back to article Samsung set a fire under battery-makers to make the Galaxy Note 7 flaming brilliant

Samsung has blamed two un-named battery-makers for setting fire to its reputation by sending Galaxy Note 7 phablets up in flames, but has also admitted it may have pushed those suppliers too hard. The company today staged a press conference, witnessed online by The Register, during which it detailed how two battery …

  1. Oh Homer Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Pushing the envelope too hard

    And by that I mean profits, not technology.

    The prevailing culture of greed has, on this occasion, literally blown up in our faces.

    Unsurprisingly, cutting corners to make things cheap, makes them crap. That would be bad enough if consumers ever actually benefited financially from those cost-cutting measures, but naturally we don't, it just lines the pockets of the skinflint billionaires who make the cheap crap that we're then expected to pay a premium for. That is after all exactly how they became billionaires in the first place.

    Like craftsmanship, the art of selling something at a fair price seems to have been long forgotten. Maybe if those billionaires spent some of our money making decent products, instead of profiteering, this polystyrene cup dystopia we live in might look very different, and be far less dangerous.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

      But if the product doesn't stop working the day the warranty expires why would you buy a new one to top up said billionaires pockets? If they cost more because of quality manufacturing then less can buy them and would be less inclined to replace them so what's the point if you want to sell lots and lots of something over and over again to make you a billionaire in the first place.

      1. Oh Homer Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: "cost more because of quality"

        Well that's the false dichotomy peddled by profiteers, but the reality is that they cut costs only to inflate profits, not to reduce prices. The possibility of funding higher quality workmanship by reducing profits to less obscene levels, rather than increasing prices, is a blasphemy that would simply never occur to them.

        1. Vinyl-Junkie
          Unhappy

          Re: "Re: "cost more because of quality""

          Remember when it was sufficient for firms to post a profit each year, not be under pressure to increase that profit by more than the rate of inflation every year?

          It is this kind of capitalism, largely driven by those who profit the dividends from the shares, and have no interest whatsoever in the business itself (and couldn't care less if their shares are in pubs or public health as long as it makes them money) which has led to the bottom-line mentality present in so many companies today.

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

      Greed is a partial answer, cutting costs sometimes becomes a mania that takes a life of its own. Another culprit was poor design. Looking at the diagrams, it appears the battery design did not have the safety margin required in any good design and was relying on perfect manufacturing of all parts and flawless assembly - recipe for a disaster. What is not stated is whether any of the engineers pitched a fit about the poor design and were ignored.

      1. MrT

        Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

        From the way Samsung is behaving, I'd say it's likely that there are emails/meetings etc. where the engineers raised concerns but were actively denied or rebutted, not just ignored. It's also likely that there are similar records that show the pressure placed on the battery manufacturers to work even further down below the price agreed as part of the contract bidding process.

        In all of in these, the Samsung side lost the eye on quality, trusting their suppliers' QA systems to the point where they failed to check the batteries sufficiently well to identify the manufacturing errors early enough.

        It reminds me of the Rolls Royce Trent engine problems of a few years ago, which boiled down to sub-contracted parts suppliers producing sub-standard items. The suppliers had assured RR that they had tested the parts at multiple points in the manufacturing process, (IIRC they'd said the items were tested three times before shipping to Royce's), and yet when RR finally realised there was a problem and did their own detailed checks, far too many failed.

        The problem seems to come from too much trust in bits of paper and verbal assurances that are based more than a little on hope. How much of those came from the subs, and how much from higher up in Sammy's own structure? Well, given the way they are refusing to follow the usual name'n'shame route points to the answer there.

        1. BillG Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

          @MrT wrote: From the way Samsung is behaving, I'd say it's likely that there are emails/meetings etc. where the engineers raised concerns but were actively denied or rebutted, not just ignored. It's also likely that there are similar records that show the pressure placed on the battery manufacturers to work even further down below the price agreed as part of the contract bidding process.

          That is exactly how it looks to me, and I've seen this situation oh too many, so many times.

          From the article: Collectively, the three found that the two battery-makers who supplied kit to the Note 7 did a lousy job. Manufacturing defects such as bent electrodes that touched, absent insulating tape, too-dense designs, bad welds and easily-breakable internals created ideal conditions for a short-circuit and runaway failures.

