Throughout the Samsung Galaxy Note7's worldwide safety recall and subsequent discontinuation, the South Korean conglomerate remained pretty tight-lipped about what caused the issue. We knew that overheating batteries were to blame, but a thorough explanation was not forthcoming. Today, following months of extensive instigation, Samsung has finally come clean. Here is its explanation.
Here is the official statement from Samsung (emphasis ours):
Throughout the last several months, Samsung has invested all of our efforts and substantial resources to finding the cause of the Galaxy Note7 incidents. Our investigation examined every aspect of the Galaxy Note7 including hardware and software, and related processes, such as assembly, quality assurance testing, and logistics. Through a large-scale testing facility where approximately 700 Samsung researchers and engineers replicated the incidents by testing more than 200,000 fully-assembled devices and more than 30,000 batteries, Samsung finally concluded the cause of the issues.
In addition to our own investigation into these incidents, we also retained independent industry expert organizations, including UL, Exponent and TUV Rheinland, to provide objective, unbiased analysis. Our investigation, as well as the investigations completed by three independent industry organizations, concluded that the batteries were found to be the cause of the Note7 incidents. Nonetheless, we provided the target for the battery specifications for the innovative Note7, and we are taking responsibility for our failure to ultimately identify and verify the issues arising out of battery design and manufacturing process prior to the launch of the Note7.
So what actually caused the battery to malfunction? Samsung's president of mobile business, DJ Koh, explained that the fault lay in the battery cells due to their higher energy density and thinner construction.
Specifically "incorrect positioning of the negative electrode tip" in the first batch of batteries and "melted copper on negative electrode" on the replacement batteries led to an internal short circuit which in come cases caused the phone to burst into flames.
In other words, the Note7 was plagued with two separate battery faults that eventually forced the company to permanently discontinue the device. Tough break.
Here's a detailed breakdown of how the original events unfolded:
- August 3, 2016: The Galaxy Note7 was announced globally at an event in New York.
- August 5, 2016: the Galaxy Note7 pre orders commenced in Australia.
- August 19, 2016: the Galaxy Note7 went on retail sale to customers in Australia.
- September 5, 2016: Samsung Australia took the proactive and voluntary step to recall Galaxy Note7 smartphones in Australia. The recall was in response to an announcement by Samsung Electronics regarding issues with the Galaxy Note7.
- Upon announcement of the initial recall on September 5, Samsung Australia began working with operator and retail partners to implement a replacement Galaxy Note7 strategy as well as offer customers the option of an exchange –including to a Galaxy S7 or S7 edge (plus a refund for the difference in any outright purchase price) - or full refund for their Galaxy Note7 (where purchased outright). As an apology and to thank our loyal customers, we provided a partner specific offer to the value of $250 until late December 2016.
- September 21, 2016: released a software update to cap the maximum battery charge of all original Galaxy Note7 devices purchased in Australia before September 5, to 60 per cent.
- October 12, 2016: the recall in Australia was extended to include Galaxy Note7 devices that were issued as replacement smartphones for the original Galaxy Note7.
- November 3, 2016: Samsung Australia announced it would also deploy a software update to replacement Galaxy Note7 devices to cap the maximum battery charge to 60 per cent.
- December 1, 2016: Samsung Australia announced it was working with local telecommunications operators to discontinue Australian network services for Galaxy Note7 devices that were still being used in Australia. The discontinuation commenced from December 15.
- December 15, 2016: Australian network services for Galaxy Note7 devices were discontinued.
- January 13, 2017: Samsung Australia confirmed more than 95 per cent of Galaxy Note7 devices had been returned by customers to their original place of purchase. This exceeds the average Australian recall result of 56%i of product return.
- January 23, 2017: DJ Koh, President of Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics, hosted a press conference to release the findings of the Galaxy Note7 investigation.
Samsung ended its press conference with the promise that it has taken corrective actions to "ensure this never happens again". This includes the implementation of a multi-layer safety measures protocol at the product planning stage, and a more rigorous battery safety check prior to mass manufacture.
"We look forward to moving ahead with a renewed commitment to safety. The lessons of the past several months are now deeply reflected in our processes and in our culture," Koh concluded. For what it's worth, we think Samsung handled the Note7 fiasco with transparency and due duty of care. Hopefully the upcoming Galaxy S8 will be a return to form.