The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 may be the hottest phone of 2016. Literally. After dozens of confirmed reports that the phones were catching fire, Samsung this week announced that it was scrapping the phone altogether, directing its partners to stop selling existing inventory, and asking users to power down their devices and return them for a new phone or a refund.
But what’s actually making the phones burn? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Last month it looked like Samsung had identified the problem, addressed it, and taken steps to move forward. Because that’s pretty much what Samsung told us at the time.
The company issued a recall, said that the problem was a defect in the manufacturing process of one of its battery suppliers, and announced that it would only sell Note 7 phones in the future that came from different suppliers.
Then the new phones started catching fire too, eventually leading Samsung to just give up and call it quits on the Note 7.
According to a report from The New York Times, it turns out Samsung was basically guessing when it decided the battery supplier was the root of the problem. The company had identified an issue which could theoretically cause phones with those batteries to short circuit and catch fire, but Samsung employees never managed to replicate that problem.
Anonymous sources speaking to the paper say that Samsung asked hundreds of employees to identify the problem, but nobody was able to make the phone explode in laboratory settings. That was true before the initial recall and it’s still true today: as far as The New York Times can tell, Samsung still has no idea what caused some of its phones to catch fire.
The company has already taken a financial hit in the wake of the Note 7 recall. Samsung spent a lot of time developing, manufacturing, and shipping a phone that it’s no longer going to sell. The company’s stock price has also taken a nose dive, at least temporarily resulting in a $17 billion loss in Samsung’s value.
While the Note 7 is off the market for good, I suspect Samsung will continue to investigate the possible causes of the exploding phones, because the company’s image has also taken a bit of a hit.
When I wrote about Samsung’s new Art PC this week, I wasn’t surprised to see people complain about its $1,200 starting price (y’all share my preference for affordable, portable computers). But under other circumstances, there would have been so many jokes in the comments about the need to bundle a fire extinguisher with the PC.
Anyway, it the company can find a definitive explanation for the defect that caused some Note 7 phones to explode, it gives Samsung a chance to address the problem and reassure customers that its next phone won’t suffer from a similar problem.