Samsung Is Limiting Note 7 Batteries to 60 Percent to Avoid More Explosions

Illustration for article titled Samsung Is Limiting Note 7 Batteries to 60 Percent to Avoid More Explosions

As of September 20, Samsung will issue an update to South Korean Note 7 users that will seriously hamstring their batteries, according to the AP. With this update, remaining, non-recalled Note 7s will only be able to charge to 60 percent capacity, a move that will help save those recall holdouts from explosive consequences.


AP’s report, citing an original Samsung notice in Korea’s Seoul Shinmun, is one of Samsung’s more drastic measures at trying to get this recall wrapped up as soon as possible. Although this update seems to be confined to Korea, it’s very possible that a similar tactic could make its way across the Pacific. After all, the United States has had some of the most problems with upwards of 70 faulty phones reported. The US said its working on an official recall with Samsung on Friday and Samsung and mobile carriers have sent message to Note 7 users about the potentially dangerous default.

We’ve reached out to Samsung for clarification on this update, and to find out if a similar update could be coming to the US.

[Update] A Samsung spokesperson told Gizmodo that “in the U.S., Samsung is continuing to work with the CPSC and our carrier partners to develop and evaluate solutions that are best for US Note7 owners. No action will be taken without the approval of the CPSC. Customer safety remains our top priority.”

Additionally, Samsung has also divulged to Korea’s technology standards agency why it thinks the Note 7 is exploding. Bloomberg reports:

Initial conclusions indicate an error in production that placed pressure on plates contained within battery cells. That in turn brought negative and positive poles into contact, triggering excessive heat. Samsung however stressed that it needed to carry out a more thorough analysis to determine “the exact cause” of battery damage.

Even though a small bomb in your pocket is likely the last thing you need, it makes sense that there are still so many hold outs. As AP mentions, Samsung’s recall process in Korea, much like in the US, is strenuous since it requires users to first exchange the Note 7 for a replacement device and then make another trip for a new Note 7. However, cutting the Note 7's battery life in half would certainly light a fire under the holdouts.

[AP via The Verge]




iFixit’s Note 7 teardownI haven’t bought a Samsung phone in 4 years, but I’m amazed at how badly Samsung is handling this recall. It’s a bad process that encourages consumers to keep potentially unsafe phones, thereby risking life/property damage, and seems to put too much onus on carriers/retailers to shoulder the burden, costing them time, grief, and money (and because Samsung, at least in the US, doesn’t sell their phones unlocked for a long time after release, they really depend on carriers here).

Why doesn’t Samsung just replace the batteries, instead of entire devices? Batteries don’t cost that much to make, and Sammy could have made a large batch of conservatively engineered, underspecced batteries, maybe at 60% (or 80%) of the capacity as a stop-gap, and have carriers or others sub in these ‘temporary’ batteries on the spot until Samsung can engineer a full-spec replacement that doesn’t catch fire.

That way, users keep their new devices, Samsung (and its partners) don’t have have to deal with a huge inventory of returned Note 7s.

EDIT: Although the cable seems a bit odd, iFixit’s Note 7 teardown shows that a battery replacement on the Note 7 isn’t any harder than most devices made in the past 3-4 years, and it could be done in minutes by a skilled tech with appropriate gear. The nominal and charge voltages are pretty standard, too; so there have to be cells around that could be repurposed into temp Note 7 batteries.