Li-Ion Tech Staring Into The Abyss With Note 7 Failure

Unless you’ve been living under a high voltage transformer, you’ve heard about the potential for Samsung’s latest phone, the Note7, to turn into a little pocket grenade without warning. With over 2.5 million devices in existence, it’s creating quite a headache for the company and its consumers.

They quickly tied the problem to faulty Li-ion batteries and started replacing them, while issuing a firmware update to stop charging at 60 percent capacity. But after 5 of the replacement phones caught fire, Samsung killed the Note7 completely. There is now a Total Recall on all Note7 phones and they are no longer for sale.  If you have one, you are to turn it off immediately. And don’t even think about strapping it into a VR headset — Oculus no longer supports it. If needed, Samsung will even send you a fireproof box and safety gloves to return it.

Every airline has been broadcasting warnings not to power on or charge a Note 7 on a plane. Image Source: CNET

It should be noted that the problem only affects 0.01% of the phones out there, so they’re not exactly going to set the world on fire. However, it has generated yet another discussion about the safety of Li-ion battery technology.

It was just a few months ago we all heard about those hoverboards that would catch fire. Those questionably-engineered (and poorly-named) toys used Li-ion batteries as well, and they were the source of the fire problem. In the wake of this you would think all companies manufacturing products with Li-ion batteries in them would be extra careful. And Samsung is no upstart in the electronics industry — this should be a solved problem for them.

Why has this happened? What is the deal with Li-ion batteries? Join me after the break to answer these questions.


No, we’re not talking about the song from Nirvana. We’re talking about something much cooler —  the third element in the periodic table! Lithium is part of the alkali metals group. All elements in the group have a single valence electron, which it loses easily. This makes elements in this group highly reactive. When a lithium atom loses an electron, the atom becomes a positively charged ion.

Check out what happens when you drop pure lithium into water. The electrons get stripped from the lithium atoms and causes the water to undergo electrolysis. It breaks in to H and OH groups, with the OH groups having a negative charge. This causes an ionic bond with the positive lithium ions to form lithium hydroxide, and the leftover H’s bonds together, eventually making hydrogen gas. The lithium hydroxide is soluble in water, and immediately breaks back into ions.

Long story short — lithium is highly reactive because it loses electrons so easily and forms positive ions. And this comes in handy when we want to make electrical current!

The Lithium Ion Battery

BGR reported on this crispy Note 7 back in the first week of September

Using lithium for a battery is a no-brainer. You can find lithium ion batteries almost everywhere these days. From phones to laptops to tablets… even electric cars. The batteries work similar to a basic lead-acid battery, but have a much higher energy density.

They’re constructed by making many layers of cathode/anode pairs, with the cathode being a lithium metal oxide and the anode being graphite. The electrolyte is a lithium salt dissolved in an organic solvent. Each cathode/anode layer is separated by what is known as a separator.

The electrolyte carries the lithium ions through the separator between the anode and cathode. The separator is a permeable membrane that allows the tiny ions to pass, while keeping the anode and cathode physically separated. During charging, the lithium ions move from the lithium metal cathode, pass through the separator and are stored in the graphite anode.  During discharge, the ions move back to the cathode.

The Problem

Now that we have a basic idea of how lithium ion batteries work, we can begin to understand how they can fail.

The biggest fail point is obviously the separator. If a problem occurs with the separator, allowing the anode and cathode to touch, bad things will happen. Add to this the fact that the electrolyte is an organic solvent (most organic solvents are flammable) and you’ve got trouble.

Watch what happens when [JerryRigEverything] starts poking around the insides of a Note 7 battery. To be fair, he would get the same result with any Li-ion battery. However, you see as he pokes holes through the membranes, massive current flow takes place and ignites the organic solvent. And there is little one can do to stop it. It is inherent to Li-ion batteries.

In regards to the Note 7, it would appear that they pushed Li-ion technology too far by trying to cram as much energy as they could into a small space. Samsung reported a manufacturing error that “placed pressure on plates contained within battery cells, which brought negative and positive poles into contact.”

The Solution

One glaring oversight is that the battery in the Note 7 is not consumer replaceable. Imagine how easy the fix would be just to send everyone new batteries and set up a collection process for the old ones. Instead, Samsung now needs to recycle all components in the entire phone… 2.5 million times.

More industry-changing solutions include using safer forms of lithium derivatives, such as lithium iron phosphate. LFP batteries have a 14% lower energy density than typical Li-ion batteries, but are much safer. The oxygen atoms in the cathode are much harder to remove, giving it better thermal and chemical stability. Another interesting note, not safety related, is that they discharge at a constant 3.2 volts, reducing the need for energy hungry voltage regulators.

But the consumer phone market is a blood-sport, and battery life is usually the number one complaint of Android phone users. To reduce your energy density for a safer battery is a very hard sell for an engineering team to make. Well, it used to be a hard sell for the engineers — this incident should turn that around. But again, we thought the same about the hoverboards.

