The New Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Exploding Smart Phone

Not many of them, but so far at least 35. Here's what it looks like after the fact:

As you may know, I'm not a big fan of Samsung smart phones. The version of the operating system they put on your phone takes a HUGE AMOUNT of your storage space, so you are left with almost nothing. There is no apparent reason for that, and no apparent fix. So, generally, I would NEVER recommend a Samsung smartphone. Also, the company does not stand by their product, at least in some cases. We had to return a Samsung smart phone numerous times, and after realizing that ALL the replacements they were sending us were reconditioned (and broken) begged for a different model. They told us to screw off.

So, for me, this is a bit of schadenfreude vis-a-vis Samsung, but I feel badly for the people who ended up with the exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones.

Here is more info on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 phones that catch fire, and what to do about returning yours to Samsung for a replacement. Don't expect them to actually replace the phone with one that doesn't catch fire. They might, but I personally wouldn't count on it.

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I dropped the Samsung Galaxy line for Google Fi and a Nexus 6P. Best phone I've ever had, and the phone plan has to be experienced to be believed. I'll never go back...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 03 Sep 2016 #permalink

The problem seems to be with the battery, not the phone itself, so Samsung's screwup is with verifying quality control of suppliers. And, to be fair, there have been fewer than 50 exploding phones. Still royally sucks.

The return/exchange problems seem to be carrier related rather than Samsung generated. The last I checked ATT (and maybe T Mobile) had not mentioned at all how they would handle exchanges. Verizon is "kind" enough to waive restocking fees until September 30. And, according to the Verge website, Samsung will provide new Note 7s for those who exchange their old ones.

With all that: I still have my Note 4, which is humming along just fine. Brainstorms' comments about the Nexus 6P and Google FI are encouraging, but I'm not going to do anything until my phone kicks the bucket.

What's funny about this is that the "supplier" for the batteries for Samsung's new flagship phone -- the one that's supposed to rescue the flagging company -- is none other than Samsung itself!! (They have their own battery division.)

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 03 Sep 2016 #permalink

So we should take their battery spec with a grain of salt. A grain of salt, and battery.

"the one that’s supposed to rescue the flagging company — is none other than Samsung itself!! (They have their own battery division.)"

They have contracted with other suppliers for some percentage of the batteries in this phone - I haven't read which source the suspect batteries are from.

It is still Samsung's responsibility, obviously.

The phones that went to China, interestingly, have a battery from a Chinese supplier, not the Samsung battery division. I wonder if that's due to some trade agreement.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 03 Sep 2016 #permalink

Interesting one there, Brainstorms. If the exploding ones are all phones with Chinese batteries, then where does that take us?

May not be the case at all, just conjecture. And I probably sound like a climate change denier. Full disclosure: pretty much a die hard Samsung fan. If it turns out they are to blame, then will accept that particular reality.

By metzomagic (not verified) on 03 Sep 2016 #permalink

No, the irony is that the exploding phones have the Samsung brand battery in them. The Chinese models are not recalled.

This is a screw-up on Samsung's part for not quality-controlling their product. The great irony is that they had full control over the product/process end-to-end. (Samsung likes to make everything in their products. I think it's a Korean "megaconglomerate" mentality.)

This could also be the case of one division not communicating well with the other. Or an improper assumption of "our company does things right, no need to check our other division's work.

However, my personal theory is more sinister (in a way)... And sad, as it reflects on a massive goat-screw on the part of the e-industry: I suspect that the fault may lie not in our Samsung, but in our USB-C products.

The e-industry has not gotten its act together with regards to making USB-C products to specifications. It's becoming a major (if too quiet) scandal. There are many manufacturers/distributors that are marketing USB-C products that don't meet specifications with potentially -- and real? -- disastrous results.

We're talking cables and chargers, mainly (but not exclusively). There is one Google engineer, Benson Leung, and a "Google Top Contributor", Nathan K., who have taken up the mantle of responsibility and are leading the charge to test everything being marketed for adherence to specs and are both calling out the manufacturers as well as providing lists of what they've vetted as being "safe".

The key thing is "safe". Many of these screw-ups, in both cables as well as chargers, result in the charging units getting confused and pumping out too much current for the device (such as a smart phone) to handle, resulting in.. wait for it.. overloading, overheating, and ::boom!!::

Look carefully at the image Greg posted for this column... Note the white "thingy" at the end of the charging cable. Uh-oh. That looks suspiciously like a micro-USB to USB-C adapter. I wonder if it's up to spec and if it's involved in this particular battery explosion.

