If it can go wrong, it will.
I specifically remember my Manufacturing Engineering Professor saying this in class one day. It means that if you don’t specifically design how the product can be used and include safeguards for how the product shouldn’t be used, people are going to figure out how to use it wrong. It doesn’t matter if the wrong use is obvious or if the misuse is flagrant, there are a lot of troubles you can save yourself from if you can protect your end user from using you product wrong.
You’ve probably noticed a lot of public service announcements today from your favorite blogs regarding the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and issues related to inserting its S Pen in backwards. If you insert an S Pen into the $700+ Note 5 writing side out, the S Pen can get permanently stuck and will probably damage the S Pen sensor so that the device will always think the S Pen is removed. Inserting the S Pen in backwards seems a bit silly. I’m sure it looks silly to have the pointy end of the S Pen poking out of the device, but it doesn’t matter. It if can go wrong, it will. And in this case, it has for Samsung.
Today, the issue was elevated enough that Samsung felt the need to issue a public statement on the S Pen insertion issue. In summary, they said to follow the instructions in the Note 5 user manual. First, how many of you have EVER read a manual for your phone? I’m genuinely curious (feel free to comment below). I’ve owned and reviewed dozens of phones, and have never felt the need to consult the user manual. Think about your audience here, Samsung. You’re the top mobile device manufacturer in the world. Your audience is literally everyone. Grandmas, teenagers, nerds, NBA players, everyone. Your job is to design a phone that is usable and isn’t going to be ruined when someone makes a silly mistake.
Samsung should have done one of two things: Either design the Galaxy Note 5 so that when the S Pen is inserted the wrong way, it won’t get stuck and won’t damage anything or design the Galaxy Note 5 so the S Pen could not physically be inserted the wrong way. With either option, this whole fiasco would have been a non-issue. It feels a little insane to me that the Note 5 made it out of any sort of “real life” testing with this issue not being found. In testing, they should have tried every angle to break the phone. They should have found the Note 5′s weaknesses so they could have designed them out of the product. I’m surprised this wasn’t one of the first things tested. Regardless, Samsung didn’t design the $700+ Note 5 well enough that something simple like inserting the S Pen the wrong way is a non-issue.
Some of you may feel this Note 5 S Pen issue is blown out of proportion, or you may feel people are idiots for putting their S Pen in the wrong way. That’s fine. You’re all entitled to your opinion. But in my opinion, Samsung should replace all the Note 5s out there with stuck S Pens and broken S Pen sensors. Sure, Note 5 users didn’t read and/or follow the manual, but Samsung designed their Galaxy Note 5 poorly. Samsung has the resources to design a phone without silly flaws like this. They should be able to design a phone that’s completely usable without having to read the user manual first. They should be able to use a phone that can’t be used wrong. If it can go wrong, it will.
What are your thoughts on the Galaxy Note 5 S Pen issue? Did Samsung screw up? Or are the backwards S Pen inserters a bunch of dummies? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.