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Galaxy Note7: What We Discovered (samsung.com)
568 points by richardboegli on Jan 23, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 176 comments

Since I have a bit of experience in the world of batteries I thought I'd post.

First of all, deflected electrodes, insufficient insulation tape, and high welding burrs are absolutely fine explanations for what happened here. As someone who works with batteries, that would tell me everything I wanted to know. If I was running a battery fab, I'd be able to check for these problems in 20 minutes.

Further in the favor of Samsung is that battery fabs are some of the most opaque places in the world. They never release any information of any value whatsoever to the outside, and there are only a handful in the world. For Samsung to release something like this so candidly is absolutely unprecedented in the world of batteries; I was shocked when I saw the post.

Say what you will about Samsung in general, or about their treatment of the whole process, but posting this is a first among any of the major battery manufacturers and shocked me with its level of openness and detail.


If anyone doubts this, try getting information on the closest battery fab to you. You can try to find what batteries they produce, but chances are that's not public. You can try to find their name, or if they still exist, but that's probably also not public. You might eventually find an address, and you might go there, but when you arrive you'll be forcibly removed from the area by armed security and/or police. To give an example, there are a couple debates in the industry about what company acquired another company. It's years after the supposed acquisition, and nobody knows anything.

The battery industry is a whole secretive world of its own, and this is because batteries are simultaneously a low-profit commodity and a gateway to unlimited riches. If Apple is successful with its dream technology, it might capture 50% of the world smartphone market instead of the 14% it has now. If a battery company is successful, it will become successful beyond your wildest dreams. Lots of things are just on the edge of being possible with today's battery tech. The first one to 'win' gets to go from selling a couple billion of batteries (to small fish, like EV and power tool makers) to selling trillions of dollars to everyone that will buy, including every electric utility in the world that will be ecstatic to have the perfect demand-smoothing device.

Story time. Dad worked briefly for the Eveready battery division of Union Carbide, and they had a plant in low-labor-cost (for the time) Asheboro North Carolina. They had a problem with their then-new alkaline battery line where the batteries were exploding, and dad (a chemical engineer) was sent to find out why and fix it. He was there for several weeks looking over the process and line, trying various things to solve the problem.

Eventually his boss came for a visit and dad was explaining what he had done as they walked through the factory floor. Just as they passed a stack of batteries, one of them exploded -- which then set off a chain reaction as the released electrolyte shorted out adjacent batteries. Listening to this series of small explosions, his boss accused him of a setup. Nope. Just coincidence.

I think he said the problem was traced to the water supply and how the city had been varying the amount of chlorine in it.

The most interesting battery they made was for the Union Pacific Railroad. They had signal lights to run out in the middle of nowhere, and they had to run unattended through the Rocky Mountain winters. So they made this massive battery that would be hoisted by crane into a buried vault by the side of the tracks, to be swapped out 5-6 months later.

Wouldn't signal lights require a network to coordinate? That would mean there's some kind of connection to it, so why would it need a battery?

More than likely it used Automatic Block Signaling, invented in the late 19th century. Train detection is done by looking for the electrical leakage across the rails through the steel wheels & axles of the train.


It can't handle as many trains as centralized control, but it has the advantage of not needing a network in remote areas - just buried wires. It's the equivalent to relay logic.

(I finally get to put some of my teenage model railroading knowledge to work)

This is the same signaling used by most of the NYC subway system and (if I understand correctly) is the reason they can't simply add more trains to the tracks despite the current overcrowding at times.


I believe trains would flip switches as they rode along the rail.

Thank for the insights!

I think the damage Samsung suffered was simply too high, so they had to release information that would show that they really solved the issue. Otherwise there would be permanent brand damage if people suspected that they don't know what was causing incidents. So what we are seeing is actually some very well thought out PR.

Seconded with the "well thought out PR" part. The piece was worded well, all fault points away from Samsung.

I would be curious to see how they would have handled the PR if Samsung were at fault. I would like to think the exact same.

Seeing as how Samsung did produce the original faulty batteries, you are seeing exactly how they shift the blame away from themselves. Instead of calling out the bad batteries they made, the specifically avoid discussing who made the bad batteries so it looks like they did a lot of investigation into the cause but it doesn't look like they were at fault.

The original batteries were manufactured by a Samsung subsidiary.

you misunderstood, which means Samsung misinformation worked rather well.

The FULL blame is on Samsung and its subsidiaries.

My question is why wasn't their QA process catching this in the factory? Especially after the first recall. It seems like they didn't bother making a special effort to verify the second battery source was producing good batteries.