Maybe, maybe not, but in general, if you have a USB-C device (and I have a Nexus 6P, my wife has a 5X, and I have a Pixel Chromebook), you had better be VERY careful about what accessories you buy for it. I have been, and I'm very grateful to Benson for his research.

Poor Benson lost a Google Pixel Chromebook of his own, when a bad component fried it during testing.…

What I really, really don't want to happen is for this to scare off consumers from adopting USB-C devices. USB-C is FABULOUS and I don't EVER want to go back to micro-USB (or mini- or Type-A) again.

Just be careful about what you buy and vet everything against Benson's & Nathan K's lists.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 03 Sep 2016 #permalink

The version of the operating system they put on your phone takes a HUGE AMOUNT of your storage space, so you are left with almost nothing.

Actually, it is quite likely that the version of the operating system Samsung put on your phone was not the one it had when you got it (after Verizon "refurbished" it).

As I commented on that article, Verizon ripped you off if you paid several hundred dollars for a refurbished phone. I notice that there is a Verizon-specific version of the S4, so who knows what problems you might end up with if someone "upgrades" it to an OS version that Samsung didn't originally design for it. There were a lot of problems putting Lollipop on the S4. If that OS "upgrade" had never been attempted then your review would probably have been completely different.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 03 Sep 2016 #permalink

What Chris said. Over here in Europe, the network operators don't load up your phone with nearly as much crap/malware as they do in the States.

By metzomagic (not verified) on 04 Sep 2016 #permalink

I want to clarify for those looking in, the issue of the extra material on the Samsung phone.

First, it is really there. If it isn't there on YOUR phone, that's nice. But it is there on a lot of people's phones. This has been the subject of a lot of discussion. Samsung is notorious for this.

Second, it is not "bloatware" or anything else that can be removed. It is in the category of "misc" in the storage overview. It is known (because people have looked into this) to be part of Samsung's specific skin/branding of the Android operating system that they (not Verizon or anyone else) provide with their phone. Samsung is famous for this "enhancement." Some people like the enhancements, some don't. But anyone who's phone has only about 16 gigs or so will find that there is so little storage left that they run into limits right away.

One could in theory use a card to store extra data. There are a few problems with this. First, as you may know, it often doesn't work. Apps running from a card often fail. Second, only some data from some apps will go on a card. Third, certain upgrades delete the configuration to automatically put,say, photos and videos on the card, undoing that configuration, so this produces a regular struggle. Fourth, photos and videos process slower if you are using a card.

And, in the case of the phone in question, it turns out that using the extra data storage card IS THE REASON THE PHONE KEPT BREAKING. So, really, it doesn't have a card you can use.

Perhaps users outside the US don't have this problem. Good for you. But the incredulity that you feel that others might actually have the problem is not really the point, is it. Again, this is a widely known problem that a lot of people have, and there is no fix for other than avoiding Samsung, or, apparently, moving to Australia. But, I'm pretty sure that if my wife moved to Australia, her particular phone would still suck.

Some Samsung phones use only a couple of gigs of misc space on top of the OS, some use much more. At the higher end, it can be above 8 gigabytes. At the lower end, it seems to about about 2 or 2.5 gigabytes.


Presumably you have long since switched to a device running vanilla Android (as I use myself)?

Wow, never realized it was that bad for Samsung phones... My Nexus 6P, which is not encumbered by either Samsung's enhancements, nor a carrier's "enhancements" (since I use Google Fi for my carrier(s)), only uses around 1 GB.

Even my fully-tricked out Ubuntu Linux builds on my desktop PC's take only about 9-10 GB total. That's with a huge number of apps & libraries added to the default distro. I can't imagine a cell phone coming stock with that much space used up -- and then expecting you to add apps on top of that?

Just.. Wow.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 04 Sep 2016 #permalink

"Second, it is not “bloatware” or anything else that can be removed. It is in the category of “misc” in the storage overview. It is known (because people have looked into this) to be part of Samsung’s specific skin/branding of the Android operating system that they (not Verizon or anyone else) provide with their phone. Samsung is famous for this “enhancement.”

