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Samsung Ships Flameproof Boxes For Note 7 Returns (arstechnica.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Samsung has been forced to cease production of its disastrous Galaxy Note 7 Smartphones because they keep catching fire, but it still has to address the problem of cleaning up its mess. The phone has been recalled twice, and owners now have to send their incendiary handsets back to the South Korean firm. And that poses a bit of a problem: if you need to issue a recall for a phone that is prone to spontaneously combust, you don't want those phones catching fire in transit. Samsung's solution is a fancy "Note 7 Return Kit," and it has sent one to XDA Developers. The kit contains a special "Recovery Box" that's lined with ceramic fiber paper to provide some protection against incineration. Samsung warns that some people will have a bad reaction to this lining, so the recovery kit also includes some gloves to protect your hands. They don't appear to be flame retardant, so if your Note 7 is currently ablaze, we'd suggest minimizing contact with it. Samsung also includes a shipping label to send the phone back. The box reinforces that flying ban, noting that the devices are only to be shipped by ground, safely within reach of the quenching hoses of the fire department.
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Samsung Ships Flameproof Boxes For Note 7 Returns

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  • This could have been a simple battery recall if they still used removable batteries.
    • Evidence please. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @08:16PM (#53059193)

      They switched the battery cells in production for the first recall. If changing the battery didn't fix the problem, why would changing the battery easier fix it?

      • Re:Evidence please. (Score:4, Informative)

        by HornWumpus ( 783565 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @08:27PM (#53059243)

        Battery packs often contain current limiters.

        If you're installing cells permanently, you will be tempted to do cute things with the charge circuit.

        Individual cell charging is common in the RC world. (Chargers are complicated, the market is mostly junk.) It is also common to charge batteries in fire-proof bags.

        Lithium batteries in consumer products need to be handled with caution. They aren't $300+ jumbo airplane batteries. If one dying cell kills the pack, that's a fair tradeoff for simplicity plus another level of current limiter.

        • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

          These are LiPo batteries we're talking about. AFAIK, they're always a single cell, and I don't think they typically contain any circuitry. If they did, they'd have a four-wire connector like lithium ion packs, rather than two. (Or at least all the flat packs I've seen only have the two wires.)

          • They're almost the same voltage/cell.

            Anybody know the pack voltage for this thing?

          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

            These are LiPo batteries we're talking about. AFAIK, they're always a single cell, and I don't think they typically contain any circuitry. If they did, they'd have a four-wire connector like lithium ion packs, rather than two. (Or at least all the flat packs I've seen only have the two wires.)

            No, you can get LiPo batteries with protection circuits that are just two-wire only. The other two wires are typically a thermistor connection and a one-wire connection to a gas gauge chip or memory chip to hold stuff

        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          "Chargers are complicated"

          Only because people fail at understanding basic power systems and basic fucking math. I have no problems using a wall wart with exposed wires to charge individual Li-ion cells.

          • A quality charger will detect that one of the cells in a pack isn't holding charge as well as the others and exercise that cell automagically, it won't generally fix the cell, but will extend its life.

        • Battery packs often contain current limiters

          Battery packs often contain current limiters that exclusively protect them from short circuits. That extra terminal on most battery packs is a temperature sensor. Charging and making sure things don't go pop during charging is almost exclusively done outside the battery pack.

          In any case this is all conjecture. The stories coming through are of phones spontaneously combusting during operation, not during charging.

          • The charge circuit does not go away when it isn't charging. It could still be the problem. As you say it is all conjecture.

            Something is shorting (or nearly shorting) the battery.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, because encouraging owners to swap out their own batteries with the cheapest Chinese crap they can find will be much safer.

    • Not necessarily, and pointing out this meme over and over again is really beating a dead horse: it isn't going to happen unless customers demand it and are willing to pay more for it. I am surprised they took this approach rather than have a disassembly kit at retailers or "repair centers" to minimize the hazards, but whatever.

      It will be interesting to see what Samsung does next for phone branding. The Samsung Phoenix? Sit it out for a couple months until customers forget about it?
    • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @08:47PM (#53059327)
      That may not be the case though. There's been a lot of speculation that it wasn't a battery issue (at least not entirely) but also something related to the overall device design, which is further supported since they've stopped production entirely. Given that there were multiple replacement units that had problems within a week of them going out to customers, it's difficult to accept the idea that it was just a battery issue unless Samsung completed screwed the pooch on exchanging devices.

      Removable batteries don't matter if the device itself is somehow leading to the problem for whatever (I've heard some ideas that its the CPU getting too hot, the case expanding/contracting and deforming the battery) reason. Perhaps Samsung could eventually engineer a battery that wouldn't be susceptible to whatever the underlying cause was, but how many months would that take to engineer and properly test and then how many more to produce enough to provide them to every customer. Most customers probably couldn't go without their device for that long, they probably couldn't travel with it even if they were still using it, and without really knowing the whole story or the scope of the problem, six months might by asking a non-trivial amount of people to play Russian roulette with their phone, which is a massive liability issue.

      Yes, consumers really like having removable batteries, but if the device itself ensures a greatly reduced lifespan that results in a violent destruction of the battery, does it really matter if it's removable?
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Perhaps Samsung could eventually engineer a battery

        LiFePO4 cells can be short-circuited, overheated, even punctured, and they won't catch fire. Oh and they have half the capacity of the "oops I turned into a fireball by accident" chemistry that you can find youtube videos of people puncturing and they catch fire.

