Samsung cites design, manufacturing of batteries as cause of Galaxy Note 7 fires

Company releases results of investigation, rumoured to be using new supplier for Galaxy S8

By Sam Mathers, News Editor

PC: Kenneth Hagemeyer/ Flickr

Samsung is citing flaws in the design and manufacturing of two sets of batteries from two different manufacturers as the cause of their Galaxy Note 7 devices exploding or catching fire. Discontinuing the phone just two months after its release and recalling 3.06 million devices, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 became one of the worst tech product recalls in history.

Samsung began recalling phones in September 2016 after reports of some devices catching fire. At the time, the company blamed a flaw in the lithium batteries from one of two different suppliers without specifying which one was responsible. Just a month later, sales of the phone were permanently stopped after reports of new Note 7s with different batteries also catching fire.

Consumers were encouraged to power down and cease using their devices before returning them. The phones were completely banned on flights, causing the company to set up customer service kiosks at airports around the world to allow passengers stuck with the device to return it before boarding.

The company’s two suppliers responsible for all of their batteries are its own Samsung SDI and Amperex Technology. Featuring the highest energy density of all of Samsung’s devices as well as one of the biggest battery capacities for smartphones in general, Samsung provided targets for the batteries, but did not know how to make the separators within the battery or how many millimetres thick they should be.

The company said in a statement, “We provided the target for the battery specifications for the innovative Note 7 and we are taking responsibility for our failure to ultimately identify and verify the issues arising out of battery design and manufacturing.”

While Samsung appears to be accepting responsibility, there has been concern surrounding the company’s initial handling of the investigation and recall. Samsung independently launched a global program to replace the devices, but was criticized for not working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the traditional procedure for recalls in the United States. The CPSC makes sure consumers know the risks of continued use of a recalled product, as well as their rights. Samsung soon began working with the CPSC, but after replacement phones were reported to be catching fire as well, Samsung was criticized for conducting an investigation that was hurried and incomplete.

The company quickly began working to regain customer trust, offering monetary incentives for customers willing to stick with the brand. With the Galaxy S8 expected to be announced in March and hit stores a month later, Samsung could potentially have a long road ahead of them. The Galaxy S8 is rumoured to be another innovative device, much like the Note 7, that pushes the envelope of current smartphone technology. Leaks have reported the phone will feature a large, curved screen covering 83% of the front panel. It is said to have a headphone jack (contrary to previous rumours), and no home button. There is some confusion surrounding the fingerprint sensors, with some leaks suggesting they will be located on the rear panel of the phone and others suggesting they will be embedded in the phone’s display – a new technology that could mark a major shift for smartphones everywhere.

Samsung is also rumoured to be closing a deal with Murata Manufacturing for the S8 batteries, a company out of Japan that will replace Amperex. It is expected the company will continue to use its own Samsung SDI as the second manufacturer of batteries.

The company estimates that the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco will cost them $5.3 billion throughout early 2017. With many people continuing to use Samsung devices around the world, it is likely the company will easily make that back with the release of the Galaxy S8 – provided they don’t catch fire this time.