Samsung will finally tell us why the Galaxy Note 7 exploded at a press conference on Sunday night (Monday morning, South Korea time). According to The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, the company’s months-long investigation will lay blame on the size of the batteries used in the phone.
Ahead of the recall, there was a lot of discussion as to why the phones exploded, was it the way the batteries charged? Was the thinness of the phone a contributing factor? According to Bloomberg:
The Korean company will announce that Samsung SDI Co. made batteries that didn’t fit properly into the device, causing it to overheat, said the person, who declined to be identified because the results of the probe haven’t been made public.
Samsung used two battery suppliers for the Galaxy Note 7: its own Samsung SDI division and the Hong Kong-based company Amperex Technology Ltd. (ATL). Initially, Samsung said that the phone explosions—which started in late August 2016—were restricted only to Samsung SDI batteries. The ATL batteries were used in its Chinese devices, which Samsung said were safe. When Samsung started to replace Galaxy Note 7 phones (after the first recall), Samsung used batteries from ATL, again, under the assumption that they were safe. Unfortunately, the replacement batteries started to explode too.
The secondary wave of explosions, this time with batteries from a different supplier, was deeply concerning. So why did those batteries explode? According to The Wall Street Journal:
In the Galaxy Note 7 phones carrying batteries made by ATL, the flaw centers on a manufacturing issue resulting from the quick ramp-up in production of replacement phones, these people said. It wasn’t clear what the manufacturing issues were.
The Journal also reports that Samsung has created an eight-step process for dealing with batteries in the future that will focus more on testing and quality assurance. After the Note 7 debacle, this is really the least Samsung can do.
Samsung permanently ended production on the Galaxy Note 7 in October, after six weeks of backing and forthing over the safety of the device. Samsung first delayed shipments of its flagship device, after reports that units were catching of fire spread in Korea and parts of Asia. This delay was followed by a voluntary recall, which then became a federally orchestrated official recall one week later.
After its first official recall, Samsung started an exchange program in the United States and other countries and the company scrambled to get phones back in production and to consumers. Unfortunately, the problems didn’t stop. It took just a week for replacement devices to start exploding, with one even blowing up on a Southwest flight. The federal recall from September was then expanded to include all Galaxy Note 7 phones. Following the recall, feds banned the Note 7 from any flight out of the US, with many other countries doing the same.
To ensure customers actually turned in their explodey phones, Samsung started issuing software updates cutting cellular connectivity, wi-fi, and Bluetooth, essentially bricking the phones. Samsung now says 96 percent of Note 7s sold in the US have been returned.
Samsung has lost a ton of money because of the Note 7 debacle—but more than that, it has lost consumer trust. It needs to be very forthright about why the phones exploded, what was wrong with the batteries—be it size or manufacturing—as well as what steps it is going to take to ensure this sort of thing never happens again.
Samsung will livestream its press conference on Sunday night at 8pm ET (5pm PT) at Samsung.com.