Wednesday , June 6 2018

Opinion: Samsung needs to send out an OTA software update to disable Note 7, before someone dies

galaxy-note-7-blows-up-jeep

The image above is reportedly a Jeep Grand Cherokee that was acting as a charger for a defective Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Luckily no one was injured in the blaze, and it has not been confirmed that the Note 7 started the fire, however, the phone in question was apparently being charged.

The owner, a man from Florida, claimed he was not aware of the recall or the danger of charging the device. The specifics of this case will eventually be determined, but this isn’t the first near-miss involving a Note 7. An Australian man had his device burst into flames whilst staying in a Perth Hotel, damaging the hotel room, as well as the device obviously.

The Galaxy Note 7 that started a small hotel fire
The Galaxy Note 7 that started a small hotel fire

We have commented that Samsung has done a good job of “getting in front” of the battery issue, admitting there is a problem, enacting, in Australia at least, an official recall and offering several options for customers to get a new device or their money back. However, the Florida incident, if true, shows what happens when not every Note 7 owner on the planet knows there is an issue.

Enter a potential solution. Perhaps Samsung should send out an OTA software update that will disable every affected device. If this can be done, which we believe it can be, this would reduce the number of faulty active units in the market. Sure even this measure won’t get 100% of devices but it is just one more way Samsung can try and ensure that no serious incidents occur. So far all we’ve had is a few near misses, no significant injury, I truly hope it stays that way.

If you know anyone who has a Galaxy Note 7 now is the time that they STOP using the device. The warnings from Samsung, and the evidence of incidents is clear enough the it’s time to admit that no phone, even one as great as the Note 7, is worth the risk.

Source: Android Authority.

Duncan Jaffrey   Journalist

Duncan has been interested in technology since coding "Mary had a little Lamb" in Basic on his ZX Spectrum. A fan of all things Android, most days you'll find Duncan trawling the web for Android news or quietly editing away on Map Maker.

31 comments

  1. I think the key thing is that maybe not everyone has a suitable replacement or the prospect of having to “back-up” and change phones ( potentially to one they have to buy to tide them over ) without losing any stuff they had on it may be either too daunting / too time consuming or a bit of both. This means that even with notice and all that, there will be plenty of people that don’t do what they need to to go and hand their phone in.

    As such, having the phone suddenly disabled is a MASSIVE call…. Sudden disabling of the phone ( I get it.. persistent notifications and advertising etc etc for a month before would say it is not sudden.. but at the end of the day, this will see the phone work one minute and not the next ) may lead to more dangerous situations than the phone exploding… there are millions of these devices out there… and sure as sure, some-one that has their disabled phone will be in an accident or life threatening situation that they can now not call on their phone from for help or assistance etc etc……. it only takes one… and Samsung would be sued for remotely disabling the phone without user permission – and the impact may be far greater than the current issue…

    And that is before you get the bottom feeding unscrupulous types who would manufacture a situation to cause a calamity to happen right when their phone is disabled ( may not even be a medical or health thing… could be some massive supposed trade deal they are in the midst of ) …

    I see that there is conversation and announcements about it… but man, it will be a BIG call if it actually happens…. I will be watching with interest at the backlash that will come from it…

    Poor Samsung are in a lose-lose situation… and as a casual observer I think they have done a wonderful job thus far..

  2. Newcastle Guardian

    Looks like it’s going official. Word coming from various overseas locations is, that Samsung are advising Note 7 owners that they will be remotely de-activating Note 7’s that aren’t handed in by 30th September. Will need to keep an eye on the Sammy Oz updates.

  3. Just send an OTA update that limits the phone to 5V/0.5A charge input. Should stop the battery from overheating.?
    I think Chris’ comment is the most sensible.

  4. Buy junk get burned.

  5. There is a higher casualty rate for automobile components that are allowed to exist without a recall. We aren’t rushing to disable vehicles. I think the article’s author here is quite a bit extreme. I am no actuary, but I wouldn’t want some corporate entity to decide what I can and can’t use inside my own home and else where.

    • It raises an interesting question … to what extent could Samsung lawfully do /anything/ to a phone bought by a customer? Could they legally disable/hobble a phone in the manner we’ve suggested?

      Unless there were some mandatory recall, I’d have to suspect the answer is “no”.

  6. Holy smokes. I’m buying one as soon as the battery replaced units hit the stores.

  7. This guy probably just wanted a new car..

  8. So was the note 7 really responsible for the fire or was it the car being a jeep

  9. I published this because I think Duncan made a good point. In reading the comments, and discussing this on social media, I’ve come to the view that there is merit to this OTA disabling approach, but perhaps it should be a staged thing.

    First, a persistent notification that advises users to contact Samsung and/or their place of purchase and make arrangements for a return/refund/exchange/whatever. That should be displayed constantly, with a link to Samsung’s information page.

