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Samsung's biggest challenge at IFA is keeping up appearances

Engadget Engadget 3/09/2016 Nicole Lee

© Provided by Engadget

Samsung has a huge presence at IFA. Its booth takes up an entire floor in City Cube, the newest and shiniest exhibition hall at the Messe Berlin. The company's show area is so big, it's in its own separate building. Samsung also held not one but two press conferences here in Berlin; one just for the Gear S3 and another that centered around the company's home appliances and television displays. In both, Samsung was like a proud parent showing off the many accomplishments of its progeny, touting the many advances it's made in the consumer electronic space.

This is all pretty standard for a trade show, but all the pomp and ceremony is running parallel to one of the most high profile product failings in recent history. The Galaxy Note 7, one of the flagship phones it's proudly showing off at the show is being recalled globally due to exploding batteries. Many wondered how Samsung might react to the situation, with some suggesting the attention might be diverted somehow, or that the Note 7 might mysteriously vanish from view. Instead, the company's sticking to its guns, and putting on a brave face here in Berlin -- not easy when the world's tech media are in full attendance.

As devastating as the news must've been to Samsung's corporate HQ, if you hadn't read the news, you'd be none the wiser if you were casually visiting Samsung's IFA booth. The company has a dedicated area on the floor just for the Note 7, with several assistants on hand to show off the phone's various features and to tout its prowess. Instead of hiding the phone away, or over managing things (as can sometimes be the case), there were dozens of them out in the open, ready and available for curious onlookers to play around with. Some wondered whether proud Samsung might err on the side of caution, but to its credit, it's playing it cool.

The Galaxy Note 7 recall is one of the largest in recent memory, with over a million phones that would need to be replaced. Not just that, but the timing of the recall couldn't be worse. The device was still being rolled out globally, and Apple's iPhone 7 event is just a few days away. The implications for the company are massive; it would cost it hundreds of millions of dollars just on the recall and refunding process alone, even without factoring in logistics and inventory fallout. Other companies have had to deal with recalls and product defects before -- Apple's iPhone 4 Antennagate and Fitbit's Force skin irritation issue come to mind -- but few have been on such a massive, public scale.

I talked to a helper at the Samsung booth, and asked if she faced any questions about the Note 7's recall. She said that she did get a few queries, but she simply responded with a statement that the company was working on the issue. She also said that new, updated Note 7s would be on their way to store shelves eventually, which matches Samsung's own claim that it'll start making exchanges in the next couple of weeks.

But here at IFA at least, everything is business as usual. Samsung's booth was buzzing with a seemingly neverending stream of crowds. The mood was upbeat and positive, and no phones exploded. Though Samsung would likely need a long time to recuperate from such a loss -- not to mention mend its reputation going forward -- it appears that, if IFA is any indication, the company will very likely weather this storm.

We're live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

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