The ultimate solution begs for a major breakthrough. This can come from one of two sides: revolutionary battery technology that breaks through the power density ceiling while reducing the risk of a chemical catastrophe in your pocket, or orders-of-magnitude power draw reductions that would eliminate the need to carry around so darn much Lithium in a such a small package.


The main image is of one of the earliest reports, a posting on Baidu from August 24th, 2016.

155 thoughts on “Li-Ion Tech Staring Into The Abyss With Note 7 Failure

  1. An effort is being made to replace the organic solvent in lithium batteries with ionic liquids, which are salts that have a melting point below room temperature. Being non-organic, they lack any H or C to burn and therefore aren’t volatile.

    That still won’t help with the energy released by an internal short circuit, which will continue to be a problem with high density batteries and can still cause phones and devices to explode from the sheer force of the electrical discharge, but at least you don’t get a blowtorch fire jet coming out of the battery.

    1. Volatility has nothing to do with not having H or C in the structure. Osmium tetroxide and elemental iodine are quite volatile.
      Also every abstract I’ve read concerning ionic liquids & battery tech uses large, very organic molecules with high temperature resistance. Which then makes me wonder will these be the new PCBs 20 years after they become widely used?

    2. My understanding is there is a charge time (charge controller settings) and consumer tolerance level issue here, and S may have skirted the safety margins for some of their souced Li batteries and paid the price. But where are the iron based chemical batteries and such? Maybe the one silver lining here is there will be a lot more R&D going on for the alternative chemistries in the near future with the added benefits of fewer “exotic” rare Earth (“Conflict metals”) components as a added attraction.

  2. NiMH appears to be much safer. Also, we have 20 yr-old NiCd battery here that still works fine. I know that energy density is not the same, but we can just use larger batteries. Much safer.

      1. NiMH self discharge and power per unit of volume are not very well understood.

        Modern NiMH self-discharge is almost negligible, ~30% after seven years. Lithium batteries will PERMANENTLY loose roughly 30% capacity in the same amount of time. Would you rather permanently loose capacity or temporarily loose energy?

        “Energy density” is a good metric for airplanes, but not if you care about volume. Energy per unit volume for NiMH is better than lithium for smaller batteries once the battery protection is taken into account. Iron phosphate are worse.

        In cold weather there’s no contest. NiMH have better energy density, lower internal impedance, etc etc.

        It all depends on your application. I’ve designed NiCd batteries in modern devices because it was best suited.

          1. When I’m hitting 80wpm and my brain is a sentence ahead, the text buffers in my elbows start substituting homophones, and other like sins. It’s a little weird, like it delegates processing to vocal center which just fires out close enough patterns, rather, than the higher composition part of the brain consciously maintaining written grammatical correctness.

        1. Higher energy density will always control what we use. Look at gasoline, it has an incredible energy density, and it’s highly flammable. What engineers have done is removed most of the hazards in designed use. Lithium is currently the best all-around portable energy source we have. It won’t be ditched until a higher energy density material can be made affordable in massive quantities. What *will* be ditched is the current design trend of smallest, thinnest, lightest. Every new gadget released must be less burdensome than it’s predecessors. I’d rather have a slightly bulky device, because it means higher durability or maybe more electronics packed in. The only people right now taking serious risks with lithium are the RC hobbyists. I have had some close calls with lipo batteries, but I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the hobby quite as much if I was forced to go back to NiMH or NiCad’s.

          1. I have a Galaxy S 3 phone with a huge extended battery and if I charge it with a dumb 15 amp 5 volt charger, it won’t get warm let alone hot. The problem is that Samsung pushed the envelope a little too damn far – and paid the price. Too bad it didn’t happen to Apple instead.

            In a case like this, the unremoveable battery is piss-poor design. After all, the best way to de-fuse a bomb is to disconnect the explosive from the detonating device. In this case, you’d remove the battery (the bomb) from the phone (the detonator) to de-fuse the phone during the recall. If the phone had a good size battery, the problem wouldn’t exist as it would charge and discharge way more slowly, keeping the battery from becoming a bomb – unless you remove it to deliberately overcharge it to make an fire-starting bomb that is!

            There is exactly ONE case where a battery that can’t be easily be replaced that makes sense: A space probe. For consumer items it NEVER makes sense unless space probes become consumer items. Maybe on some exoplanet but not on Earth.

            May Steve Jobs burn up in the unducumented 10’th floor down in Hell with the worst of the worst that Dante didn’t dare document, The battery the owner can’t remove is a crime against Mother Earth and humanity as a result. If the -10’th floor is overbooked he can divert to and burn up on Venus.

          2. “For consumer items it NEVER makes sense”

            Though all the phones I’ve had have had replaceable batteries, yet I’ve never replaced a battery. They’ve simply lasted longer than the phones – the current one is going 6+ years and the phone is almost done for, but the battery is still perfectly adequate.

