Samsung Note 7 fiasco, ‘Freedom 251’ fraud made the headlines (2016 in Retrospect)
New Delhi, Dec 21 (IANS) While the year witnessed next-generation innovations like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) being introduced into daily lives and into smartphones at a mass level, some flagship failures dented the image of some tech companies.
The biggest setbacks to the tech industry came in the form of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, driverless cars that met with fatal accidents and the Rs 251 (less than $4) Freedom 251 smartphone fraud.
Galaxy Note 7 — launched in August amid much fanfare — was poised to be in direct competition with the Apple flagship iPhone 7 and Google flagship Pixel. However, batteries started exploding and devices caught fire while charging, forcing the South Korean giant to recall 2.5 million units worldwide in September (they were yet to be shipped to India).
The company encouraged Note 7 owners to swap their devices with new ones, but the replacement Note 7 devices too caught fire, leading to production being halted in October.
The device finally landed up in the junkyard, with Samsung calculating the impact of the sales halt (after the mishap) at $2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016 and $880 million for the quarter from January to March 2017.
The next biggest tech failure came from India. Despite criticism, the Freedom 251 smartphone from Ringing Bells Pvt Ltd made global waves since its launch in February.
After announcing that it has delivered 5,000 Freedom 251 smartphones in July, Ringing Bells said it would deliver 65,000 more to those who had booked the device in cash on delivery (COD) mode. However, the initial hype fizzled out quickly, with experts calling it “one of the biggest cheats in the digital age”.
“Every educated person, or those having fair understanding of technology, doubted it. It could be looked at as one of the biggest cheats in the digital age,” Faisal Kawoosa, Principal Analyst (Telecoms) at CyberMedia Research (CMR), a market research firm, told IANS.
In December, there were reports that Ringing Bells had shut shop though the owners denied it — but the cheapest smartphone remained elusive.
According to Parv Sharma, Research Associate at New Delhi-based Counterpoint Research, Freedom 251 raised false hopes in the people about owning a cheap smartphone.
The next big tech wave came with driverless or autonomous cars — an industry where bigwigs like Google, Tesla, Volvo, Uber, LeEco and now Apple are trying to make the nascent technology a big reality. The global autonomous cars market is expected to reach 138,089 units by 2024, according to a new study by US-based Grand View Research.
However, in May, the self-driving car community was left in shock when Joshua Brown, 40, of Ohio was killed when his Tesla Model S electric sedan crashed into a tractor-trailer while on auto-pilot mode.
Tesla said the car failed to notice the tractor trailer “against a brightly lit sky” and the brakes failed to kick in.
In what was dubbed as the worst accident involving an autonomous vehicle, in September, a Google driverless car collided with a commercial van that ran a red light in California.
According to a recent study by the University of Michigan, about 40 per cent of Indians and 36 per cent of Americans said they would be apprehensive when riding in self-driving cars.
Amid the gloom came one piece of good news. An 18-wheeler self-driving Volvo trailer travelled from Fort Collins, Colorado, to Colorado Springs, bearing 50,000 cans of Budweiser beer as part of a trial-run.
The vehicle, equipped with cameras and sensors, was owned by Otto, a self-driving truck company Uber recently acquired.
This brought hope that all is not lost yet and driverless cars have the potential to hit the roads sooner than later.
* Following the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco, Samsung recalled 2.5 million units in September and finally halted its production in October.
* After making global waves, The Freedom 251 handsets never reached the masses as announced.
* The global autonomous cars market is expected to reach 138,089 units by 2024.
(This is a part of a series of articles from IANS that look back at the year that was. Sourabh Kulesh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>)