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Where is the premium service for premium smartphones?

Warranty and its snags. The features of a smartphone are one thing. Its durability is another. As a buyer, you would hope that if your smartphone starts having a fault sometime during the first 24 months of its life, one that is not your fault, the manufacturer would take care of it. However, things do not always go the way we want them to. A personal account on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the “pink line of death”.

An almost unstoppable trend has been developing in the smartphone world in the past few years: The increase in price (RRP) in the area of high-end smartphones. When you purchase these "premium” products, it is particularly annoying if it develops a fault within the first two years after purchase and the phone stops working properly. It does not matter whether you purchased the smartphone yourself or if it came with your mobile phone plan – every buyer of a new smartphone has a right to warranty services by the manufacturer. 

Display fault: Pink line of death

a pink line running vertically from top to bottom

A well-known example of this is the so-called “pink line of death” – a display fault that mainly occurs in Samsung Galaxy S7 (Edge) devices. If you start a Google search with the words “pink line” and “display”, you will soon find a lot of information on this issue. Affected users of the Galaxy S7 (Edge) have to come to terms with a more or less thin pink line on their AMOLED display. Depending on how long the defective display is used, the line going from the top to the bottom of the right side of the screen can grow in thickness, until the display breaks down completely. 

First reports of this display issue came to light in the summer after the release of the Galaxy S7 (2016, we reported). In the meantime, Internet forums and social media are full of unhappy customers. You can also find many references to the pixel issue on Samsung support forums.

Despite the mass phenomenon, which seems to be occurring regularly regardless of region and batch of the Galaxy S7 (Edge), the company has so far failed to officially acknowledge the issue.

Like our colleagues from Mobilegeeks (link in German) reported, error analyzes show that the issue is not from a particular batch. The display fault of the S7 (Edge) is appearing in phones that have been purchased at various points in time and in different regions. The state of the smartphone does not seem play a part in this obviously serial issue of the OLED panel either, as devices without optical flaws are affected as well.

Warranty claims - simply a matter of luck?

tiny scratch on metal frame
Device has no cracks…
… or mechanical display damages

The fact that Samsung has not admitted to this serial default means that the OLED panel issue cannot always be dealt with by making a warranty claim, for example when the smartphone has tiny damages – no matter whether these are on the display or not. 

The warranty claim was denied due to minor cuts on the frame.

As you can read in various Internet forums, warranty claims on defective devices seem to depend on the customer service employee you are communicating with and are simply a matter of luck. Our office has also been affected by this display default. We purchased the Galaxy S7 (Edge) as part of a mobile phone plan with our operator. The device was bought shortly after its release in Germany and was one of the first production batches.

When talking to employees in one of the operator’s local branches, we were informed that Samsung denies warranty claims for devices with even the smallest of visible flaws. As our device has a small cut in the frame, which happened several months earlier, we were not given a replacement device by the operator. When we complained, saying that the pixel default could in no way be connected to the visible cut on the metal frame, the branch employee explained that accepting the warranty claim now, even with only the smallest physical fault, would entail later receiving a bill for the costs of repair from Samsung.

The price for repairing the issue is between 300 and 350€ (~$370-430), while a new device currently costs around 400€ (~$490)!

Nonetheless, we tried again to claim warranty - this time via Samsung’s own hotline. In our conversation with the call center, we were promised that the defect display would be repaired on warranty, no matter if there were damages to the frame of the case or not. We should therefore contact the service partner – in our case "Let-me-repair” in Berlin. After getting in touch with Let-me-repair, the Samsung service partner told us the same thing as our operator had. According to employees of Let-me-repair, Samsung told them to refuse any warranty claims for devices that have the "pink line of death" and mechanical damages – no matter how small these are. They could not understand why we were told otherwise on the Samsung hotline.

We then contacted Samsung Germany about the issue, but unfortunately only received this vague answer:

We are familiar with the reports about a small number of cases in which issues can occur with the display of Smartphones of the Galaxy S7 series. Should you be affected, please contact us under [06196 934 0 224*], so that we can discuss further procedure. *(Mon - Fri from 8 am - 9 pm and Sat from 9 am - 5 pm).   

Customer-hostile way of dealing with serial defaults

Of course, premium smartphones can also have serial issues, but customers would expect a more customer-friendly reaction when these occur. It should definitely be possible to be more cooperative when dealing with warranty claims on premium smartphones with a recommended retail price coming up to $1,000 if the default is due to a clearly serial issue such as an error of individual pixels in a display panel. In the past, serial issues have even been fully exchanged as soon as public pressure through users and the media became loud enough. The fact that users can be blamed for causing pixel defaults due to incorrect use is rather questionable. Particularly as reports about material faults keep popping up, for example, for the Galaxy S8 (Plus) and Note 8. Other manufacturers are also affected by this, including, for example, the “bootloop” defect in several LG smartphone models, or hardware defects (the microphone not working) in Google Pixel devices. 

There is definitely room for improvement in this area. How can only new-looking devices be eligible for warranty – phones are an object of daily use, after all.

This way of dealing with issues, illustrated here with the example of the Korean manufacturer, is probably not rare and other smartphone labels with defects may do the same thing. Particularly “Early Adopters”, who spend a lot of money purchasing a device right after release, should be granted a more customer-friendly way of dealing with serial faults. A premium price should include premium service. Because what use is a warranty if it is only valid for devices in mint condition? 

Have you had similar experiences?

Have you ever had similar experiences? Or have you noticed a similar way of dealing with serial issues with other manufacturers? We would be happy to hear about it in the comments section below.

This is a personal account and describes our viewpoint and subjective impressions we had while dealing with a warranty claim on a Samsung Galaxy S7 (Edge) with a display error: The so-called "pink line of death", as a representative of the premium smartphone segment.

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> Expert Reviews and News on Laptops, Smartphones and Tech Innovations > Reviews > Where is the premium service for premium smartphones?
Marcus Herbrich, 2018-01-17 (Update: 2018-01-21)