            It would have been better if my phone didn’t have a replaceable battery, because then the back cover wouldn’t have to come off, and it would be more robust. I’ve had the phone reboot from a bump, and if it falls off the table the back cover obviously springs off to prevent it from shattering and the battery and SIM fly all over the place.

          3. @Jermaine Falken – It would be an interesting side-effect if the CAA in the UK, or (as is more likely) the FAA in the US decided that, for airline safety, every phone must have a removable battery. In truth, the prime reason I opt for samsung phone is that I can replace the battery is necessary. However, I also despise samsung for the very fact that they always make the batteries for new devices a different shape/size/connector position so the old versions may not be reused. It is not very environmentally friendly.

    1. It would also make the phones run half as long or be twice as large. Nobody will accept that level of compromise in this day and age. The failure doesn’t have to be in the battery for it to be catastrophic anyway. And I’ve not heard of any of these phones having an actual fuse in them anywhere…

          1. looking at specific energy density pr kilogram sure, but in portable devices it is as often the energy density pr volume that is interesting and there lithium ion really does provide up to ten times the energy density of nicd cells.

          2. the numbers, copied from wiki like a real slob;
            Specific energy 40–60 W·h/kg
            Energy density 50–150 W·h/L
            Specific power 150 W/kg
            Specific energy

            100–265 W·h/kg[1][2]
            (0.36–0.875 MJ/kg)
            Energy density

            250–676 W·h/L[3]
            (0.90–2.43 MJ/L)
            Specific power ~250-~340 W/kg[1]

    2. I like the Eneloops and other low self-discharge NiMH, but really, lithiums hold power just as well and are so much smaller and lighter. The only annoying bit in terms of power tools is the sharp power cut-off when the battery goes empty because of the voltage limits. Can’t turn that last screw because the battery controller says “nope” and cuts off.

      In cellphones, NiMH is a dead duck. A modern smartphone wouldn’t go 12 hours on standby, and in electric cars the problem is the same – 260 Wh/kg for lithium, 60 for NiMH.

        1. lithium battery controllers and/or protected individual cells do that already. ecig vaporizers modified and used by vape enthusiasts seem to not always use protected cells thus all those amps through a low resistance wire coil and practically shorting the battery. we _should_ be hearing more about those grenading in peoples hands… that great power = great responsibility thing.

        2. Obviously, but it’s really annoying because there’s still power in the battery left, but you can’t get it out because the voltage drops under load and the controller cuts off at the safety limit.

          That means you can’t get the last 10-20% out, where the NiCD/NiMH battery would just lose a bit of torque.

          It gets worse when the battery gets older, and many people chuck perfectly fine portable tools out because they think it’s broken, and it does behave like there’s some electrical problem in it because there’s good torque and it just conks out with no warning and recovers after a few seconds.

    3. Doesn’t have the energy density but rechargeable silver zinc batteries on the other hand may actually be better than Li-Ion.
      The reason why they haven’t been used in consumer products recently is they used to require mercury and had a boor cycle life but a company found a solution to both problems.
      Though the self discharge of NiMH is not as bad as some posters claims it was used in phones no problem during the 1990s and it worked fine just had a bulky OML.
      Part of the problem is phone manufactures are trying to make phones too thin and this causes design compromises to be made on the battery.
      Making the battery non-removable was just stupid on their part.
      If they had user replaceable batteries they could have just shipped new batteries vs recalling all the devices which would have saved them billions of dollars.

  3. ive never managed to make a battery explode no matter how much ive abused it. i once flew a battery pack in my rc heli after it had been crashed 2 or 3 times already. it was full of small holes, one cell was puffy with hydrogen, and it just wouldnt die on its own.

    so idk what samsung is doing. other than make it impossible for me to get lithium batteries shipped here cheaply. i live on an island there is no such thing as ground shipping here. $50+ shipping fees are inexcusable. even the supersafe 18650 cells. im dismantling thrift store laptop batteries to keep me in cells. goes to show what a good panic will do.

    1. I remember in the mid 1970’s the first lithium batteries came out. We used them in some meteorology equipment. Sometimes they would get internal shorts and explode. It sounded like a shot gun and stuff would fly everywhere. Pretty dangerous stuff. Consumers could not buy them.

      The problem is we want more energy stored in smaller packages. There is a technical term for devices that have very high energy densities: Bomb.

          1. Or another one, flywheel energy storage.

            Or superconductive magnet rings.

            Or pumping huge amounts of water up a hillside to an artifical lake which will eventually burst from lack of maintenance.

        1. Not really, some of them are hydrocarbons, the fuel part anyway, they just tend to have their oxygen supply packaged with them. Now on a planet with free O2 this is moot, but they seem to be in the minority in general.

    2. You are one person, and a person can be lucky. But remember than 0.01% of millions means hundreds of failure events. This can happen in the cargo hold of an airplane full of flammable objects, it can happen in someone’s pocket while they’re driving on a busy highway. At a certain risk level, you can be statistically certain your engineering or quality-assurance decisions will result in injuries or deaths, and at that point you have a moral responsibility to shut it down. They don’t know that you, personally, will be injured by a bad battery. But they know that someone will, so they have do what they can to minimize that risk.

