Was Samsung’s recall of 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones all for nought?
Yesterday (Oct. 5) passengers aboard a Southwest Airline flight heading from Louisville, Kentucky to Baltimore, Maryland were caught by surprise when one man’s Galaxy Note 7 suddenly started emitting smoke. The kicker? The phone was allegedly part of Samsung’s second batch of Galaxy Note 7 devices, intended to fix the problems that caused the initial batch to explode. The incident calls into question the effectiveness of Samsung’s initial recall.
Southwest Airlines confirmed to Quartz that cabin crew evacuated passengers from the flight after a customer reported smoke coming out from a Samsung electronic device. Samsung told Quartz it could not determine whether the phone in question was a new model or an older one:
Until we are able to retrieve the device, we cannot confirm that this incident involves the new Note7. We are working with the authorities and Southwest now to recover the device and confirm the cause. Once we have examined the device we will have more information to share.
However, the Verge’s correspondence with the phone’s owner suggests the device was indeed a replacement. Photos from the device’s packaging show a black square affixed to the label, and it had a green battery icon which Samsung’s website says are meant to identify replacement phones. The phone’s IMEI number (a unique tag given to smartphones) also indicated that the phone was safe to use.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission says that it is “moving expeditiously to investigate this incident” and is working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Samsng to gather facts.
The explosion raises questions about Samsung’s management of the recall. Initially, the first batch of Galaxy Note 7 devices shipped to all markets except greater China contained potentially faulty batteries made by Samsung SDI, a sister company of Samsung Electronics, which makes mobile devices.
After issuing an official recall coordinated with the CPSC on September 15, Samsung replaced those units with batteries made by Amperex, which had been supplying parts for its Chinese devices. When Chinese consumers complained their own Galaxy Note 7s were exploding, the company argued that that the battery was not to blame, and reassured them they were getting the same batteries as the ones replacing the faulty ones overseas.
Samsung couldn’t confirm to Quartz which supplier manufactured the battery of the device that exploded on the Southwest flight.