Mobility Samsung

Samsung closes Galaxy Note7 case, blames manufacturers for exploding batteries

On Monday, Samsung released the findings of its investigation into the failed Galaxy Note7 phones, concluding that irregularly-sized batteries led to the overheating issues.

Image: Samsung

Samsung has finally closed the door on the Galaxy Note7 exploding phones debacle. At a press conference on Monday in Korea, the company released the findings of its independent investigation into the problem, and said that a manufacturing flaw was the primary reason for the overheating batteries.

"For the last several months, together with independent industry expert organizations, we conducted thorough investigation to find cause to the Galaxy Note7 incidents." said DJ Koh, president of Samsung's mobile communications business, in a press release. "Today, more than ever, we are committed to earning the trust of our customers through innovation that redefines what is possible in safety, and as a gateway to unlimited possibilities and incredible new experiences."

A quick recap of the Note7 saga: Samsung's flagship smartphone launched in August 2016, with strong reviews from enterprise users. But soon after, several Note7 owners in Korea and the US reported that the phone's batteries caught fire while charging, leading Samsung to recall the phones in September 2016 and issue replacements. However, replacement phones still experienced overheating issues. In October 2016, Samsung completely stopped sales and production of the phones, and the devices were banned on most major airlines and train lines.

Some 96% of the phones globally have been recalled. The overheating issue ultimately cost the company $5 billion, Koh said at the press conference.

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The Note7 batteries were manufactured by both Samsung's SDI affiliate and Amperex Technology Ltd., as reported by ZDNet. The company first thought the SDI batteries were the problem, and had a design flaw in which the batteries didn't fit into the phone properly. However, after the first recall, Samsung learned that the Amperex batteries suffered from a manufacturing issue as well, which also led to overheating.

In its investigation, Samsung tested 200,000 Note7 phones and 30,000 batteries for problems. It also commissioned third party investigators--UL, Exponent, and TUV Rheinland--to test the phones. Part of the problem was in the battery manufacturing: The initial fires were caused in part by the top corner of the battery pinching the pouch that held it, ZDNet reported. They also found irregularities in the batteries, including thin separators and missing insulator tapes.

The phone's design was also flawed: To maximize space, Samsung used an extremely thin battery separator, which made the phones more prone to fires.

Samsung announced that it would implement new internal quality and safety processes to avoid any similar problems with its products in the future. These processes include multi-layer safety measures and an eight-point battery safety check. The company also created a Battery Advisory Group of external academic and research experts, "to ensure it maintains a clear and objective perspective on battery safety and innovation," according to a press release.

It remains to be seen how the company's upcoming phones will fare after the very public Note7 failure. However, IT leaders do not seem to be deterred from the company. In October 2016, we polled the TechRepublic CIO Jury, asking a panel of IT leaders, "Does the failure of the Galaxy Note7 make you question integrating Samsung products into the enterprise?" Ten out of 12 IT executives answered "No."

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. On Monday, Samsung announced the findings of its internal investigation into the Galaxy Note7 phones, concluding that battery manufacturing problems were primarily to blame for the phones overheating.
  2. Samsung also announced a host of new safety measures, including an eight-point battery check and an outside panel of advisors for battery safety.
  3. Some 96% of the phones have been recalled.

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