Word leaked last week that Samsung’s official Galaxy Note 7 fire investigation would point to the device’s battery as the cause of the problem, and that’s exactly what the company said on Monday. Samsung also it’s delaying the launch of the Galaxy S8 smartphone as a result of its Note 7 investigation.
Samsung executives said its two suppliers, Samsung SDI and Amperex Technology, delivered batteries with defects that led to short circuits. The defects, they said, were different for each manufacturer.
The Galaxy Note 7 smartphone was released in August 2016 ahead of Apple’s fall iPhone 7 launch. Samsung was hoping to entice new customers thanks to rumors that the iPhone 7 would be disappointing. Instead, the company drew headlines over reports that its phones were catching fire.
Samsung offered replacement Note 7s to its customers, but those also caught fire. In the end the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration banned the transport of the devices on airplanes, and Samsung stopped production and killed off the model.
Over 90% of the Note 7 phones sold have been returned, and Samsung released a software update to stop those that still unaccounted for from charging. Verizon is trying to get its remaining Note 7 users to turn in their phones by rerouting calls made from the devices on its network to customer service representatives.
An independent study looked at the Note 7’s design and concluded that the battery compartment was too small. Some battery swelling is normal, so smartphone makers typically make their compartments 10% larger. The Note 7’s compartment, however, was just large enough to fit a new battery so the thin membrane separating its chemical components ruptured, causing the fires.
According to Samsung, just over 3 million Note 7 smartphones were sold, and 96% have been returned. That leaves about 12,000 phones in the wild, some of which seem to still work and continue to pose a fire hazard.
The Galaxy Note 7 didn’t help Samsung’s reputation, but it doesn’t seem to have hurt it, either. The company’s long-term reputation as a smartphone maker rests in the hands of the Galaxy S8, which may account for why Samsung is delaying its launch. If the S8 turns into an explode-a-phone like the Note 7, consumers will stop trusting the company, and that’s not something Samsung is willing to risk.