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Samsung Note 7 Investigation Will Blame 'Irregularly Sized' Batteries and Manufacturing Flaws, Says WSJ (theverge.com) 87

Samsung's official investigation into the cause of widespread faults with the Galaxy Note 7 will blame "irregularly sized" batteries and manufacturing faults, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The company is set to announce the results of its inquiry this weekend, but the WSJ claims to have revealed its conclusions early, citing information from "people familiar with the matter." From the report: The WSJ says Samsung hired three independent "quality-control and supply-chain analysis firms" to conduct its investigation, with these firms concluding that two separate faults affected the Note 7. The first fault relates to devices that used batteries made by Samsung subsidiary Samsung SDI. These batteries didn't fit inside the phone properly, which led to overheating and, in some cases, explosions. When reports of the Note 7 fault first emerged last August, executives initially believed the problem was confined to these particular devices. In response, they increased production of the Note 7 using batteries made by Hong Kong-based firm Amperex Technology. According to the official investigation, this rush to ensure there was an adequate supply of Note 7 devices for the market led to the second fault -- with the increased pressure on production creating unknown "manufacturing issues."
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Samsung Note 7 Investigation Will Blame 'Irregularly Sized' Batteries and Manufacturing Flaws, Says WSJ

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  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @09:51AM (#53703121)
    Well this is definitely an argument in favor of having some modular components inside of compact electronics like phones. It's understandable that the old PC model with sockets for the electronic parts like memory and microprocessors is not practical in miniaturized devices this small, but it definitely makes sense for devices like batteries, which are not nearly so integrated into the electronics as many other devices, to be removable.

    Had the batteries been removable, Samsung could have recalled these units by correcting battery manufacturing problems and then shipping batteries to the carriers to distribute via store, or directly to consumers in cases where the store might not be an option.

    A couple of coworkers had these phones and basically used them until they were bricked, they loved them so much. A lot of people would have been much less unhappy if a simple battery swap had been an option.
    • Had they be removable, the device would be too bulky for todays trendy consumers.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        How much thickness do you think the extra outer layer of plastic adds to the phone? If it has to be more than a millimeter I would be surprised.
        • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:14AM (#53703275) Homepage Journal

          How much thickness do you think the extra outer layer of plastic adds to the phone? If it has to be more than a millimeter I would be surprised.

          Personally, I think it has more to do with the fact the lithium ion batteries have a finite shelf-life than it does with thickness. That means in two years you need a new phone even if you never added any software to it and managed the battery recharging perfectly. Even if the phone had been sitting in a box all that time it'd have significantly less battery life.

          • That means in two years you need a new phone

            WTF are you doing to your phones that you only get 2 years out of the battery?

            • Letting it drain completely. A lot of people don't know that battery life is even shorter nowadays since you shouldn't let them drain.
              • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

                How far should it be allowed to drain? I thought the shortened battery life was cause by people topping up to often and not using the phone through full discharge cycles.

                • Low charge levels causes permanent damage to li-ion batteries.

                • How far should it be allowed to drain? I thought the shortened battery life was cause by people topping up to often and not using the phone through full discharge cycles.

                  Shortened life is due to several things:

                  a) over discharge
                  b) over cycling (big charges from empty to full)
                  c) over temperature
                  d) storage at full capacity.

                  You want to maximise your battery life? Run it from 30-70%, charge it slowly, and keep your phone at 20-30 degC

                  • Hardly possible. I'd rather buy cheap Chinese aftermarket batteries that are real crap, and switch them every few months

                    • Hardly possible. I'd rather buy cheap Chinese aftermarket batteries that are real crap, and switch them every few months

                      Or buy a Sony phone which will have these hard limits programmed in to extend battery life. But hey if you want to go with multiple Chinese you may as well just use a cigarette lighter. It's cheaper and the fire will be just as big.

            • by hey! ( 33014 )

              Of course batteries last much longer than that. They just don't deliver as much energy. You can still use your three or four year phone, it just won't last all day like it did when it was new.

              • Of course batteries last much longer than that. They just don't deliver as much energy. You can still use your three or four year phone, it just won't last all day like it did when it was new.

                On top of that, what phones are there in the market where you can't get the battery replaced? For example, you can get any iPhone battery replaced for $79 (with a genuine Apple battery, not one that is called "genuine" on Amazon), so if you had say an iPhone 6 with a two year old battery and it stopped working, you would be stupid not to replace it.

              • Of course batteries last much longer than that. They just don't deliver as much energy.

                Let me repeat my question. "WTF are you doing to your phones that you only get 2 years out of the battery?" You're getting a noticeable performance decline in 2 years then you're doing something very wrong.

                • by hey! ( 33014 )

                  I don't have to do anything. Even stored under ideal circumstances li-ion batteries lose capacity.

