So, now we know exactly what happened with Samsung’s fiery batteries. Will it happen again?
Samsung said that it has implemented a new eight-step testing process for its lithium ion batteries, and that it’s forming a battery advisory board as well, comprised of academics from Cambridge, Berkeley, and Stanford. Note, this is for all lithium ion batteries in Samsung products, not just Note phablets or the anticipated Galaxy S8 phone.
Can Samsung’s eight-step battery test prevent disasters like this in the future?
Samsung’s new eight-step battery safety check includes: durability testing, visual inspection, X-rays, charge and discharge tests, tests of total volatile organic compounds (TVOC), disassembling tests, accelerated usage tests, and open circuit voltage tests.
Many of these steps, including the first three listed above as well as open circuit voltage tests, were conducted on earlier devices; but Samsung says the testing is now “enhanced,” and will be conducted with increasing frequency. For example, it says it has raised its internal standards for the visual inspection phase.
The charge and discharge tests, the TVOC test, and the accelerated usage tests are entirely new to the process. Charge and discharge tests, which means testing the batteries both while the device is charging and while the battery is draining, were a large part of the post-analyses conducted by Samsung and by the third-party firms it paid to examine its defective phones.
Samsung first announced the Galaxy Note 7, its flagship phablet, in early August 2016, and began shipping the phone a couple of weeks later. Initial reviews of the device were largely positive. But then reports of faulty batteries began to emerge, with some of the phone units generating excessive heat and catching fire. Samsung first suspended sales of the phone, then began replacing defective phones with new units; only after some of the replacement units began exploding did Samsung issue a worldwide recall, on October 10th.
The press conference today was a long-awaited dose of information and offered a level of transparency that the company, quite critically, hadn’t offered before. Still, Samsung’s efforts to win back the trust of consumers will likely continue to be an uphill battle. The next Galaxy S flagship phone, coming this spring, will be the biggest test Samsung has faced since its ascent to the position of world's biggest smartphone manufacturer.