          Unlikely, as if this was true, Samsung's supplier QC checks would have found these issues years ago. In addition, "manufacturing defects" that are identical between two suppliers are highly unlikely, as one reason why you have a 2nd source manufacturer is to minimize manufacturing defects. More likely it is a DESIGN defect, right?

          In the interest of disclosure, I am somewhat closer to this situation than most. So here it is: as Reg already reported, the battery was fine except for plates that were too long and would overhang too near the edge of the package. The real issues is, as Reg already reported, that Samsung did not follow standard battery safety practices, and left no room for battery expansion.

          Representatives of three firms also concluded that the Note 7's own electronics did not cause the batteries to misbehave and indeed contained fail-safes that exceeded industry best practice.

          Incorrect from my perspective. IMO Samsung's battery electronics was completely off-the-shelf industry standard. IMO they did not want to pay for any more for the electronics than they needed.

          Disclaimer: These are my opinions alone, I do not represent my employer's position or anyone else's.

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

            I'm remind of this basic tenet, you can have fast, good, or cheap. Pick two.

            I've seen some manufacturing discussions between manufacturers and buyers where they want all three, it usually ends up with compromise in design, and discussions like yeah we can live with that being cut or that component being of lesser quality. Luckily it has been for things that don't tend to go bang.

            1. Apriori

              Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

              Or you could go for crap, slow, expensive, and buy an iphone

              1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

                @apriori

                "Or you could go for crap, slow, expensive, and buy an iphone" [Citation needed]

                FTFY.

          2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

            @BillG Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

            "Incorrect from my perspective"

            With respect Bill G, when a president at UL, a principal scientist at Exponent and an exec VP at TÜV Rheinland say what they believe the problem is after many hours and many $millions of research, I think I might take their word over yours.

    3. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

      Not so much greed as "fashion" (appearance) over ruling function and sound engineering. Product design is too much orientated to showroom appearance.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      & Microsoft Surface Battery woes are of course, "just" a Software Bug.

      With all these new of inherent battery hardware design problems coming to light and Microsoft continue to say Microsoft Surface Battery charging problems are "Software/Firmware fixable".

      I suppose we should be thankful that Samsung were honest enough to give up on the "software fix" bullshit early on, and recall devices.

    5. MotionCompensation

      Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

      Unsurprisingly, cutting corners to make things cheap, makes them crap.

      Have a look at the graphic. It's obviously the rounding of corners that makes things crap. Unless you're rounding corners to make things expensive, of course.

    6. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Pushing the envelope too hard

      I cannot believe you got any downvotes, let alone 11. WTF is wrong with you people?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are VW / Samsung / Theresa May employing the same advisors?

    These three have a lot more in common than meets the eye.

    Each has sheer contempt for what actually matters. Staying No.1 (self survival) more important than telling the truth, even when things unravel. All have proven themselves corrupt / manipulating in order to achieve their goals.

    When you have a British Prime Minister using the same techniques as VW / Samsung, why are we surprised by any of this?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are VW / Samsung / Theresa May employing the same advisors?

      Dunno about samsung, but the same management consluttants from the same management consluttancy have been at both UK gov and VW. You can Google them.

    2. fruitoftheloon
      Happy

      @AC: Re: Are VW / Samsung / Theresa May employing the same advisors?

      AC,

      would you be so kind as to remind me of the items the PM has uttered that you are tad miffed about?

      Thanks,

      Jay

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Are VW / Samsung / Theresa May employing the same advisors?

      Sorry, there appears to have been a typo !!! :)

      I think you meant Trump not May.

      (Not defending but Trump is on a scale that cannot be ignored.

      May fades to insignificance in comparison.)

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    Devil

    "No plans for the Note 7's re-release were discussed."

    I hear the Twelfth of Never is still available.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Flame

      Re: "No plans for the Note 7's re-release were discussed."

      Surely the 5th of November would be perfect?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So the fires were the result of...

    Marketing making unrealistic demands on engineering for a "feature" that almost no one cares about. Just about everyone I know would quite happily sacrifice a mm or two in thickness to get a phone with real world battery life that can be measured in days instead of hours.

    This constant push by manufacturers for thinner and thinner phones will be the death of us - possibly literally.

    1. Phil Kingston Silver badge

      Re: So the fires were the result of...