                  What matter is capacity relative to demand. In a phone like the Droid Maxx from a few years ago with plenty of surplus battery the phone will still be usable four years later. But something like a Samsung Galaxy S6 barely has enough battery to make it through the day when brand new and is pretty much unusable two years later even under ideal conditions.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          For the battery to be truly removable and replaceable it would either need to be significantly larger not because of the battery but because there needs to be a frame rigid enough to accept the battery. When the battery is built in this is no longer a consideration. The only other option is to make the battery replacement part a component of the phone frame which is likely to mean only official batteries can be used and they will be expensive.

          As for a recall-and-fix being less expensive - HAHA. It is way

          • by TWX ( 665546 )
            And if the phone is modular and was sold through a carrier that has a brick-and-mortar presence, you start by having the carrier send notifications to the handsets on its network to come in and exchange the battery. After that first round, you start being more insistent about it and you possibly disable a feature like high-speed data until they bring it in. For those that continue to ignore it, you brick the phone. You set up a means for the clerk to note that a particular phone's battery has been swappe
        • How much thickness do you think the extra outer layer of plastic adds to the phone? If it has to be more than a millimeter I would be surprised.

          You say 1 mm. I say 13% of the width of the entire phone. Perspective is everything.

      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:23AM (#53703311)

        I actually started going out of my way to ask around among people that I run into (at meetings, conferences, etc) whether they want slimmer phones. Even the markedroids didn't give a shit.

        Who the hell wants those phones thinner? Nobody I know cares. Yes, we don't want the inch-thick bricks from the 1990, no doubt about this, but phones have been "thin enough" for well over 5 years now.

        • by TWX ( 665546 )
          I went to a thicker phone. Sure, it takes a little more room in my pocket, but it doesn't slip out of my hand while I'm trying to hold it up to my head either.
          • by Agripa ( 139780 )

            I went to a thicker phone. Sure, it takes a little more room in my pocket, but it doesn't slip out of my hand while I'm trying to hold it up to my head either.

            You are holding it wrong.

        • If they would just make some thicker phones then they could finally make some money.

        • Me. Hi. I want a slimmer phone. However I want it without compromises. I would prefer the iPhone to be slimmer but with square edges, because that rounded shit makes it hard to pick up. Lighter too. In fact if you could make it the exact thickness of the headphone jack it would be perfect, because any smaller and you'd need to remove it and I want to keep mine.

      • Had they be removable, the device would be too bulky for todays trendy consumers.

        The "trendy consumers" weren't allowed to make that decision.

        • They just didn't make the decision that you wanted the to make.

          • They just didn't make the decision that you wanted the to make.

            When were consumers given the choice of buying a slightly fatter S7 with a bigger, safer battery?

            When were iPhone 7 consumers given that decision?

            • Or you can make your own--those are your choices with pretty much every single product in the world.

              • those are your choices with pretty much every single product in the world.

                No. There are more smartphones than cars in the world, but I can buy a Ford with an automatic transmission, a manual transmission, a big trunk, a small trunk, hatchback, truck bed or 20" rims that spin backward when I drive.

                So where is my 2017 Samsung or Apple with a replaceable battery?

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        OTOH, it beats the devices being too explody!

        • by TWX ( 665546 )
          Heh. This actually is a good point in a humorous way. If a device has a fundamental flaw that makes it unacceptable, it doesn't matter what bells and whistles it has.
        • Well if they got rid of that headphone port, there may had been enough free space to account for manufacturers discrepancies.

    • Had the batteries been removable, Samsung could have recalled these units by correcting battery manufacturing problems and then shipping batteries to the carriers to distribute via store, or directly to consumers in cases where the store might not be an option.

      Yeah. Or people could just buy after market ones. Off ebay. Which catch fire and explode.

      • Phones with replaceable batteries are the only ones that I have ever wanted. Glued in batteries have always seems nuts to me. Just a waste of money. I've never had a battery explode on me. I only use the OEM ones. They're cheap enough at $20 or so, vs $100 to replace a glued in one.
        • Phones with replaceable batteries are the only ones that I have ever wanted.

          Have a cookie. Unfortunately it's not a marketable feature. No one cares. Okay maybe the 6.9999999 billion people other than you and a few others here on Slashdot.

          This ship sailed 10 years ago.

    • I was always on that boat, until I got an S7. Water resistant, and the battery gets me 5+ hrs with heavy use. I swapped the S4 batteries out once a day, even with constant charging. I'm pretty happy with water resistance and the glued in battery. That plus wireless "drop and charge" charging, and I'm a happy customer. YMMV, of course.

  • OK, so (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    the decision to dump the removable battery really was as brain-dead as it looked.

    • I find it astonishing that the Galaxy S5 had removable battery, could accept an SD card, AND WAS FREAKIN' WATERPROOF. At least extremely water resistant. Oh, and had a headphone jack.

