Indonesian buyers undeterred by exploding Samsung smartphones

Indonesian buyers undeterred by exploding Samsung smartphones
PHOTO: Reuters

Hopes were high for South Korean technology giant Samsung earlier this year after it released some of the most sophisticated and critically acclaimed pieces of mobile technology. One of them was poised to be the year's shining star in the gadget world.

Samsung's hopes for a successful year, however, are in jeopardy as numerous reports have emerged that suggest one of its latest smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, is prone to exploding at random times during charging or when it is simply on.

Earlier this month, the world's top smartphone maker decided to recall some 2.5 million Note 7s already in circulation, which it project would cause a loss of billions of dollars. Samsung's stock market valuation even dropped significantly as share prices fell.

But despite this predicament, it seems that Samsung has not suffered critical damage but has been saved by the trust and curiosity its consumers have for the brand.

The situation is no different in Indonesia, where the popular smartphone brand is seen by many as a formidable alternative to Apple's iPhone range, which has been Samsung's top competitor in recent years.

Some consumers believe that Samsung's smartphones are not necessarily a lot cheaper than an iPhone, they have a signature aesthetic that makes their products distinctive and reliable. News of the Note 7 incidents did not necessarily faze all prospective buyers.

"I'm interested in trying out a Samsung phone, as its products are top notch. Before, I had no plans to purchase a Note 7 but was interested in its features. However, the incidents [with the Note 7] still came as a shock," said Jakarta resident Ferdi, who was browsing at a Samsung booth in South Jakarta's Ambassador Mall over the weekend.

Advertisements for the Note 7 are still strewn all over Ambassador Mall, known as one of the city's busiest gadget and electronics shopping centres. However, there were no Note 7s on display anywhere at the numerous Samsung dealers in the mall.

The product itself never officially made it into Indonesia but pre-orders were sold out three days after it was first announced in late August. Pre-order prices started at Rp 10.7 million (US$813.20). However, some vendors say that it is still possible for one to buy a Note 7 in Indonesia, but prospective buyers need to ask at the counter.

"It's still possible to buy a Galaxy Note 7 that has an overseas warranty here, but I personally do not recommend it because if anything happens with the device, it will be very hard to find spare parts or even return it," Samsung vendor Adit, who mans a smartphone booth on the third floor of ITC Kuningan shopping mall, another gadget haven in the capital.

Adit added that some customers had approached him asking to buy a Note 7, which would require the store owners to go to their distribution centres to get the special product. Even through this process, buyers would still have to wait days to get their hands on the device itself.

Data from US-based research firm Gartner shows that Samsung managed to sell 320.2 million smartphones last year, up by 4.1 per cent from 307.5 million in 2014. The same data shows that Samsung controlled a 22.5 per cent market share, followed by Apple and Huawei with 15.9 per cent and 7.3 per cent, respectively.

PT Erajaya Group, a major distributor for Samsung smartphones in Indonesia, claimed that despite the Note 7's worldwide recall, it had not seen any decrease in local demand from retailers or consumers for Samsung's products.

"From what we have seen, the public's enthusiasm toward Samsung products is still high, as shown by the interest at our Erafone outlet stores. During the Erajaya Expo early in September, we saw high Samsung sales numbers, thus affirming the public's confidence," CEO Hasan Aula commented on Sunday.

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