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Samsung Electronics

Samsung halts sales of Galaxy Note 7 smartphone over exploding battery risk

South Korean electronics giant announces what amounts to its first global product recall, and says it is aware of 35 cases of the phones catching fire while charging. China, Hong Kong unaffected

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 September, 2016, 10:48am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2016, 1:04pm

Samsung suspended sales of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone on Friday, just two weeks after the flagship phone’s launch, after finding batteries of some of the gadgets exploded while they were charging.

Koh Dong-jin, president of Samsung’s mobile business, said customers who had already bought Note 7s would be able to swap them for new smartphones, regardless of when they purchased them.

Samsung is issuing what amounts to its first global recall of a product because it has not found ways to specify exactly which variants of the smartphone may endanger users.

Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 – sexy, stylish and feature-laden but with questionable battery life

Note 7s are being pulled from shelves in 10 countries, including South Korea and the United States.

China, where the Note 7 went on sale on Thursday, is not affected by the sales suspension. The company said it used a battery made by another supplier for the Note 7 sold in China. The Hong Kong launch of the smartphone went ahead on Friday.

Koh said the company’s investigation found that a battery cell made by one of its two battery suppliers caused the phone to catch fire. He refused to name the battery supplier.

“There was a tiny problem in the manufacturing process so it was very difficult to find out,” Koh said at a news conference.

Some buyers reported their phones caught fire or exploded while charging, sharing the photos of scorched phones on social media. Samsung said it had confirmed 35 such cases in South Korea and overseas. There have been no reports of injuries related to the problem.

Samsung said it has sold more than a million Note 7 smartphones since the product’s August 19 launch. It has manufactured about 2.5 million Note 7 phones so far, some of them still in inventory. Koh said they would also be returned and swapped with new ones.

The company estimated that it would take about two weeks to begin swapping old Note 7s for new phones.

Shipments of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone were delayed in South Korea earlier this week for extra quality control testing following reports of batteries exploding.

Citing an unnamed company official, South Korea’s Yonhap News, citing an unnamed company official, earlier reported that the number of Galaxy Note 7 phones with a faulty battery accounted for “less than 0.1 per cent” of the products in the market.

The battery issue is a fresh blow to Samsung’s smartphone business, which has been on a recovery track. Samsung reported stellar earnings that beat market expectations in the latest quarter and its stock price was at a record high before the Note 7’s battery problems dented investor sentiment.

Samsung’s share rose 0.8 per cent in early trading on Friday. The stock closed 2 per cent lower in the previous session.

Yonhap cited pictures of severely damaged phones shared in local online communities, social media and YouTube. The photos and accounts could not be immediately verified.

It is unusual for Samsung to confirm a delay in sales of a device, and rare for it to cite a quality issue.

“Every year, there have been ... battery explosions but it is the first time that six or seven cases happened within such a short period after the launch of a new product,” said Ha Joon-doo, an analyst at Shinhan Investment Corp. He was speaking before Samsung announced it was aware of 35 cases of Note 7s catching fire.

The Galaxy Note 7 smartphone is the latest iteration of Samsung’s Note series, which features a giant screen and a stylus. The Note smartphones are among the most expensive released by Samsung and usually inherit designs and features of the Galaxy S series. Samsung also added an iris scanner to the Note 7, which lets users unlock the phone by detecting patterns in the eyes.

Samsung launched the Note 7 on August 19 in some markets. Even before the issue of battery explosions emerged, supplies were not keeping up with higher-than-expected demand for the smartphone.