Samsung caps Galaxy Note7 charge to keep batteries from exploding – TechRepublic

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Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung is trying to cool the flames of its Galaxy Note7 debacle by issuing a software update that will limit battery recharges to 60% in an effort to curtail overheating, according to the Associated Press.

South Korean newspaper Seoul Shinmun published a Samsung advertisement on Tuesday announcing the software update for any Note7 users who are still using the phone despite the recall, the AP stated. The update for South Korean users will start September 20, the ad said, though it remains unclear if it will also be issued in the US.

According to Yonhap News, an Over-the-Air (OTA) update will begin on September 20 at 10 am in South Korea. And, ZDNet reported that: “Samsung is in talks with telcos from nine other countries where the phablet is available to deploy a similar software upgrade.”

“It’s a quick, short-term fix, but it will help business people who need to travel or can’t go for the recall quickly,” said Jacob Sharony, principal consultant at Mobius Consulting.

SEE: Samsung Galaxy Note7: The smart person’s guide

Though the Note7 was well-reviewed and popular among business professionals, reports of “exploding” batteries and the recall of 1 million devices sold has badly hurt the company. On Monday, Samsung shares fell 7%. In the past two weeks, it lost more than $25 billion in market value, according to CNN Money.

The timing couldn’t be worse, with pre-orders of the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus at Sprint up more than 375% in the first three days over last year. The new Apple devices also mark the largest pre-order in T-Mobile history. And, it’s unlikely that the Note7 software update fix will appease customers who were drawn to the phone, in part, due to its longer battery life. Meanwhile, the iPhone 7 promises an extra two hours of battery life over previous models.

Last week, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stated it was “urging all consumers who own a Samsung Galaxy Note7 to power them down and stop charging or using the device.” The Federal Aviation Administration also released a statement that it “strongly advises passengers not to turn on or charge these devices on board aircraft and not to stow them in any checked baggage.”

“We are asking users to power down their Galaxy Note7s and exchange them now,” said Tim Baxter, president of Samsung Electronics America, after the CPSC statement was released. “New Note7 replacement devices will be issued to exchange program participants upon completion of the CPSC process. In the interim, consumers can return their Note7 for another device.”

After the recall announcement, Samsung launched its US Note7 Exchange Program. It allows customers to chose one of the following:

  1. Exchange current Galaxy Note7 device with a new Galaxy Note7 (pending CPSC approval).
  2. Exchange current Galaxy Note7 for a Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 edge and replacement of any Note7-specific accessories with a refund of the price difference between devices.

Certain carrier and retail outlets will also provide customers who prefer a replacement Note7 with a Samsung loaner phone to use until new Note7s are available, the company stated. And those accessing the US exchange program will receive a $25 gift card or bill credit from certain carrier or retail outlets.

The problem originally began when several reports from South Korean social media accounts showed Note7 phones that had a battery that “exploded” while plugged into a charger. The company said the fires were caused by faulty battery cells, affecting only a small number of phones. A house fire in Horry County, SC is also under investigation as possibly starting due to a Galaxy Note7 that was left plugged in. A Florida man’s Jeep also recently caught fire while the device was charging inside, though it is also under investigation.

As of September 2, Samsung had manufactured 2.5 million Galaxy Note7 devices, and sold 1 million. At that point, 35 cases of the battery issue globally were reported to the South Korean company. Today, more than 70 cases have been reported to Samsung in the US alone, according to the AP.

“Some people might lose confidence, but I believe Samsung will recover after some time,” Sharony said.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Samsung announced that it will issue an Over-the-Air (OTA) update for its recalled Galaxy Note7 phones that will prevent the battery from charging past 60% capacity in order to stop the phones from overheating.
  2. The update is meant to be a short-term fix for users who have not yet turned in their phones with the Samsung exchange program.
  3. The Galaxy Note7 recall comes at a terrible time for Samsung, as the company’s stock continues to fall, while Apple’s new iPhone 7 has set pre-order records.

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