Samsung's global recall of its Galaxy Note7 smartphones, which have experienced at least 35 cases of battery fires or explosions, is proceeding, but in the meantime the company is pushing out a software update that will limit Note7 battery charging to 60 percent of a full charge to prevent further fire incidents.
The Samsung Note7 software update was revealed in a Sept. 13 story by The Associated Press, which noted that the battery charge limits are intended to prevent overheating of the batteries. Samsung notified users of the software update through a front page ad in a South Korean newspaper, the story reported.
"It is a measure to put consumer safety first but we apologize for causing inconvenience," the ad stated, according to AP. South Korean customers will get the software update starting Sept. 20, the ad continued.
No details were provided about when customers in other countries such as the United States would begin receiving the software update, the story said. "[Korea's] Yonhap News Agency reported that Samsung is in talks with global mobile carriers to deliver the same update to keep battery power at 60 percent or below at all times."
Samsung is in the midst of talks with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to create plans and procedures for a formal recall of Samsung's recently unveiled Note7 smartphones, which have been the source of fires affecting some devices that began shortly after their late August release, according to a previous eWEEK story. Earlier in September, Samsung announced that it is voluntarily recalling and replacing the handsets for users. The CPSC is working to establish a formal recall procedure to ensure that the replacement units being offered by Samsung are safe and don't include the same defect that is causing the devices' battery fires.
The agency is advising consumers who have the Note7 phones to power them down and not use them until replacement units are distributed. "Lithium-ion batteries pack a lot of power into a small package," the agency said in its statement. "When these batteries overheat and burst, the results can be serious. This is why the CPSC is urging all consumers who own a Samsung Galaxy Note7 to power them down and stop charging or using the device."
Reports of fires involving the Note7 have occurred while charging and during normal use, the agency said.
About 35 reports of battery and device fires were originally reported with Note7 phones around the world when Samsung announced its recall earlier in September. The company said the problem is related to a "battery cell issue" that occurred during the manufacturing of the batteries that can only be fixed by replacing the phones with new units and new batteries.
Under Samsung's recall, the company is offering to replace Note7 phones with a new Note7 that includes an unflawed battery (pending CPSC approval) or to exchange it for a new Samsung Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge smartphone, along with the replacement or refund of any Note7-specific accessories. Select carrier and retail outlets will also provide customers with a Samsung loaner phone to use until a new Note7 handset is available if they choose to wait for a new Note7.
For more information, Galaxy Note7 owners can contact or visit the retail outlet where they purchased their device or call 1-800-SAMSUNG to set up a product exchange and to resolve any other questions or concerns, said Samsung.
The Galaxy Note7 smartphones went on sale Aug. 19 in the United States and are the company's premier flagship handsets, incorporating a 5.7-inch quad HD dual-edge Super AMOLED touch-screen display and a pen stylus that lets users add drawings and handwritten text to images, documents and more. When reports of battery fires in some Note7 devices began coming in, the company voluntarily halted sales and shipments of the phones around the world.
Some 2.5 million Note7 handsets are affected by the recalls.
The reports of the Note7 battery fires come at a precarious time for Samsung. Earnings at the world's largest smartphone maker have been under pressure in the last several years as it battles successful global sales challenges from rival smartphone makers, including Apple and Chinese upstarts, such as Huawei.
In July, the company reported some good news for the second quarter—its highest quarterly operating profit in two years, coming in at $7.19 billion (8.14 trillion Korean Won, KRW). That was an 18 percent increase from 6.9 trillion KRW posted a year earlier and the highest quarterly operating profit posted by the company since it brought in 8.49 trillion KRW in the first quarter of 2014.