      Yep. Give me something that sits in my pocket with the satisfying girth of an HTC Wizard, with minimal risk of burnt ball bag and more than a day of battery life and I'll be a happy man.

    2. uncle sjohie

      Re: So the fires were the result of...

      The only people I ever hear talking about the thickness are reviewers and manufactures, not the actual users of the devices. I'd gladly trade a few mm extra for a bigger battery, although my P9-lite is pretty frugal compared to my previous smartphone, an Xperia ZR.

      1. Paul

        Re: So the fires were the result of...

        It's the tech bloggers masquerading as reviewers.

        I'm sure many only get to keep the phone for a short while, maybe a matter of hours, so never have to live with the deficiencies, or see the beautiful device crumble or its shiny finish strip away over the a few weeks of use.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So the fires were the result of...

      Throw in the journalists and those how play with themselves oever what they write.

      "This new phone is 0.5mm thinner that the last model", "it feels less chunky than the xyz" "with the bezel 1mm bigger than the ABC, it seems rather old fashioned"...

      If it is a fraction of a millimeter bigger or smaller, don't bother writing about it. People, don't get excited about how the most minuscule differences mean you must have this phone.

    4. naive

      Re: So the fires were the result of...

      It is not unrealistic demands, but plain lethargy and laziness on the side of Samsung quality control.

      It actually shows they don't have any in place. Suppose that a car manufacturer outsources the production of subframes. Would it not be painful if they had to admit: Sorry guys, we had 15 killed and 250 injured because we outsourced production of subframes to Vietnam, where the procedures used for welding, material strength and rust protection did not meet our standards, resulting in unexpectedly high failure rates in areas with road salt and speed bumbs.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: So the fires were the result of...

        The only people I ever hear talking about the thickness are reviewers and manufactures

        And then you have to put them in a flipping case to reinforce the body from bending anyway. Making it completely pointless

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This constant push by manufacturers for thinner and thinner phones...

      ... leads to thicker and thicker phone protection accessories. As result the overall thickness of the resulting gadget is around 12mm. The phone manufacturers rely on the negligence of users to break a device before buying a case for the second one.

  5. Your alien overlord - fear me

    If they were that shoddily built, how come they didn't explode on their first charge? Sounds like a conspiracy to me :-)

  6. DougS Silver badge

    Amazing that somehow only Samsung was affected

    Sure, every phone will have the odd fire here and there, and have since they first started using lithium ion batteries. Manufacturing defect, phone gets dropped and the battery is damaged, faulty charger, or whatever. But the Note 7 was unique in having a FAR higher rate of problems, which started immediately out of the gate, rather than evenly distributed over months and years as is typically the case.

    I smell a whitewash here. There's no way the phone was not in some way part of the problem. It strains credulity that TWO suppliers (one of which is Samsung SDI, i.e. basically itself!) had the same problems and somehow didn't notice. And what's their excuse for switching to the Chinese supplier after the initial recall, thinking it was OK, until they started blowing too?

    This snow job makes me wonder if they've actually identified the problem and are covering it up to save face, or after all this investigation couldn't figure it out so they decided to pick a likely sounding culprit, blame themselves in a "I guess my flaw is that I try too hard to please others" way, and hope that whatever confluence of troubles caused the Note 7 to go so wrong was a one time thing.

    1. Phil W

      Re: Amazing that somehow only Samsung was affected

      "It strains credulity that TWO suppliers (one of which is Samsung SDI, i.e. basically itself!) had the same problems and somehow didn't notice."

      No, not really.

      "after all this investigation couldn't figure it out"

      Seems quite likely to be honest. As far as I can find there were 112 (or there abouts, Samsung wouldn't officially acknowledge all of those either) reported fires/explosions from Note 7 devices. Samsung shipped something like 2.5 million of them, so as a percentage the number that actually caught fire is vanishingly small, somewhere around 0.004%, it's just that things exploding and injuring people tends to draw a lot of attention.

      It's clearly not the case that every single phone had the problem, and even if you were to say 1000 times more phones had the fault than were reported, that's only 4% of the 2.5 million phones that shipped, the probability that Samsung managed to find one of the phones that actually had the fault and then managed to reproduce it in such a way that they could definitively say what happened is quite remote.

