Samsung Permanently Discontinues Note 7 Amidst Exploding Smartphones

John Lister's picture

What's worse than a bunch of smartphones catching fire? A company that recalls them, reissues them, and the reissued ones also going up in flames. That's what's happened to Samsung with its Galaxy Note 7 handset, which ultimately led the company to permanently discontinue and abandon the model altogether.

Launched in August, 2016, the Samsung Note 7 originally received great reviews and was listed by some as not only among the best Samsung phones, but also the best of any phones running the Android operating system. Like previous Samsung Note models, it has a huge screen that makes the most of the 'S Pen' stylus that comes with the handset.

26 Users Burned By Note 7 Handset

That reception soon soured when reports emerged of Note 7 handsets overheating and even bursting into flames. In mid-September, Samsung officially recalled the device. At that point the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) had only received nearly 100 reports of such incidents, including more than two dozen in which users suffered burns. (Source:

Samsung set up a web page letting users check whether their handset was at risk. It then updated the page to say that all users should stop using the Note 7 immediately and exchange it for a new one. That recall affected at least one million handsets.

Unfortunately several users have since reported similar problems with the replacement handsets. The most high-profile case involved a phone emitting smoke while it was being used on a parked airplane, leading to an evacuation of crew and passengers. That led to more media coverage of the incident, with CNBC's Jim Cramer (of Mad Money) publically asking the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ban the phone altogether.

Batteries May Not Be Root Cause

Initially Samsung said it would be "temporarily adjusting the Galaxy Note 7 production schedule in order to take further steps to ensure quality and safety matters." However, today the Wall Street Journal reported that Samsung has now decided to permanently discontinue production and marketing of the phone.

Reports suggest that Samsung believed that the root cause of the first batch of exploding phones was due to a battery defect - however, the replacement handsets used batteries from a completely different supply. This might indicate the problem wasn't with the batteries, but a more fundamental flaw with the handset itself.

Some reports suggest that the flaw may be due to the "fast charging" feature, which charges the phone using higher amperage, and which delivers substantially more heat to the battery when charging. If that's the case, fixing the problem is likely far too expensive to be viable, leaving a fatal hit to the handset's reputation and now ultimately it's demise. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Do you think it was right for Samsung to abandon the Note 7 handset altogether? Should product safety laws be tougher with manufacturers forced to prove their products are safe before release? Or could 100 incidents among a million handsets mean the problem was too rare to be certain of catching during testing?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I have the Samsung S6 Edge model with Fast Charge. When I charge using Fast Charge, the battery gets fairly warm. That said: based on what I've read online, the temperature and voltage is carefully monitored by the phone at all times to ensure that the battery isn't getting too much voltage. In doing so, it extends the life of the battery and presumably at the same time it would prevent fires from happening while charging - though the Note 7's are igniting without being plugged in from what I understand.

nate04pa's picture

If indeed, the Note 7 phones are igniting when the battery is not being charged, it indicates that proper protective circuitry was not incorporated in the design of these units. This is a more serious problem than defective batteries and would require a redesign of the unit.

Even small batteries are capable of sourcing high current albeit for a short period of time. If a short circuit occurs the battery can supply enough current to overheat something inside the phone which can then ignite combustible material inside the phone.

The simplest means of preventing this would be to install fuses in both the positive and negative supply lines. However because the phones are sealed units, if a fuse opens there is no way for the user to replace it.