        1. This is a Ken M level comment here. OF COURSE when you drastically reduce the power consumption of one part of a design, then something else will be the main power draw. But the radio isn’t going to suddenly draw more power to erase that 60% reduction.

          1. Back in My day we had transistor radios that never needed batterys just a pat on the head and a kind word once a week. amazing how technology can regress so much in a lifetime

          2. The processor needs a lot of power too but that could be helped a lot by using more efficient code and removing a few layers of hardware abstraction.
            Does a phone really need an octacore CPU?

          1. Morons…and smokers. The plain fact that people will watch a perfectly good movie on a tiny, tiny screen is insanity and will lead to more and more myopia as well as the fact that they couldn’t really give a crap about movie quality anyway so they might as well be looking at a picture drawn by a 5-yo with a crayon.

    1. I like the idea of having an e-paper display on one side of the phone and an LCD on the other. People could use the e-paper side for a lot of functions and only turn on the LCD when necessary.

  4. It’s really too bad that they had these battery issues, I had 2 Note 7’s both an original and a v2. Best phone I ever had. Can’t wait for another phablet with a s-pen. Yes Samsung will get my business again, bill credit, plus gear fit 2 and gear VR for free helps ease the pain.

  5. Speaking of battery life. The problem is not the battery, but all the useless bling, spam & general crap the sheeple seem to want on their pocket entertainers…

    I own a Pebble smart watch. Not an Apple, or Samsung, or any battery raping display type. I get days of battery life.

    I would run – RUN I tell you – to buy a low cost smart phone with an e-ink display that could run all week. I don’t need to watch youtube on my phone. I don’t have any music. I use the calendar, email, texting and sometimes the browser when in a pinch & I need a data sheet or something.

    I’m weird. I get it. But man, I really wish someone would take the Pebble model and make a decent functional not glitzy smart phone.

    1. I was really disappointed when Pebble came out with the colour model (I ended up with one for free – certainly would not have paid for it). The new one with the heart rate monitor is yet further feature creep to keep up with the Jones’ – sad when companies insist on trying to be all things to all people instead of carving out a small sustainable niche in the marketplace.

      1. The problem is that the simpler model is too cheap. For every dollar of stuff they add, they can increase the price by two dollars, so even if the profit margin doesn’t change a bit, the revenue goes up.

        They could sell one thing that costs $10 and a more advanced model that costs $20, but since most people would opt for the $10 unit instead of the $20 they remove the simpler model off the market. It’s forced upselling – you have to buy something you don’t need, because it comes in the box and you have no other choice.

    2. It all started when manufacturers realized they could make more money by adding a useless camera to a candybar phone, because each additional feature adds to the minimum price – so every phone now needs to have a camera even when it doesn’t need to have a camera.

      It’s like a cartel. I bet if someone actually made a phone that didn’t have the useless money and battery consuming features, there would be men in black suits at the door.

      1. Without a camera you can’t scan bar codes or take pictures of whiteboards or any number of useful tasks. Now, maybe you don’t need TWO cameras, but not having one at all would be crippling the phone for almost everyone that wants to use it for anything other than a basic phone.

        1. I beg to differ. The only thing I use my cellphone for is to order Chinese on the way home from work. I’m not conceited enough to think the world will end if I can’t be reached 24-7.

          1. In that case, you don’t need/want a smartphone. A very basic cell phone will do you just fine and your battery will last for a very, very long time. Especially since you have implied that you don’t even have a need to turn it on except for a minute or two on those days when you want to get Chinese food on the way home.

            Therefore, the whole discussion on battery life would be more or less irrelevant to you.

          2. So you don’t need a smartphone, good for you!

            I know personally, I don’t need the PHONE part of my smartphone. It’s just a pocket sized computer, camera, flashlight, calculator, level, universal reference manual, and more.

            Smartphone cameras are immensely useful for a great many people, probably the single most used feature of modern smartphones overall. Definitely more used than the actual phone component

          3. Cellphones aren’t all smartphones. If you don’t need or want the smarts, buy a dumbphone. Some people want to be connected, smartphones make it much easier to do that.

        2. That is an obtuse self serving comment. My wife loves her flip phone with no features because it’s cheap and does nothing but calling- it’s a phone, not a computer, and that’s all she wants in her purse.

        3. My phone has a VGA camera that is so shitty it can’t even make out a QR code even if it had the app to read it.

          Literally the only reason they put it in was to charge more money for the phone.

      2. Bullshit again. People actually use their phones as cameras and having the camera combined with something that is always available is a great improvement. But you as usual knows better, right?