      Then what did Samsung do in the Galaxy S6? Not waterproof. No SD card. And non-replacable battery. Why? (And Samsung stated as much . . .) to be more like an iPhone. More metal and glass. (freakin idiots)

      Newsflash: if I wanted an iPhone, I would have bought an iPhone. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
      • If you didn't want a wannabe iPhone, you shouldn't have gone with Samsung.
        • Are you saying Samsung doesn't make the best wannabe iPhone? :-)

          I used to like Samsung's products. After the S5, not so much. But I wasn't a fan of Samsung they way I was a huge Apple fan back in the day. However, Apple today is a very different company than the great company I remember. I've found a phone I like really well. I hope you do also. I don't expect that I will ever view Apple they way I once did. (And I never viewed Samsung the same way that I did the classic Apple.)
  • An anecdote (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:08AM (#53703235)

    I work in print

    Certain professions (architects and some flavors of engineer) have a bad habit of giving very very specific dimensions, like to within 10um over ~1m which promptly get ignored. Not only are they unimportant and unatainable, but the substrates themselves aren't anything like that dimensionaly stable. Sometimes when I point this out to them they get a little bit upset, and give the impression that they feel I am some sort of slap-dash cowboy who couldn't give a fuck about their requirements.

    Now my understanding of prismatic lithium cells is that they are made my laminating foil and plastic together, and then rolling it up into a battery, I'd guess that this is quite a repeatable process but not uber-precise when it comes to finished size. Combine this with the electrodes tendency to expand and contract with charge / discharge cycle then all you need is one over optimistic design engineer to spell disaster.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      Exactly. This is just the cellphone division trying to palm off their own failure to use proper tolerances on to someone else.

    • by thsths ( 31372 )

      Especially in print you should be used to excellent precision. Even a standard laser printer used 1200dpi now, so a dot pitch of 20um. And these 20um need to be precise over the whole page (30cm), you cannot have one dot much larger than another without the result looking wrong.

      Samsung did not have this problem. The battery should have been 4mm thick, but it was 4.3mm or so. That may be less than 1mm, but it is a large difference..

      • by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

        You misunderstand the problem with printing.

        Yes, the dot pitch will be very accurate. But the paper can shift, which is why any professional printing requires what is called a "bleed" area of 1/8 of an inch. It can also bend or stretch from heat or moisture. I just ordered prints from a professional photographer, and I saw more than 1/8" shift. The left-most wallet-size picture was missing the left part of the picture, and the right-most wallet-size picture showed more of the right side of the picture t

  • To thin! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:16AM (#53703283)

    I don't want an super thin phone, why not make it bit bigger to have an better battery / one you can swap!

    • I don't want an super thin phone, why not make it bit bigger to have an better battery / one you can swap!

      Here you go: http://www.androidauthority.co... [androidauthority.com] ... Now stop complaining.

      • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

        LG, LG and LG...
        And following the announcement that the LG G6 will non-modular and waterproof, I am not confident the trend will continue. What you are seeing on this page may be the last mainstream smartphones with a removable battery.

      • Bleh, who wants android with their non-intuitive settings UI?
  • How much blame is Samsung placing on their: - Engineering dept which should have reviewed the specs for battery. - Vendor management group (which is probably Engineering) which should have overseen the battery and made sure the vendor built it to specs and tested it to specs. - QA Dept which should have verified those specs and tested the hell out of the product? There's plenty of blame to go around.
  • I don't understand why they can't admit it was a design flaw that didn't account for the expansion of the battery pack by using far too tight tolerances. If they don't recognize the problem it will happen again.

    • I don't understand why they can't admit it was a design flaw that didn't account for the expansion of the battery pack by using far too tight tolerances. If they don't recognize the problem it will happen again.

      My understanding is that the specs were just fine, but the batteries were too big.

  • by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Friday January 20, 2017 @10:33AM (#53703389)

    I've got upwards of $1000USD to spend on my next phone. It will not be spent on any device which has a battery glued in.

    Wany my money, Samsung? Stop gluing batteries into your flagship phones.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      sounds like you wont be buying ANY phones.
      All of them are glued in.

      • by Chirs ( 87576 )

        Not true...do some research. LG has the G5, V10, and V20 with removable battery. There's also the Moto G4 Play, the Samsung J7, and probably others.

  • Putin had them sabotaged as he knows that only democrats would buy android phones, thus trying to cut off all the communication.

  • My understanding is that most of the Samsung batteries are made in Korea when the products are exported globally. China-only products are made — and correct me if I am wrong —in China. Apparently Samsung has started making batteries elsewhere such as Viet-Nam. I'd be curious to see where the problem happened. If it was only in one plant, particularly a new one, that's unfortunate but not as bad as batteries going sour from multiple locations. That would indicate broad, deeply rooted issues in th

  • The exact same symptom caused simultaneously by two completely different process failures?

    Greg House disappproves.

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