Samsung Turns Adversity into Opportunity Explaining the Note 7 Fiasco

After launching the Galaxy Note 7 to a record preorder and sales in August, the rise and fame were only short lived for Samsung. The Note 7 explosions led Samsung to issue a complete recall of the sold smartphones. By October 2016, Samsung had recalled around 2 million devices and discontinued the product completely. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 explosions remained quite a mystery until Samsung officially announced the real reason behind the mishap on Monday.

However, the reason isn’t quite too far from what all of us deemed would be the culprit. Faulty batteries.  Samsung Electronics announced that the Galaxy Note 7 explosions were because of the problems with the design and manufacturing of batteries.

Samsung had a goal to recall 100% of the devices and has managed to reach a global return rate of 96%.

Tim Baxter, CEO, and president of Samsung Electronics America, Inc., referred to it as of the first digital recalls. Samsung sent text messages and emails to communicate the recall. Also, Samsung increased the volume and speed of returned units. It worked with telecom carriers to issue a software update that would disable the Galaxy Note 7’s charging abilities so people couldn’t use it.  Following the Note 7 explosions, the Department of Transportation (DOT) banned the Note 7 on airplanes. Therefore, Samsung sent teams of employees to airports to help consumers and collect the phones.

burnt note 7 phone

A burnt Galaxy Note 7.

Samsung had to identify the root cause of the Note 7 explosions to regain trust in the brand. In a press conference held on Sunday night in Korea, Samsung announced the official results of a months-long investigation into what went wrong with the Galaxy Note 7.

Samsung built a test lab to find  the root cause of the Note 7 explosions

Following the recall, in an attempt to find explanations for the Note 7 explosions, Samsung built a new test lab. Seven-hundred researchers tested a total of 200,000 devices and 30,000 batteries attempting to replicate the damage.They tested the whole device, including areas such as the role of wired and wireless charging as well as fast and normal charging. It also tested the water resistance, with and without the back cover.

Samsung also put to test other device features such as the USB-C charger and Iris scanner. It also checked software and algorithms tied to wireless charging and the effect of third-party applications.

Additionally, Samsung worked with three independent third party test labs – UL, Exponent, and TUVRheinland – to assess issues across software, hardware, manufacturing, logistics, and handling. Both Samsung and the independent labs revealed findings concluding to the same results.

What happened?

Batteries from two different manufacturers had flaws. The principal cause of the first manufacturer’s battery (Battery A) problem was negative electrode deflections. The second manufacturer’s battery (Battery B) was affected by abnormal ultrasonic welding burrs. Although the battery types had different faults, the result was the same. A small subset of batteries could overheat and potentially catch fire.

What has been clarified is that the desire for thinner phones with longer lasting batteries is the main culprit here.

Turning the table around

Samsung has created a battery advisory group and designed an 8-point battery safety check.

The battery advisory group includes leaders from various universities and specialized consultants. The members of Battery Advisory Group include: Clare Grey, a professor of chemistry at the University of Cambridge; Gerbrand Ceder, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at UC Berkeley; Yi Cui, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford; and Toru Amazutsumi, CEO of Amaz Techno.

Samsung has come up with a new quality assurance process that both Samsung and its component manufacturers must follow. It has implemented a multi-layer safety measures protocol at the product planning and a new 8-point battery safety check system. This system includes:

  1. Durability Test – enhanced battery testing, including overcharging tests, nail puncture tests and extreme temperature stress tests.
  2. Visual Inspection – visually inspects each battery under the guideline of standardized and objective criteria.
  3. X-Ray Test – use X-ray to see the inside of the battery for any abnormalities. Such as a deflection of the electrode, which was one of the causes of Note 7 explosions.
  4. Disassembling Test – Disassembling the battery cell to perform a detailed check of the overall quality, including the battery tab welding and insulation tape conditions, which was a cause of the Note 7 explosions.
  5. TVOC Test – test to make sure there isn’t the slightest possibility of leakage of the volatile organic compound.
  6. ΔOCV Test – check for any change in voltage throughout the manufacturing process from component level to assembled device.
  7. Charge and Discharge Test – batteries undergo a large-scale charging and discharging test, initiated with the investigation of the Note 7 explosions.
  8. Accelerated Usage Test – intensive test simulating accelerated consumer usage scenarios.. 2 weeks of real-life consumer usability scenarios, shortened to a five-day test period.

Why is it an opportunity you may ask? All this work surely amounts to some great results for both Samsung and the consumers. Having a clarification to the Note 7 explosions makes it much better for Samsung and us. Given the new testing systems and advisory board, Samsung phones will now be rigorously tested–both software and hardware–for defects and bugs. So we the consumers can now rest peacefully that Samsung phones will not pose any threat to our physical well-being.

Samsung went through a tough time but took full responsibility for its actions. Samsung underwent three months of rigorous work to be able to correctly explain the problems. It even came up with a solution, one that will tremendously impact the smartphone industry.

And now the world eagerly and patiently awaits for the next big smartphone from Samsung–a better, safer and very innovative–the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.



Featured Image Credit: Gizmodo Australia

Burnt Note 7 Image Credit: Andrew Zuis (KSTP)