Rash of Battery Fires Prompts Unprecedented Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Recall

This is not a good look.

Sep 2 2016, 1:11pm

A built-in stylus is one of the Note 7's key features. Image: Samsung

Everything had been going so well for Samsung, and then this happens.

The South Korean giant has been forced into the unprecedented action of a massive recall of its latest flagship smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7, following multiple reports of its battery catching fire. Samsung has not said how much the recall will cost, but the head of the company's mobile division, Koh Dong-jin, said at a Friday press conference in Seoul that the cost is expected to be so large that it "almost breaks my heart."

While it's expected that customers who've already bought a Note 7 will be able to simply exchange their unit for a new one within the next few weeks, the exact details of this exchange are expected to be released by individual wireless carriers as soon as later today. New sales of the device are expected to resume in about two weeks, Samsung has said.

While US wireless carriers have yet to make any public statements on the matter, Samsung has advised current owners who are concerned about the safety of their device to contact an official service center.

The Note 7 was released in 10 countries (including the US) on August 19, and had earned plaudits from both mainstream and enthusiast publications, with reviews focusing on its crisp, 5.7-inch display, waterproofing, and built-in iris scanner that's used to unlock the phone. In just one example, the Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern simply called it "the best Android phone I've ever tested." The phone had become difficult to find in recent days, with no Verizon stores in Midtown Manhattan having any stock earlier this week when I tried to buy one, and shipping times from the Verizon website extending into mid-September.

So far, Samsung said that it's aware of 35 incidents worldwide where the Note 7's battery caught fire, with photos and videos of destroyed devices quickly spreading on social media in the past few days. To put that into perspective, the company had sold more than 2.5 million units prior to today's recall.

Timing-wise, this could not be worse for Samsung, with Apple widely expected to announce its latest version of the iPhone at an event in San Francisco next week (which Motherboard will be attending live). LG, Samsung's main South Korean smartphone competitor, is also expected to announce its latest flagship device, the V20, next week.