Processor tweaks possible culprit in Note 7 blowup

Article By : Junko Yoshida

By process of elimination, Samsung now seems to have concluded that changing batteries doesn’t lower the heat.

What is causing Samsung Note 7 to catch fire? Nobody is talking, especially Samsung, who is keeping mum on the issue until it finishes its own investigation.

But a new report emerged Wednesday that the culprit might not be the lithium-ion batteries themselves, which Samsung initially suspected. Rather, the problem might reside in the underlying technology—tweaks made to the processor in the smartphone.

Attributing an unnamed source who has spoken to Samsung chiefs, the Financial Times reported, “Problems with the phone appeared to have arisen from tweaks to the processor to speed up the rate at which the phone could be charged.”

The source told the U.K. newspaper, “If you try to charge the battery too quickly it can make it more volatile. If you push an engine too hard, it will explode. Something had to give.”

After the market closed Tuesday, the Korean electronics giant announced that it would scrap its Note 7 smartphone and completely halt production.

Samsung's Note 7 comes in two versions, with one using Samsung's own Exynos 8893 processor and another based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 820 processor.

Giving some credence to the new theory—putting the blame beyond the battery itself—are explosion incidents that have surfaced with replacement phones using new batteries produced by another company.

Samsung initially connected the explosions to batteries produced by Samsung SDI, an affiliate company. The Korea Herald reported that Samsung SDI supplied 70% of Note 7 batteries, while Amperex Technology (ATL) supplying the remaining 30%.

Initially, Samsung did not observe the overheating issues among Note 7 using ATL batteries. Therefore, after the first recall, as a temporary solution, Samsung asked ATL to step in and supply batteries for the replacement phones.

However, as it turns out, on Monday, the replacement phones with ATL batteries also started blowing up.

ATL is a Hong Kong-based company established in 1999, acquired by TDK in 2005. Its production lines reportedly have been operating under strict manufacturing processes compliant to those of TDK since 2010.

Did this mean that ATL/TDK batteries were also defective?

Not exactly. By process of elimination, Samsung now seems to conclude that changing batteries doesn’t lower the heat.

By all accounts, Samsung’s decision to cancel all production of the Note 7 indicates that the Korean giant realises it must look elsewhere—other than batteries—to explain the alarming phenomenon of its smartphones bursting into flame.

According to the information posted by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, Samsung has received 92 reports of the batteries overheating in the United States, including 26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage, including fires in cars and a garage.

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