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Samsung Galaxy Note 9: The Note 7 battery fiasco, turnaround, and more

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is rumoured to come with a large 4,000mAh battery - highest for a Galaxy Note phone.
Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is rumoured to come with a large 4,000mAh battery - highest for a Galaxy Note phone. (Samsung)

Two years after the Galaxy Note 7 battery fiasco, Samsung is advertising the improved battery as one of the key improvements in Note 9. Let’s look back at the Galaxy Note 7, the phone from being the best Android phone to a safety hazard.

Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is all set to be launched on August 9. The latest addition to the popular Galaxy Note series will come two years after Samsung's disastrous run with Galaxy Note 7. Ahead of the official launch, Samsung is hinting at a major improvement to the battery — something that the company didn't fix in the Galaxy Note 7 leading to a PR nightmare for the Korean smartphone giant.

Galaxy Note 7 which launched on August 2, 2016, was a generation leap from the predecessor Note 5 and boasted top-of-the-line specifications and features. Shortly after initial reviews described the Galaxy Note 7 as the "best Android phone", a number of cases were reported by users around the world about the phone overheating, and even exploding for some.

Warnings, Ban and Global Recall
Almost a week after the sales kicked off in the US, first reports of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 overheating and exploding surfaced online. On August 29, 2016, YouTuber Ariel Gonzalez posted a video of burned Note 7 which had allegedly caught fire after charging the phone. Later a number of users around the world posted photos and videos about Samsung Galaxy Note 7 overheating and catching fire.

The first recall
On September 2, 2016, Samsung acknowledged the battery issues in some Galaxy Note 7 units and announced a global recall of roughly 2.5 million units. It also offered refunds and free replacements to consumers.

The second recall, end of sales
Despite the replacements, Samsung Galaxy Note 7 units continued to catch fire. Meanwhile, the US aviation agency and other agencies around the world including India had imposed a ban on flying with the Note 7. Samsung on October 11, 2016, announced end of sales and production of the phone and also asked users to switch off the phone and stop using them. ALSO READ: Galaxy Note 7: Timeline of Samsung's phones woes

Latest Samsung teaser says
Latest Samsung teaser says "Battery cannot keep up. A lot can change in a day. August 9, 2018." (Samsung)

Why Samsung Galaxy Note 7 exploded?
On January 23, 2017, Samsung came out with a detailed report on why its Galaxy Note 7 phones caught fire and exploded. According to reports, the Korean giant had deployed around 700 researchers and engineers on its investigation.

"A short circuit within the battery may occur when there is damage to the separator that allows the positive and negative electrodes to meet within the jellyroll. Based on a detailed analysis of the affected batteries, both Battery A from the 1st recall and Battery B from the 2nd recall, we identified separate factors that originated in and were specific to the two different batteries," explained Samsung on its website.

Inside the Galaxy Note 7 battery component.
Inside the Galaxy Note 7 battery component. (Samsung)

Galaxy Note 7 still in use
According to reports, some users are still clinging on to the old Note 7 units. Fortunately, these phones are not properly functional. Reports suggest some users have rooted the phone to skip the software updates that blocked functionalities on the Note 7. Even Samsung on its website says, "Nearly all recalled Galaxy Note7 devices have been returned."

This essentially means some, perhaps very few in numbers, are still using the phone, putting their safety at risk. There's an entire Reddit thread revealing how people are using workarounds to use the phone.

Aftermath and Turnaround
That said, Galaxy Note 7 was a crucial phone for the Korean giant considering it followed the successful Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge that helped Samsung achieve the strongest profits in two years at the time.

"The IT & Mobile Communications (IM) Division saw substantial earnings improvement led by expanded sales of flagship products such as the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. A streamlined mid-to low-end smartphone lineup also contributed to improved profitability. The operating profit for the IM Division was KRW 4.32 trillion," said Samsung in its second quarter report for 2016.

"Looking into the third quarter, the release of a new large-screen flagship smartphone will help to maintain solid sales of high-end smartphones led by the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge."

Samsung in October 2016 had said that it had anticipated a loss of over $5 billion due to the Galaxy Note 7 battery fiasco. The company, however, reported record profits in the fourth quarter of 2016. The growth was driven by the company's component business.

"For 2016, Samsung achieved solid results despite the Note 7 discontinuation in the second half as a result of continuous efforts during past two to three years to strengthen its component business competitiveness by focusing on value-added products and widening the technology gap in the DRAM business as well as strategic investments in V-NAND and OLED. The company also made several key acquisitions and divestures which will enable the future growth," said Samsung.

Refurbished Note 7
Woes for Samsung didn't end with the global recall of the Galaxy Note 7 units. The company drew flak from environmentalists who urged the company to address the impact on the environment due to the Note 7 recall. At the MWC 2017 conference, Greenpeace activists crashed Samsung's conference demanding the company to reuse the recalled units.

This compelled Samsung to launch refurbished Galaxy Note 7 in some markets. The company also laid out the principles on which the refurbished Note 7 units were based.

"First, devices shall be considered to be used as refurbished phones or rental phones where applicable. Second, salvageable components shall be detached for reuse. Third, processes such as metals extraction shall be performed using environment-friendly methods," said the company.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung made a strong comeback next year with Galaxy Note 8, a phone that was well received around the world. According to a Counterpoint Report, Note 8 was among the top-selling premium phones in India in the fourth quarter of 2017.

"Samsung was behind OnePlus, capturing the third spot, as promotions for its Galaxy S8 and Note 8 remained strong. But it had tough competition from the iPhone 7 and the iPhone X. In terms of best selling models, iPhone X was the leading model in the premium segment, capturing one fifth of shipments, followed by the OnePlus 5T and Samsung Note 8," according to the Counterpoint report.

Note 8 among the top premium phones in India
Note 8 among the top premium phones in India (Counterpoint)

Samsung too reported growth in the shipments of its Note 8 models.

"While total smartphone shipments decreased compared to the last quarter, mainly in mass smartphones, sales of flagship models such as Galaxy Note 8 increased. Mobile business earnings decreased due to an increase in marketing cost amid strong seasonality," it said on its website.

A closer look at the refreshed design of Note 8.
A closer look at the refreshed design of Note 8. (HT Photo)

Samsung Galaxy Note 9
The latest offering under Note series is expected to come with improved battery life. According to reports, the phone will have a 4,000mAh battery — the highest ever for a Galaxy Note phone in the history. Its predecessor had a 3,300mAh battery.

Other expected features of Samsung Galaxy Note 9 include Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 or in-house Exynos 9810 SoC, 6GB RAM, and up to 512GB of built-in storage.

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