Samsung Galaxy Note 7 update to stop phones from charging to keep them from blowing up

The company is worried that people are ignoring its global recall – and so will stunt the batteries of anyone who hasn’t yet sent them in

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 14 September 2016 10:02 BST

Samsung is to stop its recalled Galaxy Note 7 phones from charging all the way to try and stop them from blowing up.

The company last week announced that it would be conducting a global recall on the smartphone. That came after reports that the phone seemed sometimes to overheat while it was charging and then explode – which has reportedly led to cars bursting into flames and phones combusting in people’s hands.

But Samsung is now worried that not everybody is aware or willing to take part in the global recall. As such, it is sending out a new update to try and make the batteries slightly more safe.

That will stop the phones from charging any further than 60 per cent. Once the update is pushed out to users it will allow them to charge up to 60 per cent and then stop – an attempt to stop the overheating.

The front page of the Seoul Shinmun, a South Korean newspaper, featured an advert from Samsung alerting them to the software update.

"It is a measure to put consumer safety first but we apologize for causing inconvenience," the advertisement said. It told users that the update would be coming on 20 September.

It’s unclear when the update will be pushed out to phones in other countries apart from South Korea. It’s also not clear how exactly it will be pushed out – whether people will be aware that their phones have been updated or whether they will have any choice in the matter.

Samsung plans to begin issuing new Note 7s with batteries it says will not be prone to overheating starting Sept. 19 in South Korea. It recalled 2.5 million of the devices just two weeks after their launch after dozens of cases in which batteries exploded or caught fire. Samsung says the problem stems from a manufacturing glitch in the batteries.

Samsung is the world's largest smartphone maker, and analysts said the recall may leave a larger impact on its brand than earlier estimated. Aviation regulators and airlines have deemed the Note 7 a flight hazard and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering an official product recall.

The company has urged consumers to immediately turn off the phones and get them replaced with the new Note 7.

But implementing such a large-scale recall is a challenge. Consumers have to visit Samsung service centers or retailers twice — once to get a replacement phone — not a Galaxy Note 7 — and have a safety check of their existing Note 7, and a second time to get a new Note 7. South Koreans are traveling for one of the two biggest national holidays of the year starting Wednesday, which complicates the recall plan.

Samsung offered free pizza as an apology to workers at mobile carrier shops who have been handling the unprecedented recall. Some will work during the holidays this week as Samsung plans to keep its service centers open.

Lee In-tae, an employee at a SK Telecom shop in central Seoul, said two pizzas were delivered to the shop during lunchtime on Tuesday with a letter from Samsung that included an apology for causing inconvenience with the recall. South Korean media said Samsung gave free pizzas to all employees at local handset shops and mobile carriers.

"We ate the pizza among a few of us," Lee said by phone. He and his co-workers have been handling complaints from Note 7 consumers. "We have to do all the recalls here, do all the work and listen to all the bad things. But it feels like (Samsung) is trying to make up for it with that," he said, referring to the pizza.

Samsung did not answer emails and calls seeking comment on Tuesday. Offices were closed in South Korea on Wednesday for the holiday.

The software update appears to be a last-ditch effort to contain the crisis.

Samsung "has to contain the battery explosions but people are not returning the phones," said Peter Yu, an analyst at BNP Paribas. "It is taking a desperate measure."

Keeping the battery level low could reduce the risk of overheating, but would be equivalent to getting a downgrade of a top-of-the-line phone, said Kim Young Woo, an analyst at SK Securities. The Galaxy Note series are among the most expensive handsets made by Samsung.

"It means that the phone has not been optimized before the release," Kim said.

Canada issued a recall notice on Monday.

The company did not say how many more battery fires in the Note 7 have been reported since Sept. 1, when 35 cases were confirmed. In announcing its recall, the Canadian government said one case was confirmed in Canada while Samsung received more than 70 reported cases in the United States alone.

Additional reporting by agencies

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