“Whatever the reason for the batteries exploding, if you have a Samsung Galaxy Note7, you should send it back immediately”The one news that has set the tech world on fire, quite literally if we must add, is the fact that a few Samsung Galaxy Note7 phones have burst into flames. Incidents across the globe have held the Galaxy Note7 responsible for a burning jeep, causing damage to a hotel room, and even setting a house on fire… among other incidents. Unfortunately for Samsung, the whole issue has raised its ugly head at the time when Apple has just launched the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus.
If just like us, you were wondering what is happening with the Galaxy Note7 and the reasons behind the battery issue, don’t worry… we have you covered. Keep reading.
The story so far
Well, most importantly, the batteries inside the Galaxy Note7 are exploding making the phone unsafe for use. As per the latest information trickling in at the time of writing this feature, Samsung has officially confirmed to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) that it received 92 reports of the batteries overheating in the U.S., including 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage, including fires in cars and a garage. This is just in the U.S. However, sporadic incidents of the Galaxy Note7 exploding have been reported across the globe: exactly 17 in Korea, one in Taiwan, and two in Australia as per CNET’s reports. Samsung has officially recalled all the units sold in the U.S. till date.
Image credit: Crushader / RedditThe situation is so dire that even the Federal Aviation Administration in the U.S. and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in India, have both, banned the use of the Galaxy Note7 inside flights citing it as a risk. In fact, airlines from India like Spicejet and Indigo are advising Galaxy Note7 users to keep their phones at home when flying.
Why are these batteries exploding?
Before we look at the critical analysis of why the batteries inside the Samsung Galaxy Note7 are exploding, let’s take a look at what Samsung has to say. The company explained on its UK website, “Based on our investigation, we learned that there was an issue with the battery cell. An overheating of the battery cell occurred when the anode-to-cathode came into contact which is a very rare manufacturing process error.” Obviously, this explanation does not clearly explain what exactly happened.
While we don’t have clear answers yet, there are many experts who have weighed in with their opinions. We will get to that in a bit. Firstly, one should know that the Galaxy Note7 has a 3,500mAh battery. The batteries are made by two companies: Samsung’s very own affiliate SDI supplies 70 percent of batteries and the rest 30 is source from the Chinese company ATL. It was widely reported that the exploding batteries were made by SDI, forcing Samsung to stop sourcing any more batteries for the Note7 from the company.
Image credit: Fox10Phoenix
Now, the 3,500Ah battery is of the Lithium ion (Li-ion) kind, used by most smartphones out there. Let’s take a small trip down memory lane back to when you were in class 9th. Li-ion batteries, like most batteries (including your AA batteries inside television remotes) consist of three parts: the anode, the cathode, and the electrolyte chemical (generally a liquid chemical). Does cathode-anode electrolysis ring a bell? Well, Li-ion batteries also work on the same principle.
The anode and cathode are the electric terminals or electrodes; the anode holds negatively charged ions and the cathode holds positively charged ions. In the Note7’s 3,500mAh Li-ion battery, the cathode and anode are technically inside the electrolyte itself but they are separated by a small plastic strip – or the insulation tape in this case. How does the battery work? When the phone is being charged, the charge is pushed from the cathode to the anode using the ions that work as carriers for the charge.
The batteries explode when the insulation tape, plastic strip, or separator is ruptured and a short circuit occurs. This is a huge fire hazard. Now, let’s put two and two together. Essentially, when Samsung mentioned that anode-to-cathode came into contact due to a rare manufacturing defect. It means that the insulation tape ruptured because it was defective.
It should be noted that these Li-ion battery explosions are not limited to smartphones in general or the Note7 in particular. In fact, a Li-ion battery malfunction actually set the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft on fire.
What is Samsung’s solution for the exploding batteries?
Apart from returning the Note7 to the company, Samsung also issued a firmware update to all the Note7 phones in Korea which limited the batteries from charging only up to 60 percent of its maximum capacity.
What is our analysis on Samsung’s actions post the reports?
Well honestly, we are glad that Samsung has taken swift action and acknowledged that the Galaxy Note7’s battery is actually flawed. Having said that, we are unsure if the company will be able to convince the buyers to buy the next batch of Galaxy Note7 smartphones with different batteries, especially considering Apple has just launched the iPhone 7.
We might just be right with that assessment, because if you have noticed Samsung’s advertisement strategies lately you will see that the company has been pushing the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge with a renewed vigour through whatever medium possible; newspapers, YouTube, hoardings…you name it. Moreover, there are rumours doing the rounds that Samsung might just prepone the launch of the Galaxy S8 a little earlier to ensure that people forget about the Galaxy Note7’s exploding batteries debacle soon.
All said and done, note that battery failures are extremely rare and they typically have a failure rate of one in tens of millions. Which is why the Note7 fiasco should be taken seriously and therefore the safest thing to do right now is to return to the Galaxy Note7 to Samsung. Right now!