      The answer they've given is clearly an educated guess. and that's ok. They've taken the blame, they haven't tried to pass it all off to the battery manufacturers (even if that was a division of themselves) and they haven't tried to say it was the consumer's fault using it wrong in some way.

      Situations like this are an unfortunate consequence of selling bleeding edge technology to consumers, but companies like Samsung are doing so because they have to in order to compete in the market, not because they want to. If they could get away with selling only older proven technologies while still competing at the highest levels I'm sure they'd love to.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Amazing that somehow only Samsung was affected

        Until someone found out that there are people that are selling a lot with older technology. It gets easier to see those products when you replace technology with technique.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Amazing that somehow only Samsung was affected

        "The answer they've given is clearly an educated guess"

        You're forgetting most of those phones have now been recalled. It's a fairly straighforward process to semi-automate the battery removal and X-ray of each and every battery for analysis, then look for differences, and build up statisical data. Pretty much everything is a 'known' retrospectively.

        It's not an educated guess at all. If you want an answer here, you can have one. Samsung have created a convenient story here, it's all about money and reputation, obfuscation.

    2. Jimbo in Thailand
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Amazing that somehow only Samsung was affected

      EXACTLY! Sure sounds like a coverup to me. This raises SO MANY questions like these:

      1. So these two suppliers never made batteries for Samsung, or anyone else before?

      2. If they did, then why no major problems with other models, or brands?

      3. If the two battery makers are brand new manufacturers then why wasn't rigorous Quality Assurance/Quality Control inspections performed including periodic design compliance and random test-until-failure checks performed as part of the manufacturing production process?

      4. What exactly was so radically different with the N-ferno 7 vs the standard Galaxy S7?

      5. Speaking of S7, who made the batteries for S7 and other Samsung models?

      5. Considering that N-ferno 7 incorporated the ubiquitous—but possibly dangerous—lithium batteries then why wasn't safety a top priority at Samsung for a brand new FLAGSHIP model... including its apparently BRAND NEW DESIGN batteries?

      Now here's the stupidest part of it all. If it really was just defective batteries, think how much exponentially smaller the fiasco would have been had the idiots at Samsung opted for the once ubiquitous user-replaceable batteries? They could have easily saved the Note 7 model—and their reputation—by simply recalling the 'defective' batteries and replacing them with safe good quality user-installable units. It absolutely boggles the mind at such corporate stupidity. Of course, I've ranted about this ad nauseam in the past. Oh well.

      1. Phil W

        Re: Amazing that somehow only Samsung was affected

        1. So these two suppliers never made batteries for Samsung, or anyone else before?

        Well given that one of them is another division of Samsung, it seems quite likely they did make batteries for Samsung devices previously.

        2. If they did, then why no major problems with other models, or brands?

        Because this device demanded higher battery capacity in a smaller space than any previous device

        3. If the two battery makers are brand new manufacturers then why wasn't rigorous Quality Assurance/Quality Control inspections performed including periodic design compliance and random test-until-failure checks performed as part of the manufacturing production process?

        Firstly they aren't brand new manufacturers, secondly from the available information the known percentage failure rate is sufficiently small as to easily pass any quality control procedures without detection.

        4. What exactly was so radically different with the N-ferno 7 vs the standard Galaxy S7?

        A lot? They're entirely different beasts really, in terms of dimensions and power draw not to mention the fact that they, and this is key, don't use the same battery. That's about as useful a question as what was so radically different with the Note 7 vs an Xperia Z or HTC 10.

        5. Speaking of S7, who made the batteries for S7 and other Samsung models?

        What's that got to do with it? It's not the same battery. It's a fault with a specific battery model design not all batteries from a particular manufacturer.

        5. Considering that N-ferno 7 incorporated the ubiquitous—but possibly dangerous—lithium batteries then why wasn't safety a top priority at Samsung for a brand new FLAGSHIP model... including its apparently BRAND NEW DESIGN batteries?

        As I've pointed out previously, from the known data the failure rate is so small as to easily escape detection until exposure to mass market. Unless you're suggesting that internal testing prior to release should consist of at least several hundred thousand devices used for weeks?

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Amazing that somehow only Samsung was affected

      Of course they're saving face, just spend 10 minutes throwing a few keywords at Google to read up on Samsung's internal culture. Communication with external suppliers and non-Korean workers is in one direction only.