        If you can’t even understand that a camera adds very little to the hardware cost compared to screen, processor, memory and battery why are you here? You’d have to be totally clueless of anything technical. Oh and you apparently can’t understand that a powered down camera doesn’t consume power…

        1. My pay as you go phone has a camera but I can’t access the pictures without paying extra for a data plan I don’t want or need to upload them, same for text which I am not interested in either. It would be nice to just be able to have the option of just a plain phone at a reasonable rate. Why when I was a boy phones had rotary dials, no one had answering machines, and we liked it! Now get off of my lawn!

          1. Dials? Sheer luxury, we had to yell at t’lass at t’exchange until she understood we needed t’Vicar at Lower Macklethwaite under Thorpe to bury our Grand Fether what died of t’marthambles. Course t’would have been easier if we’d had t’phone but it was only in t’next street over.

    3. ehud42 wrote:
      “The problem is not the battery, but all the useless bling, spam & general crap”

      I wonder how much power is used up by apps on the phone that I can’t delete.
      For example, the ones that Verizon and Samsung include on the phone. It would take a root kit
      to probably remove them or even disable them.

      1. Sorry ’bout that. “Sheeple” was a cheap shot – just didn’t want to take the time to explain that I think most people don’t think and just go with what ever everyone else has in a blind race to somewhere. Kind of like sheep.

        It really annoys me, because not only do I have to pay for all kinds of things I don’t need or even want, those things compromise the value and functionality of the things I do need/want. Lose-lose for me.

        1. Without all the sheeple buying unneeded stuff and paying for it, the scale wouldn’t be there for you to enjoy cheap technology.
          Just avoid the absolute bling and maybe get a used smartphone instead of the latest shiny one.

          My first bar phone was a Nokia X6. Pretty cool thing, but in rural areas pretty much dead in the water.
          Got me a N9 just 2 years later right when it came out and no other one since then. I will have to replace it I guess when they switch off 3G.
          Got the whole family set up with N9’s as well and have a little box of spare parts. ;-)
          The camera get’s used a lot – especially for documenting stuff I’m doing.

    4. Amen! I’d need to add in using the map app (and it would need to have GPS, obviously) and the camera. I’m not even all that fussy about how big/thick it is. Give it a bigger battery and make it thicker and heavier and I really wouldn’t care. It’s not going in my back pocket (can’t quite understand people that do that) and long battery life is way more important to me than running typical consumer apps or size/weight concerns. My phone is a tool, not an entertainment device.

        1. That is, up to the S5. On the S6 Samsung pulled off being like Apple with the battery you can’t replace with the huge one. Steve Jobs decreed that barely a day on a charge brand new is good enough for _everyone_. I guess nobody is going to mess with the CEO’s phone! But try to be of varying color in a workplace with petty and vengeful whites. You will not want to leave a $600 phone sitting out on a charger lest a bozo takes it, runs it over with a forklift and put the crumbs back.

      1. The whole “people want thinner, lighter” is bullshit, bollox and marketing speak. Even the biggest pocket device is thinner and lighter than a basic Nokia from 15 years ago. People had no problems with technology size back then…why would they now? Only the fact that the price of this technology is less than back then is what puts phones in pockets or bags or, in the case of most women, in their hands so they can be available 60 seconds of every hour of every day of every week of…you get the picture. Is much simpler in life to have a penis: there is a great deal of marketing resistance attached to it.

    5. I use my phone as a phone, not as a gaming device, not as video player. Sometimes I use the browser to check something. But I’m not the target for a smart phone and the targets (which are everywhere) do use the features. Relatives that are older than me use the camera often, plays game apps to waste some time, use professional apps (e.g. GIS ones) at work etc. etc. People _do_ use the “sheeple” “bling” & “crap” in real life and expect those things to be available.

      I use smartphones as I get them for free as hand me downs, otherwise I could buy a cheap dumb-phone. Maybe you should look at something like that?

      1. I purchased the original galaxy back in 2010. I went through a S2, S3 and Note4. I gave the Note4 to the wife as it has a better camera and she likes taking pictures. I am currently on a Galaxy Prime VE. Every one of the devices since 2010 is nothing more than a glorified MP3 player. yes, I could have spent 100Euro on a fair sized MP3 player but the VE cost me 130Euro and that extra 30Euro gives me a bit more functionality should I require it but, on a regular basis I send maybe 20-30 texts a month; make 5-10 mins of calls; do a negligible amount of online use. I now also use it as a KODI remote. The battery lasts a couple of days which suits me down to the ground. If it were thicker and heavier with a battery that lasts me 3 or 4 days all well and good.

        I pity the young who cannot function on a minute-by-minute basis without having their fingers glued to their phone screen. It is making social narcissists out of them.

    6. I run 3x batteries in my smart phones (gs2, gs3, now gs5) and they go a week. I admit that the triple battery on the embiggened gs5 (compared to gs3) initially made me skeptical, but I’ve grown used to it, with stripped asop rom, low power, mostly radios off, I can go 2 weeks. about 5 to 7 days if I use it to stream music, driving instructions, toilet web browsing, etc…

    7. You’re not as weird as you think. I was quite happy with my Palm Z71 (actually, my first Palm III was the coolest, as that was my first pocket computer). Add wifi, phone w/texting and it would of been perfect. My Palm TX lost the camera but gained wifi, I used to email my wife when traveling. But to your point: I certainly do not need to watch cat videos while driving.

