When it comes to product recalls, consumer response can be sluggish. Take the low turnout in Seoul recently, in which only a small percentage of Samsung Note 7 users showed up to exchange their smartphones (aka, “fire starter”). But Samsung owners in one regional market are either going to swap out their phones or suffer the power failure consequences.
Owners of the original Note 7 in Australia now receive a handy popup message when they attempt to charge their phones. The message reminds them of the recall–with new models set to arrive on September 21st–and then politely informs them that Samsung updated their phones for them, placing a cap on the charging capability. This update now limits the phone to 60% of its original battery capacity, a move the company hopes will prevent more fires and explosions until the recall occurs.
Yes, you read that right. While the intentions are noble and will hopefully prevent injury and death, a smartphone manufacturer just automatically and remotely disabled a feature on 100% of its phones within that country. Not “issued another recall warning” or “sent an update request,” but actually changed the functionality of its product post-purchase and without the owners’ consent.
Yep, you just woke up in a world where that can happen to technology. It’s not a huge Hollywood leap to envision government agents tracking down a rogue good guy by hissing the terse command, “Power down his phone so he can’t get away.” Or the opposite, of course, as in turning on the phone, turning on its microphone, activating its GPS, and more.
That very speculation is part of the fun of thriller fiction, but it also speaks to the capabilities of the manufacturer and the rights of the public. Should a consumer choose not to participate in a product recall, the ramifications can affect others, not just the consumer himself. It’s a consideration the public must make when deciding to purchase new technology. Fortunately, those responsible consumers who live in regions where the recall is expected but yet still optional will also be able to swap their phones on Wednesday.