I think it’s fair to say that Samsung have been having quite a few “problems” recently. The initial reports of Galaxy Note7 handsets going up in smoke were one thing, but then when replacements started to do the same, Samsung canned the phone completely.
What has to be asked now is .. why?
In response to recently reported cases of the new Galaxy Note7, we conducted a thorough investigation and found a battery cell issue.
Fine. Dodgy batteries. I’m sure those of us who’ve bought “cheap” replacement batteries off eBay will know about that. It’s fair enough.
So, people started getting brand new replacement handsets with a new green battery symbol to signify that the handsets had been thoroughly checked and were completely safe. However, as you can see from this local news report which actually captures an explosion, the phones kept on going boom banga-bang…
The above is taken from home surveillance video as the owner, who’d just woke up, walked into the living room. A thick green smoke came out of the device and it had to be taken outside in a saucepan. This was a supposedly safe replacement phone.
The New York Times reports now that the Samsung engineers may have taken a “best guess” approach due to the urgency of the situation. Could it really be that Samsung rushed? That they couldn’t reproduce it and decided to go with a statistical observation instead?
When several Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones spontaneously exploded in August, the South Korean company went into overdrive. It urged hundreds of employees to quickly diagnose the problem.
None were able to get a phone to explode. Samsung’s engineers, on a tight deadline, initially concluded the defect was caused by faulty batteries from one of the company’s suppliers. Samsung, which announced a recall of the Note 7 devices in September, decided to continue shipping new Galaxy Note 7s containing batteries from a different supplier.
What happened was that Samsung initially connected the explosions only to those batteries produced by their affiliate company – Samsung SDI. Some 70% of the Galaxy Note7 batteries came from here, with the remainder coming from a company called Amperex Technology. They took the decision to issue replacements only using Amperex Technology batteries, but the results quickly became apparent. Replacement handsets with those Amperex Technology batteries continued to heat up and smoke started billowing out. Phones started emitting smoke on flights and then airlines started confiscating them from passengers. Samsung had to act, and they did – killing the entire product earlier this week.
The decision just to swap the batteries out was a huge, huge mistake. Instead of recalling all the phones and giving customers their money back, there was an eagerness to get the Galaxy Note7 back out there. Looking back now, it should’ve been diagnosed properly without so much haste.
It begs the question though – if it wasn’t the batteries, what else was it? Was the super-fast charging technology too much or was it something else? Reports now suggest that it could be tweaks make to the CPU. An “unnamed source” spoke to EE Times ..
Problems with the phone appear to have arisen from tweaks to the processor to speed up the rate at which the phone could be charged.
If you try to charge the battery too quickly it can make it more volatile. If you push an engine too hard, it will explode. Something had to give.
It brings the balance between speedy charging and battery life into sharp focus. None of us are happy with smartphone battery life. It’s pretty terrible. We’ll get a day or two if we’re lucky, so manufacturers are trying to come up with ways to make the phones charge more quickly. It means that you’re shackled to a charger for less time. However, in that pursuit of slender batteries with speedy charging and high output, Samsung have just learnt a very expensive lesson indeed.