      1. Water resistant phones are only for those who cannot take a shower without needing to message the world on fartbook. They lack self-esteem I feel. If you have to take a phone to the bathroom I pity you.

      2. >I believe Samsung did that to make the phone water resistant…


        As far as I’m concerned, no consumer electronic device is truly ‘waterproof’. Fun fact, if your device manages to get liquid damage, it’s not covered under the manufacturer warranty.

  6. I bet that despite Samsung’s best efforts to recall all note 7’s, there will be a few people whose phone didn’t explode and who hang onto them. Might be worth something in a few years! The mythical Note 7, in the wild, in everyday use! Would probably require rooting, as I wouldn’t be surprised if Samsung pushed a firmware update to “brick” the devices with a “please return me” screen and nothing else.

    Also, my understanding of the situation is that user-replaceable batteries wouldn’t help anything. Samsung-replaceable batteries (in the replacement devices) apparently didn’t fix the problem entirely — and I believe the decision to kill the product was a business decision as much as anything. They probably could have found a technical solution, but their interest right now is mitigating further damage to the brand by getting this story out of the news ASAP.

    1. I understand batteries were firing up even when the device was off (ie: not under load or charge). I wonder if the race to be super thin resulted in:

      a) super dense (ie: inherently dangerous battery)
      b) inadequate physical protection to said battery (a non-replaceable battery meant the back didn’t have to be strong enough to withstand consumer manipulations, and the race to super thin meant the backing was made even thinner to accommodate overall aesthetics)

      The combination would mean that the phone would be more susceptible to physical abuse than normal. banging around in a bag, jacket pocket, airplane storage bin, etc might be enough to cause those super thin never-to-touch-layers to come in contact…

  7. Sodium-ion cells are showing some signs of promise. They can be shipped fully discharged, have a similar energy density to Lithium-ion, don’t suffer from thermal runaway and use cheaper/more abundant materials.

  8. And then you have the idiots that want flatter and flatter phones and notebooks.
    Damn you, i want a phone that lasts a week and a notebook that i can actually use for 24 hours straight. And don’t even start on upgrade-ability.
    The current situation is just messed up bullshit.

      1. Note 4 + ZeroLemon 10000mah extended battery = 3-5 Days without having to charge the phone depending on use. (FYI I also have the ZeroLemon fix applied to report the correct battery life on the phone)

      1. Once upon a time, calculators began to use LCD screens, and membrane keypads, and manufacturers made calculators thinner and thinner until they were the format of a credit card… whereupon everybody lived happily every after and everyone today has a “credit card” sized calculator in their wallet. everyone who bought one recognized what a monumentally stupid idea it was because they broke in half so easily. So superslim calculators died the unglorified death they deserved and calculators began to be made in a reasonably sturdy package again. The end.

  9. What I keep expecting to hear is that consumer safety policies — both governmental and certification organizations like UL — will be requiring physical switch cut-offs that disconnect the battery entirely on devices that don’t have accessible batteries that can be removed. I’m surprised this hasn’t been done yet.

    1. these lithium batteries are complicated widgets, comprised of multiple cells, and active electronics. disconnecting the battery from the phone electronics isn’t necessarily enough to render them safe. and shipping companies at least know that. (so the UL at least, probably won’t bother requiring something expensive and ineffective. sounds right up the government’s alley, though.)

      1. There’s only one cell in a phone battery. It’s one long ribbon folded over on itself, and there’s a small circuit board at the end which houses an active fuse that permanently disconnects the battery if the voltage drops below 2.3 Volts or rises above 4.5 Volts. There’s a thermal fuse, and a passive overcurrent fuse. Beyond that there are no special features.

    2. Even if you could disconnect the cells inside the battery from each other, this wouldn’t prevent a failure due to manufacturing defect or abuse (via poor engineering choice or hard life) like the Note 7 is seeing. Even removing the battery (which isn’t “possible” – it’s not user serviceable) and setting it aside separately in a protected container won’t guarantee it won’t catch fire.

    3. You would have to dismantle the battery (in a oxygen free atmosphere) to put it into a safe condition.. an Off-Switch is absolute nonsense and tells us a lot about your ‘knowldege’.

  10. Two things would be A. a replaceable battery, and B. a larger compartment. There seems to be some stupid race to produce something razor thin. I’d rather go 3 days with a thick brick (or perhaps a blister AAA battery pack) or removable cells with external charger.

  11. “and battery life is usually the number one complaint of Android phone users.”

    Well, it is not surprising. Android is a variation of a JVM (I think is called Draken Virtual Machine) on top of Linux OS..

