Last year was, for all intents and purposes, a disaster for South Korea-based Samsung.
In August, several of the company’s popular Galaxy Note 7 smartphones started to spontaneously combust. After diagnosing the problem as a battery malfunction and switching vendors, Samsung recalled 2.5 million phones worldwide, exchanging about 60 percent in South Korea and the United States with replacement phones.
Soon, however, reports began to surface that the replacement phones were also becoming too hot to hold or catching fire, and Samsung, which had approximately $170 billion in revenue in 2015, was forced to kill the Galaxy Note 7 line entirely. The cost of the recall will total $5.3 billion through the first quarter of 2017, the company reported.
To make matters worse, in November Samsung recalled nearly 3 million of its top-loading washing machines after it was discovered that “vibrations during the spin cycle could cause parts to fail or separate, causing injuries or damaging property,” according to Consumer Reports. The same month, South Korea’s government raided Samsung headquarters as part of an ongoing corruption probe of the country’s president.
What might revive the beleaguered company’s fortunes? New and improved smartphones, maybe. In November, the company announced plans to equip its Galaxy S8 smartphones with a Siri-like voice-enabled digital assistant called Viv. The new push is mostly possible due to the company’s recent acquisition of Viv Labs, the startup company formed by the creators of Siri. According to the Daily Express, Viv takes Siri to the next level by being contextually aware and having the ability to answer follow-up questions.
“Samsung is setting its sights on becoming a major player in software and services, and specifically AI,” said Viv Labs CEO Dag Kittlaus. The company has “installed a new cadre of senior [software-]savvy management stretching all the way to the top with a mission.”