      Stupid specs that two battery manufacturers couldn't produce, non-existent QA, dysfunctional management. Everyone seems to have forgotten about the S4's bulging batteries that they fixed by constantly replacing them. Then some bright spark had the idea of making their phones like iPhones at any cost, if the battery weren't shut in it would have popped the back lid open a week or two before going up in smoke.

    4. Captain DaFt

      Re: Amazing that somehow only Samsung was affected

      "It strains credulity that TWO suppliers (one of which is Samsung SDI, i.e. basically itself!) had the same problems"

      Bet you a nickle that, if true, it'll turn out that Samsung SDI subcontracted their battery manufacturing to the other company. To save costs, of course.

  7. Displacement Activity

    "placing anodes and cathodes in locations where they were likely to come into contact"

    Doesn't seem to have happened, judging from the limited summary you're printed. Different parts of the negative electrode may have touched each other. The negative electrode touched the "positive tab". If the actual electrodes had touched, it seems pretty unlikely that affected batteries would have survived any attempt at charging.

    1. Starace

      Re: "placing anodes and cathodes in locations where they were likely to come into contact"

      Simon seems to have slightly misunderstood the analysis with his talk of tape and electrodes.

      The battery fault was internal. Tape and electrode spacing would be a factor on Samsung part only if it related to the installation of the battery. Faults inside the battery are an issue for the component supplier especially when they are the expert design authority and you have asked them to meet a series of outline requirements that they have agreed.

      Going as far as waving actual accusations of negligence around is a massive step too far especially when it's clear you can't understand the fault they described.

      My main takeaway from the whole saga was that the move to builtin batteries mean it went from a simple issue of supplying a $20 part for the end user to replace (with phones made safe in the interim by removing the battery) to a massive complex recall of an expensive device with no easy options for rework and no easy option to make the device safe in the interim.

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Taking responsibility for doing too god a job

    Well that's a new one, for sure. A refreshing change from "almost nobody was impacted", but given the importance of the impact on the people affected, it would have apparently been too callous even for a multinational conglomerate to say that. And it would probably have cost a lot in yet a bit more negative publicity.

    Which is what this whole PR exercise is about - drowning the negative in positive, reponsible, taking-all-blame spin. That's because the whole fiasco was prohibitively expensive in both money and reputation, and Samsung is desperate to get some brownie points in Public Opinion.

    Everything in here has been carefully crafted to make people believe that the investigation was thorough, the cause forgivable, the motive noble. Honor is preserved by taking the blame yet saying that Samsung equipment was absolutely not responsible. A brilliant exercise.

    Well I'm against monopolies, so I hope Samsung will stay in the game for a while longer, but I don't buy the whitewash. A battery that is not of the specified size (how can they possible make something bigger than expected these days ?), that lacks insulation and has a slew of other manufacturing defects is not something that should have made its way on to the market, period. With the amount of defects listed, the fact that it did get to the market demonstrates an appalling lack of QA in every part of the manufacturing chain.

    I'm guessing that this situation has been a long time in the making. Such absence of control didn't happen overnight, it is the result of complacency and the immense pressure of the market.

    Maybe it is time to get off the wheel for a bit and take a breather ? Nobody will die if a new model takes a year and a half to get done instead of twelve months.

    1. Naselus

      Re: Taking responsibility for doing too god a job

      "Well I'm against monopolies, so I hope Samsung will stay in the game for a while longer"

      They're the largest phone manufacturer in the world by a considerable margin, not some bit player who bet the farm on a failed device. Samsung ship nearly twice as many phones a year as their nearest rival, and have market share equal to the next 2 manufacturers combined. Batterygate hasn't even knocked them into second place - in fact, in spite of the Note 7 screw up they've gained a small amount of market share over the course of 2016 and both the S7 and S7 Edge did well. If there was any danger of a monopoly in the phone market (and there isn't), it's Samsung who are most likely to become that monopoly rather than being victims of it.

      I think the most likely outcome from this whole episode is just an increase in the rate of decline for the flagship phone market, which was already dying. Apple's smartphone market share halved in 2016, despite sales only declining 5%. Samsung abandoned one flagship model altogether and yet saw market share increase off the back of it. That suggests that all growth in the market is coming in the mid-tier and below, and it's starting to seriously cannibalize the higher-end segment as most consumers realize they don't need a £700 octacore monster just to browse the web, play Angry Birds and use Whatsapp.