    After two weeks, that notification should change its tune, and warn users that in a certain timeframe (e.g. 30 days, 45 days, 60 days) the phone will be disabled to ensure the safety of the user. In the interim, charging should be restricted; fast charging turned off and the phone refusing to charge above sixty percent or so. Something like that to minimise the chance of failure, while allowing those who simply must continue using the phone to do so until they can reasonably make arrangements to swap it out.

    Once that timeframe is up, then it really is time to incentivise those users who simply refuse to return their phones. Disable the mobile radio, or prevent the phone from booting. If people absolutely must have that phone, and refuse to return it, sure there should be some way around it, but for the average non-power user, it should be quite difficult to avoid (something like having to use “fastboot oem i-know-my-phone-might-explode-and-i-accept-all-risks” to get around it, maybe…)

    I mean, it is a voluntary recall, users don’t have to return them if they don’t want, but when a brand new, safe replacement is on offer, for free, to everyone who’s bought a Note7, there really is no excuse for hanging onto a potentially very dangerous device.

    I’m sure most users will get the message now, or very soon, that the Note7 issue is serious enough to justify them taking notice … but there will be those who either (a) somehow don’t know, or (b) know and think it won’t happen to them … and they’ll squeal like stuck pigs if it’s their house that gets burned down by a defective battery.

    • I’ve kept mine for the time being while I search for a suitable replacement (J1 Mini is not a suitable replacement). I have been very cautious charging the device totally avoiding my car. I’d hate to think that I would “squeal like a stuck pig” if something untoward happened.

  10. I think Samsung have done allot to bring the issue to everyone’s attention! I had at least 3 notifications that the Note 7 is faulty and should be powered down and returned! I think I got an SMS from Samsung and Telstra (my carrier) and a push notification as well telling me in no uncertain terms to backup, power down and return the phone!

    • Newcastle Guardian

      Exactly, BUT unfortunately some people choose the old “She’ll be right” attitude, “could never happen to me”, then they would the loudest screaming …..

      • Absolutely right. I initially was in that camp, but then came to believe it just wasn’t worth the risk, and the Note7 went back into its box, and back to whence it came. Last thing I need is my nightstand to catch fire and kill us all. No phone is worth that.

  11. Disabling the device is a terrible idea as is limiting the functionality, people expect their devices to work in emergencies and remotely disabling functions can have untold consequences.
    What Samsung should have done from the beginning is sent an OTA notification to every device advising of the problem and possibly restricting the charge parameters. Disabling fast charge and limiting the charge to 60% is likely to minimise the risk of cell failure. Cells tend to fail when the cell voltage and/or temperature is high due to the polymer layer breaking down, resulting in thermal runaway.
    I think Ausdroid has been drinking too much Samsung kool-aid. Constantly praising Samsungs handling of the issue, while Samsung were failing to come to grips with the potential for catastrophic consequences of cell failure.
    Samsung and especially Samsung SDI ought to know better, consumers and tech publishers, should be angry about being exposed to those risks unnecessarily. There is currently a limit to how much energy can be safely stored in a given volume using inexpensive materials. Samsung exeeded that limit.

  12. No, it’s far too risky to just disable phones. You can’t just disable people’s phones who haven’t done anything illegal.

    What if someone is in an emergency and needs to call police/ambulance/fire? Too bad your phone is locked out.

    What happens if someone tries to contact their family member who has a Note 7 and can’t get through for hours? Then they’ll go to the police and file a missing persons report.

    It would cause far more chaos to a whole lot more people.

    Their best bet would be to send emails/sms/everything they can to notifiy every Note 7 owner to go to their place of purchase and get it swapped asap.

  13. Newcastle Guardian

    Whilst that sounds a great idea, and it’s something that has been kicked around since day one of this problem on another forum, I think their could be huge legal ramifications that vary from area to area.

    You then have the usual carrier non carrier device problem, and of course possible legal ramifications and come-backs at carriers world wide.

    Sure Samsung/Google could organise for the appropriate blocking update but it would need to be sanctioned by so many local government control bodies, I’m sure it would be unworkable unfortunately.

  14. Umm…No, you can’t OTA brick someone’s device, that is ludicrous. What if you had just taken snaps of your first born child and not backed them up or something equally monumental. FFS, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Also…after that everybody would panic about any type of OTA for fear of bricking

    • Newcastle Guardian

      You could brick the radio/wireless portion of the device so that it became unserviceable as a phone/internet device, which is the main use of them, and therefore data onboard, photos or whatever were still available. You’d then cease use of it, and if you weren’t aware of the overall problem seek assistance to have it repaired and then get clued up about the bigger problem.

    • If someone hasn’t initiated a cloud backup of their pics from the get-go then that’s their own problem.

      Anyway, you can’t look at photos if you’ve been blinded by an exploding Samsung Note 7 so there’s that too.

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