Every manufacturer not producing a Nexus phone ads its own layer on top of Android. LG and HTC were, for many years, just as bad as, if not worse than, Samsung. It sucks, but Google screwed up way back at the start when they made Android open source and didn't put restrictions on what the phone manufacturers could do to it. I've been told that they learned that lesson and have very strict guidelines for what manufacturers who want to use Android Wear for watches are allowed to do, and it is apparently more difficult to get apps for Android Wear approved than it is for Android on phones.

Dean, I doubt anyone has put 8 gigs on top of Android. Just Samsung. The general outrage about this seems to focus on the extreme version cited above of Samsung.

And yes, many manufacturers do fuck up the operating system to varying degrees.

But no, it was not a mistake to make Android open source. First of all, Android is based on open source lic material, so it could not exist as it does. Second, OpenSource is generally better for a lot of reasons!

But I think you are right about the guidelines part. There could have been guidelines and limitations, at the very least making it a simple switch to shut off and remove the added crapola.

And, somewhat subjectively but still, stock Android rocks. Android as adulterated by Samsung sucks. I'm not sure if other built up versions are that bad.

it is really there

No-one is denying that a lot of S4s have (somewhat carelessly) been "upgraded" to Samsung's version of Lollipop for the S4. Including by network operators such as Verizon who, in their wisdom, decided to "refurbish" these phones by doing this.

The point is that one needs to be careful accepting any software "upgrade" on any computer, especially a proprietary upgrade where the software maker does not have a direct interest in the upgrade working well on hardware other than the hardware it is primarily intended for. This is what has happened with the S4 and Samsung's Lollipop for it. Samsung's Lollipop was apparently written primarily for the S5 and porting it to the S4 looks like an afterthought as is apparent from the huge size of the Samsung Lollipop installation on the S4 compared with Android that Samsung itself puts on an S5. E.g. Marshmallow from Samsung on an S5 takes up 410 MB "Other" as opposed to several GB of "Miscellaneous" that Greg complains about.

So the message is don't get hardware with inappropriate ("refurbished") software installed on it, even if the software originated from the maker of the original software for that hardware (and was installed by someone else). Otherwise people could end up with something they call a "broken" phone, even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with the hardware and it worked perfectly well with its original OS software.

there is no fix

I expect it would have worked fine with 4.2.2 as per the original OS. I agree that Samsung should never have let loose the Lollipop version that made its way onto your S4. Even without the bloating issue, it was still full of bugs affecting the S4. Samsung itself does not recommend putting Lollipop on my S4 and it is one of the last models. All I can recommend is in future, only buy phones that are untouched by human hands outside of the factory. That's relatively safe.

other than avoiding Samsung

I think you missed the point about avoiding "refurbishing". That word should ring alarm bells.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 04 Sep 2016 #permalink

Chris, you are blaming the victim.

You are in this case blaming a victim who bought her second smart phone ever and got screwed by Samsung, by suggesting that she have a sophisticated view of hardware software interaction allowing her to second guess a major manufacturer.

In this case, the phone was not "broken" because of bloatware. It was broken because it was broken. Several times. Broken as in it didn't take or propagate phone calls.

The massively bloated operating system is a great inconvenience, and essentially turns the "we have 16 gigs of storage" into a lie.

And at no point was refurbishing mentioned by the company. Nobody bought a refurbished phone. Samsung did not supply a refurbished replacements. These were all sold or provided as new phones. It was later discovered that they were all, in fact, refurbished. No way to avoid that, is there?

So, yes, you are right, avoid refurbished phones. But that has little to do with a company selling refurbished phones as new one!

Also, regarding you're earlier comment (I now see that you are enamored with the refreshing theory) not one of the replacement phone was ever in Verizon's hands. They were sent directly from Samsung.

I think you've got two basic things wrong here. One is that what actually happened does not meet your expectations of what you would have expected to have happened, causing incredulity, which you are in turn using to argue some point or another. The second is that you have a blind spot for Samsung, compared to me, who feels badly fucked over by Samsung. Well, on my wife's behalf. I have a good phone. Because I didn't buy a Samsung.

If it will make you feel any better, I use a Samsung SD car on my raspberry pi. Well, I did, until I found a faster solution, but I did for a while and it didn't break.