      The apparently disappointing early sales of the iPhone 7 seem to point to a similar conclusion: the era of the flagship phone is basically over and the mid-range £200-£350 segment of the market will soon reign supreme, with the high-end market shrinking from it's present oversized 20%-ish to something closer to 10% - Apple will presumably continue to dominate this area, splitting it 60-40 or better with Samsung, but it'll be a painful decline for Apple as a whole, who are over-reliant on higher-tier smartphone sales for their entire business, unlike their more diversified rivals who are already well-represented in the mid and low ends of the market.

  9. Mage Silver badge
    Flame

    Pushing too hard.

    Phones are getting too thin and fragile.

    If the phone had been 2mm thicker this would never have happened.

    1) Needing a bumper case is a design fail on the phone.

    2) Not being able to sit with it in jeans pocket without it bending, unless it's designed to bend like an eraser or chew bar is a fail.

    A larger phone needs to either be designed to be flexible or be even thicker. So ultimately the problem is Samsung's design. I imagine it will happen with other brands of phones unless they reduce the battery capacity.

  10. hi_robb

    hmm

    I hope El Reg didn't take notes...

  11. Phil W

    Comparison of outrage

    I think the real shock with the Note 7 saga, is that the level of outrage on these battery fires seems to be substantially higher than that which surrounded the battery fires onboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

    The potential loss of life with the Boeing problems was much higher than the Note 7 as far as I can see, yet most people seem to have largely forgotten about that one now.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Comparison of outrage

      To be fair to the "journnos" stories like this and the Apple "antennagate" are easy to write and attract lots of readers. But, basically, there's not much meat left of this: Samsung fucked up, fumbled and then accepted full responsibility and did a complete product recall and investigation. You can't really expect more than that.

  12. Tim Seventh

    In conclusion

    It still smell fishy.

    It is as if they needed someone to blame, but it really wasn't their fault.

    Think about this. How hard is it to test each part of the potential problem source?

    One test for the battery itself (wired up to test voltage, charging and release, etc)

    One test for the power chip (use a stable battery for testing)

    One test for the phone pressure (add pressure sensor for a sample Note 7)

    One test for the software (use a stable phone with the software)

    It is as if the main problem is in the design, but they didn't want to state it as the reason.

  13. David Gosnell

    Turning point? I doubt it, but hey...

    As initially understood then, a battery fault, unfortunately exacerbated by a different fault in the replacement. Having hardwired the battery as so many manufacturers have chosen to do, Samsung have massively paid the price by having to cancel the device altogether, for a mixture of perceptive and economic reasons. As one of the last manufacturers to stop using easily replaceable batteries, could they make a move that's positive for both the company and consumers by being one of the first to admit they were wrong and reverse that policy? Baked-in batteries (more literally than Samsung ever intended) are pure cynical marketing hype and a sustainability disaster, a technological "solution" to customers increasingly hanging on to handsets long after the mobile networks can fleece them for overpriced contracts. Yes, they enable slimmer handsets, but that's pure marketing guff when the upshot is more fragile devices (yay, more early upgrades and expensive contracts!) for the sake of a fraction of a millimetre. Let's have some sense back!

  14. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Give it a rest

    Your correspondent suspects the idea Samsung wants us all to take away is that it pushed so hard…

    … that safety considerations were ignored with disastrous, though fortunately not life-threatening, effects.

    While you're busy beating on Samsung you might also mention Takata whose problems with airbags were slightly more alarming. Or any of the many similar cases. For various reasons (cost-cutting is not the only one) products are released onto the market with defects. Some of these can and should be avoided. But before we get on our high horses, we might take a moment to consider how complicated some of this stuff is.

    That said, while Samsung is handling the Note 7 extremely well, it's got a potentially bigger issue related to the influence peddling scandal in South Korea.

  15. Steve Graham

    Cheapo devices do burn

    ...or at least, the cheap tablet I bought direct from China melted. It probably would have burned if I hadn't caught it in time.

    (They exchanged the remains for a refurbished tablet, not a new one.)

  16. adam payne Silver badge

    Sounds like greed over sound design and engineering.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No sounds like trying to give the stupid consumer what they want, no matter how stupid that may be.