    Even the emulator is incredible slow (bytecode -> JVM -> Linux OS -> Virtual Machine -> Actual OS).

    There have never being a clean explanation of the reasons why we should be using a JVM instead of modifying Linux and run code directly as any other application.

        1. That’s still not a good reason to use a VM, because you could trivially compile the software to a native binary either on the phone or at the distribution server.

          The Symbian based Nokia phones had binaries you could simply download and run. Software was written in C++ and compiled for the particular processor in your phone, and the result was an .exe file that you could put on a memory card or download off the net and then just run. There were websites full of them, for all the different phone models and Symbian versions.

          Of course the carriers removed the file browser and disabled any features that would let you sideload programs.

  12. The Cause-and-Effect Analysis of this is simple:

    1. Don’t RACE your product prematurely to market (without proper testing) just because it has the number “7” in the name – SO YOU CAN BEAT the iPhone-“7” to its market release!

    2. Make your batteries USER REPLACEABLE! But Oh, wait a moment – that would break your PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE MODEL – wouldn’t it Samsung?

    3. Don’t let Idiot MBA/Marketing GOONS run your business Samsung! At-least not with having a responsible and qualified Quality Assurance ENGINEER as your decision GATEKEEPER!

    At a minimum, if Samsung would have made the battery user removable/replaceable, this DEBACLE would have cost them FAR less than the THREE BILLION DOLLARS that it will eventually cost them.

    But Noooo… GREED Rules.

    1. And now explain the battery issues that new Boeing had. Or several other cases where they did not press a deadline. I think it’s just modern schooling and engineers or something, because it’s not only LiON but also the poor quality of modern capacitors, you didn’t have to assure people you used the most expensive and exclusive capacitors and then had people hope they lasted 2 years, there was a time run-in-the-mill capacitors would last for a decade easy.

  13. I forgot to qualify Item-2 in my post. By making the battery USER REPLACEABLE, it doesn’t mean Samsung loses control over what batteries may be used as a replacement. ALL batteries these days on “Flagship” phones are “Coded” with an “Authenticity” hash in HARDWARE. So ONLY Samsung-approved replacements can be used. Replace the batteries, not the phones. But again, user replaceable batteries means users will not buy as many phones when the batteries wear out. Again, planned obsolescence!

    1. Agreed, why I have not upgraded my Note 3 as I can change the batteries. Perfect when working on site where leaving your phone on charge is a sure fire way to have it stolen. Instead just have charged spares in bag.

  14. The question one should ask is “What Samsung has done different in this model” since none of the earlier phones with LiPo batterys has blown up. (not in any numbers anyway)

    Is the battery chemistry tweaked? Is the separator made from a new material, is the packaging different?

    Next step is to check the charging system on the phone, is the charging tweaked/forced, does it really work if you charge with an charger that drops a little in voltage, or gives a slightly over voltage?

    A faulty charging system might damage the battery, making it puffy, and then when using the phone a flimsy cover might have enough give so when you put pressure on the back of the phone, a puffy battery might be puntured by a sharp edge that occurs once in a houndred back covers.

    It is complexe to find such a combined fault, but possible if you recall all phones, dissasemble them and find a few puffed batterys and a few phones with sharp edges inside and then combine them into test-phones that you stress test in laboratorys.

    I jumped ship from Samsung after the Note2 that I used a long time, I was waiting for the Note4 (or was it 5?) but then got the OnePlus One really early instead, for less then half the price, and I never regretted it.

    Today the Samsung top models are so overpriced I would never go back, I rather roll the dice on the next chinese upcommer that has to be cheap to get into the market.

    I used to be a cutting edge early adopter, I always had the latest and greatest, I used my palm connected via IR to my Nokia to download my e-mails, and also used telnet from a hacked Nokia to connect to my Unix account and retrive mail,

    I had a beta version Motorola Accompli 008 way before phones were smart, so beta that it didn’t have the correct firmware and lacked some apps and had some that never made it.

    Today, even the cheapest smartphones is enough for me, and I lost a bit intrest.

    Actually I would like a phone with a E ink display flip cover with the palm functionality up front, and a really nice 4K screen underneath for those cat-videos I really need to see

  15. As the creator of the LiFePO4werd/Pi and other LFP (LiFePO4) based technology, I’m glad to see a fairly mainstream shout-out to this great technology. :)

    Unfortunately the complete focus on energy density, to the exclusion of any other performance concerns, has gotten us into this situation where consumer electronics have actually become dangerous. I am one of the people who really don’t see the point of continuing to make things thinner, I’d rather have improved performance in a thicker package. Performance for me includes things such as cycle life and safety, not just runtime.

    LFP is not perfect for every application but then again no battery technology is. It’s always a matter of choosing trade-offs and choosing wisely based on the application. A good comparison between different Lithium technologies can be found here: At this point, I think basic LCO should mostly be abandoned.

