manufacturing process for the subsequent 4S and 6S phones (if the prototypes of the new 6s are to be believed) to prevent anyone from being hurt by these problems again. The criticisms made a difference. If the Samsung users do not force Samsung to be accountable for this, don’t expect Samsung to learn their lesson, and don’t expect them to take care of their users, and don’t expect the Note 6 to be any better when it is released. Samsung, you need to support your loyal fans if you wish to continue having loyal fans, or do you plan on waiting until they buy the iPhone 6s before you take them seriously?
What do you think? Who is responsible for the repairs – is it Samsung or the users? Who is to blame? Leave a comment and let the nerd army know! Don’t forget to like, share and subscribe and let the word of the nerd be heard!