"But no, it was not a mistake to make Android open source"

That is not quite what I meant. Google developed android with cerain goals in mind. They did assumed responsibility for maintenance and security updates, but did not state limits on how far phone manufacturers could change the os. That is the cause of the issues now. Further, one of the new features of Android Nougat is maintaining a distinction between partitions operating system/application sites and non essential applications. Keeping that distinction means that Google itself would be able to issue updates to the core system, and issue security updates, without carrier intervention. It isn't at all clear that phone manufacturers (like Samsung) will follow those guidelines.

One of the bigger things I did not like about Samsung (and my carrier) was that they both always screwed me over on system updates. I had a Samsung Galaxy S3 with T-Mobile, and in the three years I used it, I got ONE system update.

Google updates my Nexus 6P every month. Without fail. When I bought it, it was the first handset with Marshmallow (6.0); it's now 6.0.1. And within a week it will be Nougat (per the Android newz blogs).

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 04 Sep 2016 #permalink

Greg, if anything I am blaming the party that you previously said supplied a piece of second hand hardware, i.e. Verizon.

Also, there is no need for you to put up silly straw men about moving to Australia simply to get a brand new S4. You simply need a supplier who doesn't lie to you like Verizon in cahoots with Samsung service did when they told you you are getting new goods. Or if they do then you need to live in place with adequate consumer laws against deception.

"got screwed by Samsung"

From what you said before, she was screwed by Verizon, not Samsung. It was a second hand phone that had been messed around with. What you're saying now is rather different from what you said before, as I talk about below.

"at no point was refurbishing mentioned by the company"

OK. So Verizon lied to you. Aren't there consumer laws to deal with that?

"Samsung did not supply a refurbished replacements. These were all sold or provided as new phones."

You said <a href=""… came from Verizon before.

"They were sent directly from Samsung."

This is really confusing. The words you wrote in the other article were: "So Verizon sent another new one." I hope you're not blaming me as the victim for that.

In any case, regardless of whoever it is that lied to you about sending you a new phone that was actually second hand, whether it was Verizon or Samsung service in the US, you should have a legal right to receive a new phone when it is claimed to be a new phone. There is something shonky going on between Verizon and Samsung service in the US. If Verizon says they will get a new phone sent to you and a second hand one turns up then basically it's Verizon's responsibility. A law-abiding retailer would not treat you like that.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 05 Sep 2016 #permalink

Chris, sorry for the delay in getting back. No, Verizon did not supply me with second hand phones. These phones came directly from Samsung. Verizon was trying to figure out a way to simply switch to a different model phone, but they could not do that (shame on them, that was a mess and they screwed up in ways beyond the scope of this discussion) but the entire thing was handed over to Samsung. We were sending the broken phones back to Samsung and Samsung was sending up rebuilt and still broken phones.

Again, it is well known that this samsung phone, at leas in the US, comes with the Samsun "enhancements" to the operating system that take up the majority of the phone's storage space. People claim this is different in Australia. I have nothing to do with Australia and really couldnt possibly care less that some people in Australia claim that they don't have this problem, and therefore I must not as well!

Verizon did handle this badly form their end, yes, and we got screwed by Verizon. But Samsung made a phone that wouldn't work through several iterations, still does not work right, send rebuilt in stead of new again and again, and they not Verizon, loaded the crap on the phone.

Your argument that somehow my complaint is invalid because "there are consumer laws to deal with that?" is positively Orwellian. I'm starting to think you work for Samsung.

Indeed, let me ask you: Do you work for Samsung?

Sorry if I was unclear on where the phones come from. All the back and forth by mail of the phones, was with Samsung. Verizon, as the carrier, was managing that back and forth. So, Verizon and Samsung in a sense were both doing this, but the actual phones went back and forth between us and Samsung, not Verizon, but under Verizon's direction.

I regard Verizon as the company that "sold us" the phone. And they did not make good on the product they were pushing. Meanwhile, Samsung made a lemon of a phone.

Anyway, I revisited this post (and noticed your comment) because I was just noticing that the self immolating Samsung Galaxy Note 7 problem seems to have developed into something well beyond a few phones. It is considered dangerous enough that the word is being sent out that people with these phones should TURN THEM OFF IMMEDIATELY AND NOT TURN THEM ON.

No, Verizon did not supply me with second hand phones. These phones came directly from Samsung.

You are missing the point that it is Verizon who are legally responsible for the phone that they say they will supply to you if you have a contract with them to sell you a phone.

