The official US Consumer Product Safety Commission recall of the Galaxy Note 7 is the largest smartphone recall in history. The replacement are to start no later than 21 September, and the newer units will sport a green battery icon to show that it is a safe unit to use. Samsung might have rushed to release the smartphone before the launch of the iPhone 7, a disastrous move. The ban came into force only after a number of reports of exploding phones, as well as the model being disallowed on flights. Although the recall has proved costly for Samsung, it was the right thing to do in the interest of consumers, and the long term reputation of the company.
There are very few cell phone related recalls by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The first cell phone related recall was way back in 2003, when a phone distributed by SecureAlert, now known as Track Group, had to recall a security oriented phone called MobilePAL. There have been a total of 9 smartphone related recalls so far. One of them was an alert over replacement batteries, and another one affected the charger and cables, but not the phone itself. Here is how the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Recall compares to all of them.
The Samsung Note 7 recall is by far the largest recall in terms of volume. The burn or fire hazard related recalls are few and far between, which goes to show that even though lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to explosions, flawed devices that require recalls are very rare in the market. Way back in 2008, there were faulty lithium-ion batteries in the SoundStation2W Wireless Conference Phones. The recall was triggered over one exploding phone, and there were no injuries reported. Popkiller USB chargers and adapters were recalled in 2014, because of faulty circuitry, before there were any untoward incidents.
|The Kyocera 7135 was recalled in 2004|
The Kyocera Wireless Corp. recall of 140,000 phones in 2004 is perhaps the only recall that is somewhat on the lines of the Samsung Note 7 recall. There were reports of exploding phones due to faulty batteries, and one minor burn injury. Consumers were advised to immediately stop using the batteries. However, removable batteries allowed Kyocera to replace only the batteries instead of the entire smartphones. Samsung could have avoided such a massive recall, if only the Galaxy Note 7 had removable batteries.
|The LG 830 Spyder was recalled in 2009. Image: LG.|
The other mobile phone recalls had another critical flaw, and were not a burn or fire hazard. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission recalls products that have problems making emergency calls. MobilePAL, LG 830 Spyder, and Circket EZ phones all had technical issues which prevented emergency calls from being made in certain circumstances. Samsung is the only company to feature twice in the recalled cell phones list. In 2009, 160,000 Samsung Jitterbug cell phones were recalled as they were unable to make emergency calls in a no service area, and instead displayed a message “out of range, try again later”.