    1. Besides being much more resistant to self-caused fire or exploding, LiFePO4 batteries last much longer. (Thousands of cycles if you charge them to 100%, I don’t know of a study on how much more if you never charge over 90% — it doesn’t seem to cause any wear.) I’d love to get one for my laptop for this reason only — 20% bigger/heavier is a small price.

      LiFePO4 get unfairly lumped with Liion in shipping rules, so can be hard to get.

  16. I have a really simple fix for the battery life problem. Stop making stupidly thin devices, with just an extra 3mm of space you can almost double the battery capacity.

    1. I totally agree. I have an S7 and without a case it’s hard to grip and tends to want to pop out of my hand if I try to tap something on the left of the screen with my thumb. After a week of use I noticed my hand started to get quite sore from trying to use it. A nice chunky case makes it easy to hold now and gives it the protection it needs.

  17. I haven’t read it yet – sorry if redundant. It just occurred to me – it they can change the charge rate and voltage limiter through the software and an update – can’t someone write a virus that does that and make phones start exploding?

    1. They can make more money in the long run and it saves them on manufacturing costs by making the batteries internal and non user replaceable. If the battery fails after the warranty period, you or someone must pay to replace the battery or upgrade the device. Replacement of the battery will include the cost of labor, which is guaranteed to be more costly than an eBay special battery that can be slapped in for $20. While most of us here are mechanically and technically inclined to do this repair ourselves, it eliminates most of the general public from this category. It also eliminates competition from non licensed repair centers who do the work without having Samsung being given part of their profitability.

    2. Because even though it makes sense from an engineering standpoint it doesn’t fit in with their latest business model of designing in planned obsolesce to get people buy a new device every two or three years.

  18. One fix might be to start considering silver oxide zinc batteries like those used on the Apollo spacecraft as these have an inherently safer chemistry.
    The energy density per volume is actually higher than most Li-Ion designs which could mean a longer batter life in a device with the same external dimensions.
    The disadvantage though is cost but on a device as expensive as the note 7 the higher cost would not be an issue.

  19. Who would have thought that the biggest risk in a mobile phone wasn’t all that RF radiation leeching into the user’s brain, but the latent explosive device powering the device.

  20. I already stopped buying Samsung products before they started making the Note 7. My note 3 held up pretty well but i drop phones so much that the cheap plastic body was damaged at the corner that was least protected by the otterbox. every time it got the slightest bit wet, the charge port would be useless. letting the kids borrow it led to me having to rip some bit of sheet metal out of the micro usb port but I never got around to replacing it, and had Qi as a backup. I don’t think I ever got a full 24h of battery life out of it. It is finally dead after I inadvertently washed it in the washing machine though. When I bought it and realized how garbage it was, I vowed to never buy Samsung again. I have seen their quality go downhill through the years, I’ve seen Samsung tablets where everything works fine except the backlight, Samsung Smart Tv where everything works except the WiFi, another Samsung smart tv that is just overall glitchy AF and every once in awhile you just have to unplug it from the mains, plus it comes with a funky fragile smart remote that is not cheap to replace, and then you lose the replacement and just have to resort to using smartphone apps. The last Samsung laptop I worked on was surprisingly easy to teardown and replace the junk original LCD cable that died due to normal hinge operation and didn’t appear to have had any reason to have failed so soon. perhaps the wires were aluminum, i didn’t check. Even if it weren’t a Samsung, I don’t like buying phones without a removable battery. It just isn’t a good idea in general. Also, if it’s going to be non-removable, it should be LiFePO4 or a graphene supercap or something. Non-removable batteries are just a bad idea though. A good idea for manufacturers, especially when you put the word “waterproof” on the package and then *some silly depth like 1m-1.5m. I let the kids test a ‘waterproof’ phone a few months ago. I didn’t read the fine print, and looking back, the print really wasn’t all that fine, but nevertheless, by the time I located the proper tools and disassembled the phone to remove the battery, the traces carrying a decent current had dissolved via electrolysis. to the average consumer, at this point they have an entirely useless device, and it’s out of warranty because it got wet, and they’re going to have to buy another device. I am currently sticking it out with the glitchy cheap walmart android gophone until I find something that really makes me want to buy it. Motorola has the technology now to lead the game, If I could just get with their R&D department and design the perfect phone, they’re already halfway there with the DROID TURBO 2 XT1585. and then I see the and they’re working toward the phone of the future, but the phone of the future which I envision would have all the expensive bits (shatterproof screen, mobo) sealed up in a truly waterproof manner, utilizing external contact points to connect the cheaper bits that can’t be perfectly waterproofed ( speakers, mic, audio jack, charge port, microSD slot) the ideal situation would be to have speaker/mic on a replaceable front faceplate, to be fully waterproof, the battery could be a rear expansion, with wireless charging receiver built in, and a rear phone case with wireless charger pad and micro usb port. If the battery module served as a passthrough for rear expansion, then you could slap the camera, rear speaker, microSD, etc on the back. that way, if you want it, you could get a fat 30AH battery module if you desire a phone that’s thick as a brick.

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