Samsung Caps Note 7 Battery Charging to Prevent Overheating

  • Software update from Sept. 20 will cap capacity at 60 percent
  • Samsung makes public apology via Korean newspaper ads

Samsung to Limit Note 7 Battery Charge

Samsung Electronics Co. will push out a software update for South Korea that caps the capacity of Galaxy Note 7 smartphone batteries at 60 percent, a stop-gap measure to prevent overheating as the device’s global recall proceeds.

The unusual move, announced on the first day of a major national holiday, reinforces the urgency with which Samsung’s trying to contain its deepest crisis in years. The company announced the recall of the Note 7 -- one of its best-reviewed phones upon debut -- on Sept. 2 after receiving 35 cases of the device overheating or catching fire. A week later, it urged local users to immediately power off their phones.

It’s unclear if or when Samsung will also push out updates in other countries where the Note 7 went on sale, including the U.S. The software’s availability may vary in each market depending on the local situation and requirements, the company said in an e-mailed response to questions. China has been excluded from a global recall but Samsung plans to retrieve a small number of pre-sale test devices starting Wednesday.

“We plan to carry out the Galaxy Note 7 software update starting from 2 a.m. on Sept. 20,” Samsung said in a statement, which it said will only apply to phones that haven’t been exchanged for new ones. “This is a measure we are taking for our customers’ safety but we apologize for the inconvenience caused.”

Samsung said replacements for the recalled phones would be available from Sept. 19. In China, Samsung has now initiated a recall of 1,858 test devices distributed to consumers before the Note 7 went on sale Sept. 1, the country’s quality-control agency said in a statement on its website. The country’s aviation regulators also warned travelers against using the device in-flight or stowing it in luggage.

Samsung has been trying to get to the bottom of the faulty batteries in concert with regulators. Its initial conclusions indicate an error in production placed pressure on plates contained within battery cells. That in turn brought negative and positive poles into contact, triggering excessive heat. Samsung however stressed that it needed to carry out a more thorough analysis to determine “the exact cause” of battery damage. According to the Chinese inspection agency, certain parts of the separator that sits between electrodes could thin out and rubber insulators may not adequately cover the plates, causing a short-circuit.

The world’s largest smartphone maker also apologized to Korean users through nationwide newspaper ads on the first day of Chuseok, one of the country’s biggest festive occasions. It pledged to pay part of the mobile fees for customers who replace their Note 7s with new phones, without specifying amounts.

Samsung lost $22 billion in market value over the two days from Friday after regulators, airlines and the company itself warned against the use of the devices. The stock rebounded to end 4.2 percent higher Tuesday.

“Samsung Galaxy will be reborn as a loved and trusted brand through more rigorous quality control,” it said in the ads.

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