Just 2 weeks after its release and with 1 million devices already sold, the Samsung Galaxy Note® 7 has been recalled and its sales halted. The recall is worldwide, and U.S. carriers have suspended all sales of the popular new smartphone.
Samsung released a statement today announcing that it has received 35 reports of a “battery cell issue” in its latest smartphone. Affected customers claim that their phones have overheated, caught on fire, or even exploded during charging.
As a result, Samsung has begun investigation into the battery fault and promises to replace every single Note 7 currently in the market. In its statement, Samsung assures customers that their safety is an “absolute priority” and that they aim to make the replacement experience as smooth as possible.
But replacing 1 million devices worldwide won’t be easy – and doing so quickly will be critical for Samsung. Some say the timing couldn’t be worse: Next Wednesday, Apple releases their latest iPhone, so this development certainly doesn’t bode well for Samsung’s now-harmed reputation.
Samsung, the top smartphone manufacturer in the world, has, time after time, claimed to produce the highest-quality products. So how did they manage to get this one so wrong?
The Dangers of Lithium-Ion Batteries
This wouldn’t be the first time Samsung has received complaints from its customers – in 2015, it reported a flaw with the Galaxy Note 5’s stylus – but this time, the damage is serious. What Samsung underrates as a battery issue is in fact a major safety concern: the volatile lithium-ion battery.
Lithium-ion batteries, commonly found in rechargeable electronics, have made several headlines in the last few years. Because of the flammable electrolyte inside the battery – the equivalent to gasoline – overcharging or overheating can lead to combustion which, of course, causes serious accidents.
Usually, if a lithium-ion battery’s voltage is outside of the “safe range,” its circuitry will disconnect the battery pack and reduce fire risks. But some Galaxy Note 7 customers weren’t so lucky – and neither have thousands of other gadget consumers, especially those who have purchased electronics that rely on lithium-ion. In July of this year, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported over 60 hoverboard fires in more than 20 states, costing no less than $2 Million in destroyed homes.
More lithium-ion battery malfunctions have caused significant injuries to vapers, who have experienced e-cigarettes exploding in their faces. Again, this tends to happen when the battery is overcharged, and the reaction can happen without warning.
Despite hoverboards having been banned on planes and in many public places, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) estimates that there are 2.5 million Americans using e-cigarettes as of 2014. Although consumers have turned to vaping to avoid the dangers of tobacco use, the reality is that they could actually be putting themselves in even more danger.
How Can We Be Sure Our Devices Are Safe?
Quite simply, we can’t. What makes these battery explosion incidents unfortunate is that they are often unexpected and always unjustified.
While the CPSC and the FDA are aware of the problems lithium-ion battery-operated devices are causing, many still aren’t being regulated. But it shouldn’t be entirely the consumers’ responsibility to handle their devices safely – the onus is on tech manufacturers to be sure their consumers have nothing to worry about. These companies, such as Samsung, have the responsibility to put a safe product on the market.
The only thing mobile device, e-cigarette, and hoverboard consumers can hope for is that manufacturers make more of an effort to diffuse the problem by using safer materials. Samsung, like other manufacturers that have released products with potentially defective lithium-ion batteries, will have a hard time winning back the loyalty of their customers.
Details on the Galaxy Note 7 replacement process will be announced next week.