(I honestly have no idea, I'm not involved in manufacturing.)

It's worth noting that the number of actual failures is measurable only after millions had shipped. 10-100 dppm is a reasonable guess (~100 phones out of 2.7M shipped) with relatively low "infant mortality" until they were compressed into a phone and used (and abused as normal).

As a tester, you build a 10k ($10M) unit test run and none of them fail, and then another 10k ($10M) run and again none of them fail... statistically you might not expect reliably catch a single failure until you run 10 times.... that's a $100M test you need to get your boss to sign off on.

Note that when you get a failure it will burn up and you won't be able to identify the cause.

Now, if you knew the failure mode, you could test for it directly and you wouldn't have to waste an entire assembled phone in a destructive evaluation, but that's hind sight. The failure defects they see seem like pretty standard problems, but other than sampling, I'm still not sure how they are going to catch them in manufacturing.

What's amazing is that more batteries don't go up (the original Prius was notorious).

Missing insulation especially sounds like a problem that would be in a whole lot of batteries, and should be easy to find in a test run.

It was only a factor after the case had been partially damaged. Let's hope that the testing procedure will start to inflict similar damage to catch this sort of failure more quickly.

It only causes a fire if there are other factors. But it's very easy to find on an intact battery being examined for flaws.

What's the original Prius issue?

Corrosion from leaking electrolyte would eventually short the battery terminals to the protective shield around the battery cells. At that point the battery would catch fire. It just happened to me 3 months ago, 2002 Prius on a battery that was serviced for the recall in 2004. Electrolyte continued to leak, obviously. :/ https://twitter.com/davemethvin/status/782610209525170176

Samsung SDI is separate enough from the smartphone makers that I'd guess it just wasn't prioritized as much as it should have been. 2.5 million phones were sold, at 14 watt hours per battery that means that the Note 7 batteries would only be a few percent of their total production (35 MWh of Note 7 batteries produced.)

Catching problems like this can be pretty tricky and at the end of the day it's also possible that a few people getting lazy and programming the machines wrong led to this.

> My question is why wasn't their QA process catching this in the factory? Especially after the first recall

There were 2 battery suppliers, the initial recall was done because batteries from the first supplier (a Samsung subsidiary) had structural/design defects.

To make up for this lost capacity, they ramped up production at the second supplier without much of a heads-up. Unfortunately the Quality Control was not adequate for the higher volumes, resulting in well-designed but sloppily made batteries that were also prone to explode. The problem in the second case was not a structural one, but in the manufacturing process.

I agree. They didn't talk at all about any QA processes that should have or would have caught issues, or what they have instituted since.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Slightly off-topic, but perhaps interesting enough to keep here: You state that battery fabs are very opaque. Could you tell us some things we might be surprised to learn about battery manufacturing or technology in general? Thank you.

You're welcome!

Unfortunately, I'm mostly on the supply side of the battery equation, consuming those few PDFs that are smuggled out.

The most surprising thing, to me, is that battery tech moves in a zig-zag shape. The best battery that money can buy, for two of pretty much the most important applications (can't elaborate further, sorry) was only made from ~2012 until ~2014. A lot of really expensive things that need that battery are now running off of old stock, which will of course eventually run out. The best comparable battery made in 2016 has less than half its performance.

Another example of this is energy density. For practical purposes, the best density you could reasonably buy was fixed around 90 Wh/kg for a while (until about 1997), then suddenly jumped to ~180 Wh/kg (~2002), then went in 2006 to ~260 Wh/kg... and sat there, where it has sat for eleven years now with practically zero improvement. [0] If I teleported to today from 2006 I'd expect to have some fantastic 400 Wh/kg batteries that would enable all kinds of new technologies... but nope, the best energy density you can get is literally the same as it was eleven years ago.

Worth noting that since 2006 discharge rates of high capacity batteries have gone up, to be perfectly fair. Still though, energy density remains stagnant.

[0] Looking at graphs on Google Images will give you the wrong idea. They typically show the best batteries that year, not necessarily ones you can actually buy, and the numbers are often pulled out of thin air. This graph [1] is the least worst, but that's not saying much.

[1] http://media.greenmonk.net/greenmonk/files/2015/11/Li-IonDen...

The stagnation of Li-ion batteries can be attributed to industry approaching the theoretical maximum energy density. So instead of optimizing the remaining 25%-30% capacity, focus shifted to Li-air or Li-S research. Li-S in particular can reach up to 2600 Wh/kg theoretical energy density, or 10x of current state of the art.

