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R.I.P. Samsung Galaxy Note 7

R.I.P. Samsung Galaxy Note 7

(Lee Jin-man/AP)

By Tuesday, 11 October 2016 04:25 PM Current | Bio | Archive

When Samsung Electronics unveiled the Galaxy Note 7 Android phablet smartphone on Aug. 2, 2016, it was considered a great technological success by the world’s biggest smartphone manufacturer.

With its 5.7-inch screen, expandable microSD card slot storage, IP68 water resistance, dual-sided curved display, iris recognition system and USB Type-C port, the device (marketed as Samsung Galaxy Note7, without a space between “Note” and “7”) broke all pre-order records in South Korea (200,000+ units ordered during a 2-day period), creating such huge shortages that some international releases — such as those in Canada, Malaysia, Netherlands, Russia, and Ukraine — were delayed.

But all was not sweetness and light with Samsung’s challenger to Apple’s popular line of iPhones.

The problem centered on the Galaxy Note7’s 3,500 mAh battery, which could charge quickly using a USB-C port — perhaps too quickly.

Rumors of problems began on Aug. 31, 2016, when Samsung began delaying shipments to perform “additional tests being conducted for product quality,” a statement which came in conjunction with user reports of batteries exploding during the recharge process, as was reported by The Guardian in the UK.

On Sept. 2, Samsung suspended sales of the Galaxy Note7, and announced a worldwide “product exchange program” for owners of a small fraction of the existing phones: those labeled with certain IMEI numbers. That fraction became a 2.5 million phone recall (which wasn’t actually referred to as a recall).

The new and allegedly safe Galaxy Note7 had batteries from a different manufacturer. But in October, it was now evident that even replacement Galaxy Note7 phones were also suffering from battery combustion. Things began to get scary on Oct. 5, when a Southwest Airlines flight ready to take off for Louisville, Ky., was evacuated when a passenger’s replacement Galaxy Note7 began smoking and popping as it was turned off.

Other spontaneously combusting phone incidents on Oct. 7 and 8 spurred the five major wireless U.S. wireless carriers to suspend sales of the Galaxy Note7 and told their customers to switch to some other phone.

On Oct. 10, Samsung paused production of the phone, stating it was just “temporarily adjusting” its schedule. However, by that evening, Samsung and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission both recommended that consumers shut the phones off immediately. Samsung officially asked all carrier and retail partners globally to stop sales and exchanges of the device, and urged owners of both original Galaxy Note7 or replacement Galaxy Note7 devices to power them off immediately and “take advantage of the remedies available, including a refund at their place of purchase.”

Finally, late in the day on Oct. 11, Samsung confirmed in a statement filed with the South Korean stock exchange that it had permanently ceased production of the Galaxy Note7.

The result to Samsung was disastrous. Even before the production halt, Samsung’s South Korea-traded shares fell more than 8 percent disintegrating more than $17 billion of Samsung’s market value.

As it happens, Samsung is one of the Big Three battery producers, along with LG and Panasonic. Lithium-ion batteries, which made their first appearance in the 1970s, have undergone continual improvement. But the quest to cram more and more energy into a smaller and smaller battery is a tough one.

There are various competing technologies undergoing development, such as lithium-metal batteries (with a metallic rather than graphite anode), lithium-air breathing batteries (which could make phones and cars last five times longer), magnesium batteries, electro-entropic storage, microsupercapacitors, sodium-ion batteries, fuel cells (which generate energy but produce water as a byproduct, which has to evaporate away somehow), copper foam batteries, solid-state batteries, nano “yolk” batteries (with triple the capacity of present-day batteries), aluminum-air batteries (with potentially 40 times the capacity of lithium-ion), “water dew” batteries and even urine powered batteries!

No one knows which technology will be “the winner.” Scientists are up against the laws of physics. Any battery that could, say, hold as much energy as contained in a tank of gasoline for an automobile would likely be inherently unstable, which means explosive.

One thing is certain — we’ll be seeing more spectacular failures regarding battery technology before we ever enjoy any successes.

Richard Grigonis is an internationally known technology editor and writer. He was executive editor of Technology Management Corporation’s IP Communications Group of magazines from 2006 to 2009. The author of five books on computers and telecom, including the highly influential "Computer Telephony Encyclopedia" (2000), he was founding editor-in-chief of Jeff Pulver’s Voice on the Net (VON) magazine from 2003 to 2006, and the chief technical editor of Harry Newton’s Computer Telephony magazine from its first year of operation in 1994 until 2003. Read more reports from Richard Grigonis — Click Here Now.


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On Oct. 10, Samsung paused production of the phone. Late in the day on Oct. 11, Samsung said it had permanently ceased production of the Galaxy Note7. The result to Samsung was disastrous.
batteries, galaxy note 7, samsung
Tuesday, 11 October 2016 04:25 PM
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