It does not matter who Verizon uses as an agent to carry out the process they are legally responsible for, they are still legally responsible for it.

but the entire thing was handed over to Samsung

Who did you have a contract for the supply of the phone with? Verizon or Samsung? (Usually established by whoever it was you paid money to.) As long as you paid the money to Verizon, it was Verizon you had a contract with and it was Verizon who is the legally responsible entity in your contract.

We were sending the broken phones back to Samsung

You have a very simple remedy in any jurisdiction with reasonable consumer law. If your contract was for a new phone then the legal supplier MUST supply you with a new phone (regardless of whoever agent they choose to use). Also, if that new phone does not work properly (as was reported happened in Russia and India after Lollipop was rollout in January 2015), then the legal supplier MUST be responsible for remedying that situation, regardless of what agents it uses.

Do you work for Samsung?

Don't be ridiculous.

I regard Verizon as the company that “sold us” the phone.

"Regard" is not the point. The company that sold you the phone was the company you had a contract with for selling the phone to you.

Samsung made a lemon of a phone.

S4s work fine when they have an appropriate operating system installed. Verizon with their agent in the US did not have a process for installing an appropriate operating system on the S4s they supplied. Verizon is responsible for the failure to carry out this process when they sell the phones.

I can only think that you do not have a clear understanding of how your consumer legal rights apply. You haven't explicitly stated it but I presume you paid Verizon which means the contract is between you and Verizon. It might be too late now but Verizon are legally obliged to obey consumer law in their contract with you. You don't appear to have exercised your legal rights with Verizon.

Ha, we crossed in the mail.

Yes, and the FAA has specific requirements as well, wrt to securing the phones.

Chris, you don't know what happened and you are constantly mischaracterizing what actually did happen through a combination of argument form incredulity and, well, just being stupid about it.

Pretty much everything you are saying here is wrong. Indeed, the operating system is not installed by Verizon. Samsung installed it.

Thousand of people and me have had the same experience.

Please explain why you are such a booster of Samsung if you don't work for them? Maybe you should?

Also, you should know, my patience with you is wearing thin.

you are constantly mischaracterizing what actually did happen

Greg, it would make it far easier to avoid whatever mischaracterisations I may be making if you did not mislead me in the first place. For example, you first said:

Verizon had a new Samsung Galaxy S4 sent to us.

without mentioning anything about Samsung sending it but then not till the comments in this review saying Samsung sent it.

So please, before you accuse me of mischaracterising you, try to understand how confusing you have been in setting out the facts. You have been very confusing. And that is your fault, not mine.

the operating system is not installed by Verizon

Where did I say the operating system was installed by Verizon? And you accuse me of misrepresenting you?

Thousand of people and me have had the same experience.

I am not denying Samsung put an inappropriate version of Lollipop on a substantial number of S4s. I even quoted where this has been stated in wikipedia: "In January 2015, Samsung began rolling out an update to Android 5.0.1 "Lollipop" in Russia and India,.. Samsung paused the rollout soon after, when users reported major bugs." But that doesn't change the fact that many millions of S4s were sold around the world, including in the USA, before this faulty OS update and were not "broken". So it doesn't make sense to just say:

I don’t recommend the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Many people have had great experiences with other Samsung smart phones.

Those sort of blanket recommendations are misleading and uninformative.

Please explain why you are such a booster of Samsung if you don’t work for them?

As I said above, your blanket recommendations are misleading and uninformative. Is there something wrong with me pointing that out if you're slagging off a product that I have found to be perfectly OK and no doubt millions of others?

my patience with you is wearing thin

The feeling is quite mutual. It's as if you have a mental block. You almost always respond in general terms and only respond specifically in a few instances where I have been misled. It would make it far easier to deal with your issues if you could try to be specific more often. Maybe you have crap consumer laws in your country governing this situation. I wouldn't be surprised. But in a country with decent consumer laws, the retailer like Verizon is entirely responsible for the quality of the product they sell regardless of who put flaws in it. My county's law says the product must be "fit for purpose" and if the retailer cannot supply that then the retailer must either pay a refund or provide something else that the consumer chooses. I'm sorry that you are apparently not entitled to this standard of consumer law in your country because if you were then you would not have had this problem.

By Chris O'Neill (not verified) on 16 Sep 2016 #permalink