Note 7 was launched in August 2016 only to be discontinued two months later

Faulty batteries officially to blame for Samsung Galaxy Note 7 fires

Image credit: Reuters

Faulty batteries were behind Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphones catching fire, the company has confirmed, and hinted the launch of its new flagship device will be delayed to allow additional safety checks.

According to the South Korean electronics giant, no further problems have been found in the three-month investigation, during which 700 researchers tested 200,000 devices and 30,000 batteries.

Battery packs by two separate suppliers were found responsible for the scandal, which saw the Galaxy Note 7 devices self-igniting on multiple occasions.

The phone, launched in August 2016, was recalled little more than a month later. However, an attempt to fix the problem failed, leading to Samsung eventually discontinuing the product altogether in October. Ironically, longer battery life and fast charging were the major selling points of the Galaxy Note 7.

“The lessons of this incident are deeply reflected in our culture and process,” said Samsung mobile chief Koh Dong-jin. “Samsung Electronics will be working hard to regain consumer trust.”

The investigation, which involved internal staff as well as external independent experts, didn’t find any problems with the phone’s hardware and software. However, it detected different design flaws and manufacturing problems in the batteries that were causing the short circuits.

“The odds that two different suppliers had issue with the same phone is an extremely low likelihood and may signal we have reached an inflection point in smartphone battery technology,” said Patrick Moorhead, president of technology analyst and advisory firm Moor Insights & Strategy.

The two battery suppliers are believed to be Samsung SDI Co Ltd and China’s Amperex Technology Ltd (ATL). SDI, an affiliate of Samsung, previously pledged to invest $129m to improve product safety and is expected to continue supplying batteries for the firm’s phones.

Samsung said it accepted responsibility and would not take legal action against the suppliers.

It was expected that Samsung would unveil a new flagship phone, Galaxy S8, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month. However, Koh said the firm has decided to postpone the launch. He did not disclose the new date for the launch but analysts expect it to take place by the beginning of April.

Samsung said it had put in place a new eight-point battery check system to make sure such a problem will not happen again.

The firm was heavily criticised for its handling of the scandal, which may deter consumers from opting for its high-end devices in future.

“Consumers will accept the results [of the probe] only if there are no problems with the S8,” said Park Chul-wan, a former director of the Center for Advanced Batteries at the Korea Electronics Technology Institute.

Samsung said that it has not decided whether to reuse parts from recovered Galaxy Note 7s or resell any recalled phones. A person familiar with the matter told Reuters that reselling some Galaxy Note 7s as refurbished phones was an option.

The firm said it has recovered 96 per cent of the 3.06 million Galaxy Note 7s sold to consumers. The recall cost Samsung $5.3bn.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 battery problems - infographic

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 infographic

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