CNBC reports that Samsung is for the time being suspending production of its Galaxy Note 7 due to repeated catastrophic battery failures. In the US, regulators issued their own recall order for 1 million devices. The alleged lack of coordination between Samsung and US regulators has caused the company further problems in handling the crisis.
The decision was taken after replacement phones also began to fail in the same spectacular fashion as the original devices. One cooked off on board a Southwest Airlines flight, forcing an evacuation, and leading to a ban of the Note 7 on all Southwest planes. The phone is also now banned on several Australian airlines as well.
According to the Verge, at least five replacement Note 7s have suffered this fate so far.
The company’s website still advertises that through their replacement program the Note 7 now “has a new battery, so you can be sure it is ready to charge and use.” They also offer the option of swapping with a comparable device and a cash rebate, or a full refund entirely.
Samsung has avoided naming the battery supplier whose products have caused the fires. The company is in the process of switching to China ATL, which has a long history of building iPhone batteries, as its main supplier for the Note 7 over Samsung SDI.
AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile will no longer sell the phone until the problem is resolved, and will also not provide replacement Note 7s. Australian carriers, including Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone, are offering similar options to customers.
When batteries go bad
Lithium ion batteries are generally safe but can be temperamental devices, with even small levels of contamination or misalignment leading to fires. Although water can be used to put out such a fire, it is best to use other chemical extinguishers, including soda ash, carbon dioxide, and fire-retardant foam to put out the flames. Samsung is not alone in this regard. Sony, Nokia, and Apple devices have all been recalled in the past several years due to battery problems.
Samsung has already voluntarily recalled 2.5 million Note 7s due to battery failures that caused overheating. The problem primarily affects models sold in the US and South Korea, and the recall may end up costing Samsung at least $1 billion.
South Korean mobile carriers have not yet followed US ones in halting sales of the Note 7. Devices in other countries besides the US and South Korea have also been affected, including Australia and Taiwan. However, Samsung denies that reports of Note 7 battery fires among Chinese consumers are related to this particular battery issue and that the causes were instead external.