Samsung is to remotely disable the remaining Note 7 handsets that the most devoted users have refused to return under a safely recall.
One of the hottest phones of last year turned out to be too hot to handle after a string of handsets overheated and even caught fire. Independent reports blamed attempts to make the phone as thin as possible while Samsung’s own reports pointed to specific problems with both sets of batteries used in the phone and conceded it needed to step up testing procedures in the future.
Since then it has been working on completing a recall program which persuaded well over 90 percent of users to return their handset. The problem is that even the small percentage of handouts means tens of thousands of phones out there which could potentially lead to safety risks and legal complications if they do overheat.
To date Samsung has used a variety of methods to try to dissuade people from continuing to use the phone. These have included network carriers in some countries shutting off service completely, as well as other carriers issuing updates that stop the battery from recharging – updates that some users appear to have been blocking.
Verizon has even gone as far as rerouting outgoing voice calls (other than to 911) from the Note 7 so that users instead find themselves speaking to customer service staff who’ll give them a lecture. The carrier has even warned it might add a charge to customer’s bill equivalent to the phone’s full retail price and then only remove the charge once the handset’s returned. How that would play out legally remains to be seen.
Judging from Korean news reports, however, Samsung is ready for the final step. It plans to issue software updates that stop the phone from working altogether.
The big question now is whether the type of people who’ve been determined enough to keep using the phone for so long are also the type of people who’d find a way to block or disable such an update.
Meanwhile the company has detailed its plans for the returned handsets. In some cases it will refurbish and resell the handsets after modifying them to carry a smaller battery, though they’ll only be available in some countries, dependent on local regulatory approval.
With the remaining handsets, Samsung will remove key components such as camera modules and semiconductors to use in test and sample handsets. It will then extract precious metals where possible before recycling the remains.