      Bigger, thinner, faster, shinier.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Not quite

        What their top management thinks customers want, not what they actually want.

        Almost everything about the Note 7 was, by all accounts, extremely good. By far the best phablet to date.

        If it had been 1mm thicker, it would still have been brilliant, and the best phablet by far.

        The only notable difference with the slightly thicker one? It would still be for sale as the tolerances would have been wide enough for them not to do the "venting with flame" thing.

  17. MR J

    I find it difficult to believe that there were 3 separate faults from two manufactures that all resulted in the phones catching fire. A single point of failure is a bad thing, but they are saying that there were 3 major (life in danger) errors that shipped with these phones.

    Had they listed one single major problem then I would agree with the report. To me it sounds like they asked 700 really smart people to find a way to deflect blame away from the phone and onto the batteries.

    Problems can and do happen, and sometimes they take years to be known. The problems they listed here should have been caught, and really the fact that there are 3 separate problems with Samsung saying they are happy to keep using the same suppliers... Yea, doesn't bode well for the truth that.

    I worked for a company that made high-precision measurement equipment, a whole line of our gear was faulty. The solution was for us to tell the customer that it was in spec when they purchased it and the problem must be somewhere in their own systems. I tested 100% of our kit one day and it all failed (nearly lost my job), but they did eventually fix it (Faulty master measurement kit in Germany, every product for years that came out was actually failed spec). After I did that they still didn't admit there was a fault, we just slowly and quietly replaced the ones that were returned. It's not like they were used in a nuke power plant or anything - err, yea they were...

    To this day I think they still blame the customer and don't admit that there was ever a problem.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      The problem is very clear - Tolerances

      The phone design demanded a set of battery manufacturing tolerances that were quite simply unachievable in bulk manufacture.

      Zero tolerance is something that only politicians and idiot managers believe to be possible.

      Thus the cause is also very clear...

  18. Speltier

    The batteries, they burn!

    It is an interesting question why there aren't a lot more LiIon batteries bursting into flames in products where the only objective is cheap. My first guess is that cheap suppliers just have not (yet) reached the flaming edge power densities where spectacular events would commonly result from failures.

    In the meantime, considering the penetration of supply chains by AliBabas, I'll keep on charging my lithium ion batteries on a metal table top. Except for the Jesus Phone, you have to have some Faith!

  19. steve 124

    unnamed factor

    There was really one reason that Samsung had to eat $5 billion on the Note 7.... Greed.

    Note 1-4 all had removable batteries. I just replaced the battery in my Note 4 last month and I can continue to use it for 2 or 3 more years, if I choose.

    Samsung saw what Apple was doing (making disposable $800 devices that were not easy to change batteries in, because they were "hard wired" into the device). Someone, in some meeting, at some time said "you know, if we do that, once the battery dies, they will HAVE to buy another phone from us!" and the other attendees said "YOU'RE BRILLIANT!"

    I passed on Note 5 and 6 for this very reason and was almost duped into buying the 7 because it was obvious the days of exchangeable batteries in Notes were over. Then, explodey stuff started happening and I cancelled my order. Thank God.

    This debacle would have cost Samsung about $20 per unit to fix, if they had stayed to the removable battery design that made the Note a great phablet to begin with, but alas, they thought they could make a quick buck. Well, now it sounds like they haven't learned and are going to try to make the batteries more reliable (but it's still going to be a throw away device after the battery eventually fails, which all Lithium Ion batteries do).

    My advice Samsung, Note 8 better have a removable battery. Otherwise, I will definitely be jumping ship. I hope everyone follows me in this. They will probably just attribute low sales to their tainted reputation instead of us realizing the truth of why manufacturers embed batteries in their devices.

    Right now, I've got over 100 tab 7 tablets that all are worthless because of this same bone-headed design (granted those are slow terrible tablets, but most of them died due to battery failure far before their usefulness would have caused us to decommission them).

    Just my 2 cents.

  20. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Yeah, internal short circuit...

    That was obvious from the outset.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Yeah, internal short circuit...

      Lest anyone doubt this, here...

      http://tinyurl.com/InternalShort

    2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Yeah, internal short circuit...

      Samsung must have not paid the slightest attention to the Sony internally shorted battery fiasco several years ago.

      Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

      Dumb.

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