Mobile

End of the line: Galaxy Note 7 to be disabled in the U.S. starting December 19

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 is dead. Samsung has not only halted sales of the device “over concerns about the smartphone’s safety,” but it has also warned users that they should power down their phones. The company and the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission have issued a second recall for all Note 7 devices, including the replacements. Not only that, but as of December 19 the company is officially disabling the phone through a software update.

This spells the end for the phone — and a serious logistical nightmare for Samsung. The company’s challenge now is to get consumers to return the device a second time. You can get $100 in bill credits if you exchange your phone for another Samsung device, but you’ll only get $25 if you exchange it for a device from another brand.

A company spokeswoman told Digital Trends that as of November 4, nearly 85 percent of Galaxy Note 7 devices had been replaced through the company’s exchange program, with the majority of customers opting to receive another Samsung smartphone. “We remain focused on collecting the outstanding Galaxy Note 7 phones in the market,” she said.

To encourage the remaining holdouts to return or replace their smartphones, Samsung said it would issue a software update that would limit the Note 7’s ability to charge and issue a pop-up reminder every time the phone’s rebooted, switched off, or plugged into a charger. “Any Galaxy Note7 owner who has not yet participated in the U.S. Note 7 Refund and Exchange Program should immediately power down their phone and contact their carrier or retailer today,” the spokesperson added.

Samsung’s mobile chief, Dongjin Koh, has apologized for the Note 7 debacle, pledging to “find the exact cause to restore trust of consumers so that they can use Samsung products without any safety concerns,” according to the Korea Herald. Reports suggest Samsung higher-ups could dethrone him from his post.

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Here’s what you need to know.

Samsung is disabling the Galaxy Note 7 starting on December 19:

Samsung has confirmed that it will be officially disabling the phone — meaning that it won’t be able to perform as a phone — starting on December 19. That will happen for all Galaxy Note 7 handsets, and the update will begin rolling out on December 19. In other words, if you haven’t already turned in your device, now is the time to do so. While some people seem intent on holding on to their Galaxy Note 7 as long as possible, Samsung is intent on ensuring that as many devices as possible are turned in.

“To further increase participation, a software update will be released starting on December 19 that will prevent U.S. Galaxy Note7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices,” says Samsung in a statement. “If you have not yet returned your device, you should immediately power it down and contact your carrier to obtain a refund or exchange.

The company goes on to add that it’s working with carriers in the U.S. to notify customers at “multiple touchpoints” that they should return their Galaxy Note 7. Thankfully, all financial incentives included in the exchange program are still available to all Galaxy Note 7 owners.

There’s no word yet on whether the company will extend the disabling of Galaxy Note 7s to other countries, but it has employed other techniques — for example, in Canada and Australia, the phone is limited to getting a 60 percent charge and network access is disabled.

The following is a list of reported incidents so far, all involving Galaxy Note 7 phones that were replaced:

  • A Kentucky resident suffered lung damage after his phone filled his bedroom with smoke on October 4
  • A Note 7 caught fire on a Southwest Airlines flight on October 5
  • A woman in Taiwan noticed that her phone was emitting smoke in her pocket on October 7
  • A 13-year-old girl in Minnesota suffered a burn on October 7 when her phone became extremely hot under her thumb
  • A Virginia man reported that his Note 7 caught fire on his nightstand and filled his room with smoke on October 9

Following this string of incidents, Samsung issued an official statement saying that it has asked all carriers to stop sales of the phone, and that all Galaxy Note 7 users should power down their phones and either get refunds or replace their device as soon as possible.

“Samsung has received 96 reports of batteries in Note 7 phones overheating in the U.S., including 23 new reports since the September 15 recall announcement,” according to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). “Samsung has received 13 reports of burns and 47 reports of property damage associated with Note 7 phones.”

Before that, an official at a supplier for Samsung told a Korean news agency that production had been temporarily halted. “This measure includes a Samsung plant in Vietnam that is responsible for global shipments,” the official said. The move follows the decision of U.S. carriers AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile to temporarily suspend the phone’s sales.

The crisis began in late August, but reached a head on September 15, when the CPSC, the federal agency charged with overseeing product reports and alerts, issued a formal recall of the more than 1 million Note 7 devices shipped to consumers in the U.S.

Since the recall, Samsung had begun issuing replacement phones. But even those have issues: A replacement phone caught fire aboard a Southwest airlines flight on Oct 5. And on October 7, a woman in Taiwan suffered a scare of her own while walking her dog in a local park when she heard a bang from her jeans pocket. She discovered that her Galaxy Note 7 was emitting smoke. She claims to have replaced her original Samsung device on September 27.

On Friday, 13-year-old Minnesota resident Abby Zuis discovered her replacement Note 7 was no safer than the original. She told local newscasters that she felt a “weird, burning sensation” in her thumb while holding the phone, ultimately suffering a minor burn as a result of the fiery Samsung device.

Most damning is the report that a replacement Galaxy Note 7 caught on fire, and that Samsung knew about it and withheld everything from customers. Kentucky resident Michael Klering told a local news station that he awoke at 4 a.m. on October 4 and realized his new phone had spontaneously combusted and filled his entire bedroom with smoke. Klerig wound up in the hospital with smoke-induced acute bronchitis.

“The phone is supposed to be the replacement, so you would have thought it would be safe,” he told WKYT. “It wasn’t plugged in. It wasn’t anything, it was just sitting there.”

When Klering reported the incident to Samsung, he accidentally received a horrifying text response from a company representative clearly not meant for him:”Just now got this. I can try and slow him down if we think it will matter, or we just let him do what he keeps threatening to do and see if he does it.”

Digital Trends reached out to Klering and we are waiting to hear back.

A fifth replacement Galaxy Note 7 in the U.S. reportedly caught fire over the weekend: Shawn Minter of Virginia reached out to The Verge when his replacement, just over two weeks old, caught fire on his nightstand in the wee hours of the morning.

“My Galaxy Note 7 replacement phone just burst into flames,” Minter said in his emailed statement. “It filled my bedroom with a smoke. The same as the Kentucky man. I woke up in complete panic.”

Under no circumstances should you buy a Galaxy Note 7, or continue using one that you already have.

 

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