(AFP) The world’s biggest smartphone maker Samsung yesterday blamed faulty batteries for the fires that hit its flagship Galaxy Note7 device last year, as it sought to draw a line under the humiliating recall.
Samsung Electronics was forced to discontinue the smartphone, originally intended to compete with Apple’s iPhone, after a chaotic recall that saw replacement devices also catching fire.
Internal and independent investigations “concluded that batteries were found to be the cause of the Note7 incidents”, Samsung said in a statement.
“We sincerely apologise for the discomfort and concern we have caused to our customers,” said Koh Dong-Jin, the head of its mobile business, bowing before hundreds of reporters and cameramen at a press conference.
Samsung announced a recall of the oversized Galaxy Note7 in September 2016 after several devices exploded or caught fire, with the company blaming batteries from a supplier.
When replacement phones — with batteries from another firm — also started to combust, the company decided to kill off the Note7 for good.
In total, 3.1 million devices were recalled as authorities in the US and elsewhere banned the device from use on planes and even from being placed in checked luggage.
Analysts said Samsung was looking to move on through the announcement, which did not implicate other devices.
“Consumers tend to be forgiving the first time,” said Tom Kang, research director at Counterpoint Technology. “But if it happens again, it will leave a lasting mark on Samsung’s quality and brand image.”
Samsung had concentrated on innovative design, thinness and battery capacity rather than safety, he said.
The firm’s next model, the Galaxy S8, had been expected to be unveiled at next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. But Samsung’s Koh said it would be delayed to ensure it had no safety problems.
Samsung said it deployed around 700 researchers and engineers on its investigation, testing more than 200,000 fully assembled devices and more than 30,000 batteries.
It did not identify the battery makers yesterday, but independent investigators UL and Exponent agreed with the findings.
One of the defective batteries had a design flaw that pushed down its right corner, while the other had faulty internal welds, said Kevin White, principal scientist at Exponent.
Around 1,000 different parts from some 450 suppliers were needed for each Galaxy Note7.
But Koh dismissed the possibility of suing the manufacturers. “Whatever parts we use, the overall responsibility falls to us for failing to verify its safety and quality,” he said.
Samsung acknowledged that it provided the battery specifications, adding in its statement: “We have taken several corrective actions to ensure this never happens again. The lessons of the past several months are now deeply reflected in our processes and in our culture.”
Sister company, Samsung SDI confirmed it was one of the battery makers, saying in a statement it had mounted its own investigation into the units and now had “a more thorough verification process”.