Samsung, the maker of the Galaxy Note 7 cell phone, has officially decided to recall all 1 million sold models of the phone due to their tendency to catch fire.
Here's the scenario: you lay down with your partner and your world's cutest Yorkie, ready to watch American Horror Story and pass out. It's been a long day. Before you snuggle up, you plug in your phone to charge, leaving it on the nightstand as always. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, you wake up to the loud screeching of your smoke detector. Your dog is barking like crazy. Looking over, you see the night stand is engulfed in flames. The wooden table has caught fire after your cell phone randomly ignited in a hot lump of molten plastic and 500-degree flames.
This—or a similar experience involving a car, pocket, or hotel room—has been the experience of over a hundred users as the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phone battery has failed, causing them to ignite.
Now, after a series of attempted fixes, Samsung has decided to officially discontinue their manufacture and recall every model sold. In the manufacturing world, this is a big deal. And for the consumers with ticking bombs in their back pockets, it is for them too.
What lead to the Note 7 issues?
In September, initial reports began coming in from around the world of battery failures and fires with the Galaxy Note 7. This included nearly 100 cases in the U.S., as well as reports in Canada, Europe, and Asia. Samsung and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a complete official recall of all Galaxy Note 7 in the U.S among other countries. The plan was to recall the defective phones and issue customers a replacement. That is not exactly what happened.
A few weeks later, as Samsung was issuing hundreds of thousands new “safe” models, reports began again claiming the same exact issue. The replacement phones were catching fire, exactly like the phones they intended to replace.
Last week, on October 10th, Samsung announced that it would be completely discontinuing sales of the phone globally. To remedy the situation, they offered customers the option to return their Galaxy Note 7 to where they bought it for a full refund.
On October 13th, Samsung officially canceled all production and sale of the phone, basically deciding to give up on the idea of the model altogether. U.S. authorities then issued a second recall banning sales of the Note 7 and forbidding airline passengers from bringing the phone onboard.
Samsung's website states the following about returning the phone:Under the terms of the U.S. Note7 Refund and Exchange Program, you have the following choices and can take these next steps beginning October 13, 2016, at 3pm ET:
- Exchange your current Galaxy Note7 for another Samsung smartphone and replacement of any Galaxy Note7 specific accessories with a refund of the price difference between devices
- Obtain a refund at your point of purchase
Why are the phone catching fire?
The reason Galaxy Note 7s are overheating and catching is fire is actually pretty well understood by science. It all has to do with the lithium-ion batteries and their size.
Similar to the infamous exploding hoverboards, phones use these batteries for a large amount of power in a small space. Consumers demand a smaller, thinner cellphone. Or a hoverboard that can run for hours on just one charge. To do this, lithium-ion batteries must be energy dense, and often in a space too small to have the safety features a bigger battery might have.
The liquid that comprises the battery happens to be highly flammable. If the battery short-circuits, like from a puncture when dropped which is an issue for all smartphones, the electricity begins to heat the volatile liquid. If the liquid heats up quickly enough, the battery can explode.
With the Galaxy Note 7, there is an issue with the way the phone charges. According to a Forbes article, this is how the majority of issues with the phone have occurred.
In a smartphone, the battery management system monitors the electrical current while charging, eventually ‘telling' the phone to stop charging once it is full. If this does not happen, the phone can become overcharged. This means it will just continue to be pumped with electricity, heating the battery and liquid up more and more, until…boom.
Phones don't contain the type of safety features that would normally cool batteries, like fans or a liquid cooling mechanism. This is because consumers demand smaller, thinner phones, and thus smaller, thinner batteries. To do this, they must take out these features.
As one can guess, they have done a pretty good job at this. I'm sure most people can agree, their own phone is pretty small; and with billions made, only a minor amount have turned campfire.
Can any smartphone explode?
The Galaxy Note 7 certainly isn't the first phone to catch on fire. It also isn't the first major recall of a smartphone. In 2009, the then-biggest phone manufacturer in the world, Nokia, recalled 46 million phone batteries that were at risk of short-circuiting.
IPhones have been known to explode also, with stories of people catching fire when their phone impacted a hard surface or was left in the car for too long.
Other Samsung phones have also burst into flames, like the Galaxy Core which was recently reported to burst into flames and possibly burned a child.
It has been known for at least a decade now that lithium-ion batteries pose a fire risk. However, phone manufacturers continue to use the flammable components because of the demand for smaller and lighter phones. Lithium-ion batteries pack a punch, for better or for worse.
Is my phone really dangerous?
Statistically, no, your phone is not that dangerous. According to the PEW Research Center, nearly 2/3 of Americans own a smartphone device and nearly similar numbers for most developed countries. With only a few hundred cases reported, maybe a few thousand events, the chances of your phone just bursting into flames randomly is slim
However, with that said, I would not continue to use a Galaxy Note 7 for sure. Other phones have caught fire and they have injured people. Exploding phones have even allegedly killed some people.
But I wouldn't chuck my phone out the window just yet.
Instead, try to be safe with your phone by:
- Only charging your phone when it is dead.
- Not overcharging your phone by unplugging it when it is full.
- Do not keep your phone in your pocket when doing extraneous activities, like mountain biking.
- Do not leave your phone in a hot car.
- Do not leave your phone directly in the sun, like in a window sill or on the back porch.
- Do not leave your young child unattended with a smartphone, that way you can act if anything were to happen.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA is an experienced product liability attorney in the Clearwater-Tampa area. We have successfully represented many clients who were injured because of a failed, defective, or mislabeled product.
If you or a loved one has been injured in this way, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. Consulting with an attorney, especially for free, is a great way to understand your options and possible next steps.
Although exploding cell phones are rare, defective products are not. So if you need our help, or if you are unsure if you need our help, contact us today at (727) 451-6900.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765