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Samsung sinks deeper into exploding battery quagmire as ‘Samsung 7’ blamed for car fire

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James Bareham / The Verge

In what must be the cardinal example for why quality assurance is important, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 battery issue keeps dragging on, and it’s now damaging the reputation of the Korean company’s entire smartphone line. The latest incident to be blamed on an overheating Note 7 is a car fire in Port St. Lucie, Florida, where the owner of the vehicle believes the cause of the fire was his charging Samsung Galaxy Note 7.

The reputational problem for Samsung is that most people can’t distinguish a Note 7 from the rest of its phones, and the Port St. Lucie Police Department refers to the device blamed for the fire as a "Samsung 7 phone." It’s a small linguistic oversight, but it bundles the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge — two devices that are unaffected by Samsung's present recall and battery fault — in with the offending Galaxy Note 7. What's more, reports of exploding S7 devices have also surfaced, and are being taken with greater credibility because of the ongoing Note 7 saga.

The cause of the fire has not yet been established by investigators, and so far it’s only the owner’s belief that the Note 7 was to blame for it. This Florida incident follows a number of other major fires blamed on Samsung’s ill-fated smartphone, which has been recalled by the company and even been issued with a firmware update in Korea that would cap its recharging at 60 percent. Various anecdotal reports also indicate that airline personnel are asking owners of all Samsung phones, not just Note 7s, to keep them switched off during flights, so the brand contagion continues spreading.

At this point, Samsung might well be wishing that it’d kept to its old number scheme, which would have seen this year’s phablet titled the Galaxy Note 6. That would at least have given some differentiation from its highly successful S7 family now — though obviously Samsung wouldn’t have ever foreseen stumbling into a blunder quite as prolonged and impactful as this one.