        I don't think there are many phone makers out there willing to sacrifice half their run time for safety, but the technology exists.

      • > consumers really like having removable batteries

        Pretty much all the best-selling smartphones have non-removable batteries.

        Did you mean to say "the completely irrelevant smug technorati at Slashdot really like having removable batteries"?

      • The thing is, even if a removable battery doesn't cut down on fire incidents, it would have made the phones a lot easier to ship back to the manufacturer. Rather than go through all these hoops with fire-resistant boxes and ground-only shipping, they could simply have told people "Keep the phone powered off and bring it to an electronics recycler or an authorized seller to have the battery taken out and the phone shipped back to Samsung".

        I can easily see UPS and Fedex refusing to ship the returned phones, s

        • by adolf ( 21054 )

          Suppose we use your theory, and take a Samsung firebomb back to the retailer.

          They remove the battery.

          What happens then? Where does it go? How does it get there?

      • ... massive liability issue.

        The massive liability issue is half of it. The other half is that Samsung has a brand to protect, and is smart enough to know that no single product is worth destroying their brand.

      • Yes consumers really like having removable batteries

        [Citation needed] for the most part as far as I can see, outside of a few slashdot posters consumers couldn't give a crap about a removable battery.

      • Removable batteries don't matter if the device itself is somehow leading to the problem for whatever (I've heard some ideas that its the CPU getting too hot, the case expanding/contracting and deforming the battery) reason.

        A removable battery might well solve this problem, because it is better-protected than the bare foil packs that they use in phones without removable batteries.

      • by phorm ( 591458 )

        I don't think the push for thinness helps. Similar to how the iPhone 6 is experiencing issues with dying screens (due to flex on one of the related chips), perhaps what's happening is some important trace/component is being shorted because the overly-thin device is able to flex enough to cause Bad Things (tm) to happen, e.g. breaking a solder, having two components touch that aren't supposed to, etc

        Things are pretty crammed inside these phones, so it wouldn't take much for an unintended short to occur even

    • Or that could have made it worse as customers bought $5 Chinese knock-off batteries as spares.

  • They're sending out boxes for their potential firebombs that require gloves to handle?

    Clearly they realize that sending something that could spontaneously catch fire in the mail or through couriers is a significant concern, but wouldn't it make more sense to set up return centres at carrier retail locatdions where the phones could be loaded with a "discharge app" (put the display on full brightness, run the speaker at full volume with an inaudible signal, turn on the radios without broadcasting, etc.) to ma

    • Did some digging... the reason they likely didn't go with that approach is you need to heat the glass to soften the adhesive holding the unit together, and once opening it there is still a lot of tooling necessary to remove the battery.
  • by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @09:16PM (#53059459) Journal

    It would be safer if the devices were frozen in carbonite for return shipping.

  • "Back in the day", I had a Samsung slider that was pretty much bulletproof. Long battery life, very primitive internet capability (but enough to let you search for information or check email), and a tolerance for punishment that verged on masochism. And it could get a signal where a lot of phones couldn't.

    Ever since, they seem to have gotten into some kind of death spiral where their phones look great and offer steadily increasing capabilities, but reliability has declined to the point where they're now t

  • I don't see how sending explosive devices in the post is lawful. The fact that the manufacturer believes there is a risk of fire is a clear indicator that these are dangerous items.

    Worst of all, if one does catch fire in transit, the sender (not Samsung) will be liable for the consequences.

    It's really disappointing to see a company like Samsung handle this so badly

    The only sensible option is to return it to the point of sale for a refund. Failing that, people should be contacting Samsung so that they

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That is what the special box with markings indicating the contents, and prepaid ground postage are for. This isn't the first device with a defective li-ion battery and UPS has procedures in place to deal with it.

  • by Xylantiel ( 177496 ) on Tuesday October 11, 2016 @10:53PM (#53059861)
    I had a battery recall on a NVIDIA tablet and the return kit was a fireproof box that required ground shipping. And they weren't exploding, just failing early. This is standard procedure for any defective li-ion battery.
  • so if your Note 7 is currently ablaze, we'd suggest minimizing contact with it.

    . Uh, thanks?

  • Galaxy Note smartphone was constantly warming was 7 wonders of the explosion.
  • I'm just curious how the hell this problem got past their QA department?

    • I'm just curious how the hell this problem got past their QA department?

      Because they sold millions of them and a few dozen have caught fire. Kinda hard to thoroughly run millions of units through a QA department.

      • by Khyber ( 864651 )

        "Kinda hard to thoroughly run millions of units through a QA department."

        No, not really, even with an actual staff of QA engineers vs automated tools.

        Source: I did the QA on every LED light I've sold, Hydroponics system I've built, and very building I've constructed, plus I continuously do QA on every mine I currently own as I continue to prospect further into mountains. People that know what they're doing will find the flaws very early on.

  • Since these phones will only be recycled, why bother with the static shielding bag?!

    • Probably because it costs 5 cents to make sure there isn't a static discharge that could potentially cause a battery fire while these things are being tossed around a shipping company's logistics center, or bouncing about in the back of a truck?

  • Challenge fuckin accepted. Where do I get one?

  • from a previous Samsung slashdot article and someone quoted that in their comment. Considering flaming Galaxy 7 phones and exploding washing machines, https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    I looked around to see any footage of exploding washing machines, found this Hotpoint that seemed quite formidable as it kept going instead of just abruptly stopping after first breakage, https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

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