In Depth: Total Recall: 8 embarrassing tech fails


Well, that’s very embarrassing. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, this autumn’s flagship phone for people who like ’em (a) big and (b) not made by Apple, is in massive trouble.

Samsung and the UK’s mobile networks are in the process of initiating a disastrously widespread recall of all Note 7s, after a handful of high-profile reports said the phone was guilty of the quite extreme problem of exploding and catching on fire.

We’re used to phones that have issues like draining their battery a bit quicker than usual or taking rubbish pictures when it starts to get dark. Exploding and catching on fire is too big a glitch for most users to ignore. A factory reset won’t help when it’s in a smoking black pile on the floor and your thigh’s on fire.

Hence the mass recall of Samsung’s most important recent release. And Samsung’s not the only tech company to have had to tell people it’s massively messed up.

1. Sony’s overpowered packs

Tech recalls

One of the longest-running tech recalls befell Sony, which was stuck recalling VAIO and other laptop batteries for years. Making it vastly more embarrassing was the fact that Sony supplied laptop batteries to the likes of Dell, Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard, and Toshiba, as if it was some sort of expert in the making of batteries, forcing its manufacturing chums to issue the mass recall of hundreds of thousands of their computer batteries too.

2. Amazon’s hoverboard crisis

Tech recalls

The hoverboards (that didn’t hover; separate issue, complaints still ongoing) that metaphorically set the world on fire in 2015 occasionally literally set parts of the world on fire too, with some models’ batteries exploding to such an extent that Amazon UK asked buyers of a few brands with dodgy plugs to throw them in the bin. Or take them to a recycling centre. Get them out of the house as quickly as possible, basically.

3. EE’s too much power bar

Tech recalls

Also electrical, prone to catching on fire and only discovered after being sent out to humans, the EE Power Bar – from UK network EE – was another disastrous tech launch. Unplug them and put them far away from your home was EE’s advice, also, of course, giving everyone their money back.

4. Xbox 360’s Red Face of Embarrassment

Tech recalls

This wasn’t your straightforward product recall, but it was still an utter disaster for Microsoft’s reputation. The Red Ring of Death that saw loads of Xbox 360s spontaneously die cast a long shadow over the company’s gaming plans, eventually forcing Microsoft to extend the console’s warranty to cover all machines – and send out replacements galore with a write-off value in the billions of dollars.

5. Nvidia’s defective heat shield

Tech recalls

Nvidia detonated its Android gaming machine ambitions all by itself, when the company that only exists to sell electrical things announced a recall of some models of its 8-inch Shield gaming tablets. Batteries overheating again was the problem. Dunk it in a bucket of water and run away from it was the unofficial advice. Return it for a new one was the official advice.

6. Nest’s not waving but burning

Tech recalls

Nest, the temperature-based startup bought by Google, had a smoke alarm you could turn off by waving at it. Problem is, the Nest Protect Smoke + CO couldn’t tell the difference between a “Everything’s OK, you can turn off the alarm” wave and people generally walking around near it, making it really quite useless in the event of a fire, as panicked waves for help from burning arms would just silence the device. Hence Nest recalling and issuing a big software update.

7. Toyota’s non-stop acceleration

Tech recalls

In terms of size, this was enormous. Back in 2009 and 2010, Toyota had a neverending run of misfortune, resulting in it recalling a staggering total of more than 9 million cars. The good news is they weren’t exploding from overheating batteries. The bad news is some might have crashed because accelerator pedals were getting stuck all the way down, leading to Speed-like crises on the motorways.

8. Apple cattle prod

Tech recalls

And don’t go laughing at Samsung too hard if you’re an Apple user today. Apple had to recall loads of plugs that nearly electrocuted people in Europe, Australia, Korea and Brazil, after it found a few too many corners had been cut in the making of its plug adapters.

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