The last time we reported on the Samsung Galaxy Note7 fire-risk issue was a month ago today. At that time we learnt that the recall of the smartphones so far sold was going to cost Samsung about US$900 million. At the same time we first heard Samsung's official explanation of why the batteries in the new flagship Note models were the cause of the potential fire/explosion danger. Samsung had begun its worldwide recall just a few days earlier.
On Tuesday (this Tuesday 4th October) the first new Samsung Galaxy Note7 smartphones started to reach stores in the US. ZDNet reported that Verizon and Sprint customers could buy 'safe' new Galaxy Note7 phones, with T-Mobile starting to stock the device just a day later. Furthermore, those who had sent-in their potentially dangerous Note7 as part of Samsung's replacement program should have all already received a replacement.
Unfortunately for Samsung, we already have the first story of a new Samsung Galaxy Note7 spontaneously combusting… While it is still very early days for these replacement Note7 models the timing and place of the incident isn't good for Samsung. As reported by The Verge yesterday, "Southwest Airlines flight 994 from Louisville to Baltimore was evacuated" due to a smouldering Note7. The aircraft was still at the gate and no one was hurt as everyone got off the plane before breathing too much smoke.
The owner of the new Galaxy Note7 involved in the incident, Brian Green, told The Verge that he picked up a new Note7 from AT&T on 21st Sept. It was indeed one of Samsung's refreshed models as it featured a green battery level indicator icon by default. The Verge pictured the same phone's box which features a black square symbol, also confirming it as a replacement Note7.
After boarding the Southwest Airlines plane, Green powered down his smartphone, as staff requested all passengers to do, and put it in his pocket. Soon Green noticed the phone started to emit smoke from his pocket, and dropping it on the floor it poured out a "thick grey-green angry smoke". Everyone was evacuated from the plane. Later on a colleague of Green re-entered the plane to pick up luggage and took a photo of the Samsung phone, as shown in the main picture, above. It had apparently "burned through the carpet and scorched the subfloor of the plane".
Of course it is early days for Samsung's new Note7 devices and an isolated, early incident might not mark a (dangerous) new trend. For now Samsung has issued a statement to say "Until we are able to retrieve the device, we cannot confirm that this incident involves the new Note7. We are working with the authorities and Southwest now to recover the device and confirm the cause. Once we have examined the device we will have more information to share". The Louisville Fire Department’s arson unit is currently in possession of the phone.