Apple attracted a lot of flak from some owners of its newest iPhones, after numerous annoying issues were reported following their release in September. Such problems paled in comparison with those suffered by Samsung's fiery Galaxy Note7 flagship, of course, but details of another problem have emerged affecting more of Samsung's high-end handsets, and this one appears to have been around for a lot longer.
A growing number of owners of the Galaxy S7 family of devices have alleged that the glass on the handsets' cameras is spontaneously 'shattering', with no impact involved and - in some cases - while the devices are sitting untouched on a table or desk.
Consumerist highlighted details of such an incident this week, after one of its readers, named Sean, claimed that he had purchased a new Galaxy S7 shortly before Christmas, but woke up on December 22 to discover that the glass over the rear camera had shattered despite being in a case and untouched on his bedside table throughout the night. He said that the glass had "shattered like a miniature bullet hole".
Sean's case is far from unique. "A quick Google search brought up hundreds of identical instances of this rear camera glass shattering without dropping the phone," he said. Digital Trends also noted a long list of complaints from owners of the devices describing similar incidents and circumstances to those encountered by Sean, including many on Samsung's own user forums.
On those forums, and across the wider web, the list of complaints from owners about the camera glass shattering without impact goes back almost as far as the devices' retail launch. Some of the owners were using their devices without a cover, but many of those who reported the problem said that not only had their handsets not been dropped or impacted in any way, but that they were also using rugged protective cases to shield their devices.
One owner wrote: "My Pelican case doesn't permit the lens to past [sic] the case. I got up other morning and put in my pocket and when I went to take a picture that morning I noticed that the glass that covered the lens was shattered."
The common thread running throughout all of these incidents is that Samsung has denied any responsibility for the issue, and insisted that the customers are at fault, and must pay for repairs themselves.
One owner said in April that her Galaxy S7 was less than a week old when she noticed that the glass had shattered. "It took three weeks to get it fixed," she said. "I've had it back for less than a week and the lens is cracked." She added: "Is there an issue with the lens, or am I the only one. It cost $70 to get fixed. I really don't feel like paying it again."
Other customers shared similar experiences, of having contacted Samsung to report the problem, only to be sold that they would have to pay $70 to get the glass fixed, and some of those owners also described the same problem recurring after their handsets had been repaired and returned. Carriers who sold the devices have been similarly unsympathetic; T-Mobile reportedly told one man that he would have to pay $175 to have his handset replaced, while in another incident, AT&T told a customer that he must have dropped the phone, and that he would have to file an insurance claim.
In response to a complaint on its forums in April, a Samsung customer service representative said that the company aims "to always make high quality products for its customers", describing the incident as "an isolated occurrence and we do not want to place blame on anyone".
But the increasing number of complaints suggests that this problem is far from "isolated", and that Samsung is indeed placing the blame on its customers by repeatedly insisting the owners must have caused the damage themselves, and forcing them to pay up if they want the shattered glass repaired.
Samsung's response to the complaints may now be challenged with legal action. Seattle law firm Keller Rohrbach is now looking into the incidents, which have affected not just the Galaxy S7 itself, but also the dual-curved S7 edge, and even the rugged Galaxy S7 active variant, which Samsung touted as "the toughest Galaxy ever", with "shatter-resistant glass", and being able to withstand drops from up to five feet.
Keller Rohrback has invited users affected by the issue to get in touch to discuss "potential legal claims".