Galaxy Note 7 Recall Shows Challenges of Stronger Batteries

Samsung's recall of 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones after several dozen caught fire and exploded may stem from a subtle manufacturing error, but it highlights the challenge electronics makers face in packing ever more battery power into ever thinner phones, while rushing for faster release dates.

Announcing the recall on Sept. 2, Samsung confirmed dozens of cases where Note 7 batteries caught fire or exploded, mostly while charging. It plans a software update that will cap battery recharging at 60 percent capacity to help minimize risks of overheating. But it is urging owners to keep the phones turned off until they can get them replaced, beginning Monday.

U.S. safety regulators stepped in Thursday with an official recall, saying Samsung's voluntary efforts were inadequate. Though Samsung promised replacement devices, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said U.S. customers would be eligible for refunds if they choose. Replacements are expected in stores by next Wednesday.

The Note 7 debuted to rave reviews in August thanks to its speed, new software features and -- not least -- the estimated nine hours it would run between charges. But all that power comes at a price: Users began reporting the phones were catching fire or exploding, in one case incinerating the SUV it had been left in.

Aviation authorities in the U.S., Australia and Europe have urged passengers not to use or charge Note 7s while flying and not to put them in checked baggage. On Monday, Canada issued an official recall.

Koh Dong-jin, Samsung's mobile president, said in announcing the recall on Sept. 2 that an investigation turned up a "tiny error" in the manufacturing process for the faulty batteries in the Note 7s that was very difficult to identify. The end of the pouch-shaped battery cell had some flaws that increased the chance of stress or overheating,...

Comments are closed.