Maybe you can shine some light on this, why do the search trends [1] for lithium sulfur appear so cyclic? I'm not aware of any uses in industry, or any major conferences/press cycles around Li-S.

[1] https://www.google.com/trends/explore?date=all&q=lithium%20s...

Thanks for posting this. A totally unrelated question, if you don't mind answering. Given all this, do you believe that Tesla is changing the battery market dynamics with their GigaFactory. Musk has claimed that their plan is to increase the energy density, but hasn't given out any specifics.

You're welcome!

TL;DR They're changing the market dynamics but their cells are boring aside from being cheap and will probably stay that way for a while.

So first of all, yes they will change the market dynamics; anyone selling as many batteries as they (plan to) do will change the market.

Secondly, the gigafactory's cells aren't that interesting (right now) aside from being cheap. The cell lifetime is atrocious, between half to a quarter that of the market standard. The energy density is not great, around 220 Wh/kg for the best cells and 190 Wh/kg for the worse ones; this is slightly better than the cutting edge fifteen years ago. The power density they claim is unacceptable given what it does to the cell life. And since the cells are larger, they require new cooling systems.

Musk is a fascinating guy, for sure, but he's just as human as the rest of us. An absolutely gargantuan amount of cash has been piled into battery research in the last 11 years, with zero appreciable gains in energy density. If the Gigafactory ever produces a high energy density cell, it'll almost certainly be because their partner Panasonic (which is one of the few battery companies on the cutting edge) made a breakthrough and licensed it to them.

Finally, the battery market is a very strange thing: many makers of the 'good' cells won't sell to anyone except a few specific clients. These clients buy the cells (on paper) to make things like power tools or electric vehicles or battery packs. However, these clients vastly over-buy, and then sell off their excess stock to resellers. Anytime you buy a powerbank, or a loose 18650 cell for an e-cigarette, or a battery pack for an ebike, you're almost certainly going to end up with cells that have been resold at least twice.

As such, the easiest way that Tesla could absolutely revolutionize the industry is by simply saying "hey, if your needed capacity is more than $25K per year, give us a call" and selling directly to businesses. They could even put up a quote on their website à la SpaceX. Unfortunately, I've got a feeling that if Tesla did that their partners at Panasonic would make heads roll, but you never know.

That's interesting, to say the least. You can't just call Saft and order some cells then? They won't sell them to you?

I'm not sure about Saft in particular; with how ridiculously bad their tech is I'm convinced they are a French government jobs program, and nobody I know has ever voluntarily used their cells (except years ago for non-rechargeable.) For reference, their highest energy density Li-Ion cell is 169 Wh/kg. I'm not sure how they managed to be that bad; I just literally taped a rock (14g) to the cheapest battery in my apartment (45.8g, the $2.49 NCR18650PF) and the combined energy density of my new Rock-Lithium-Ion Battery is 170 Wh/kg, better than that of Saft's highest energy density rechargeable cell.

But yes; if you want newer battery technology direct from the manufacturer, you'll probably be flat-out ignored even if you're inquiring at a medium-large scale. The way to do it is to hunt around for semi-reputable resellers, who will usually give you what you want at an acceptable price.

My understanding is that the reselling behavior is the bane of the e-cigarette market. 18650's that you can get from most resellers may have good specs printed on them, but the battery won't necessarily have anything to do with the wrapper.

Edit: https://www.e-cigarette-forum.com/forum/blog-entry/list-of-b...

That's quite insightful. I know next to nothing about that industry and/or battery (modern) tech. I know people have always said Saft was a reputable battery company (around motorised speciality vehicles/grip for film industry). I have no idea why, considering what you've just said.

Its likely Saft optimizes for rough environments rather than energy density. Things like stronger casings, more insulation between anode/cathode, wider temperature ranges are more useful to some applications than energy density.

I've primarily seen them used for industrial/military applications.

You're probably right. Just looking at their site and applications they're touting makes it sound legit.

Not parent, but whatever their plan is, energy density is limited by the technology, not the will. It's not like Panasonic could manufacture battery with twice the energy density if they wanted to, with some tech they're hiding in their back pocket.

As for the "gigafactory", it's Tesla trying to get into that closed market, like parent said there are only a few big players and it's not very welcoming to new ones, Tesla's plan is to be so big that they can have a big supply to sell in bulk AND to also be (together with solar city I guess) one of their first big scale customer.

> energy density is limited by the technology, not the will

Spot on. Musk is a fascinating guy but he's not magic; energy density hasn't improved in 11 years with ridiculous amounts of cash thrown at it and I don't think Tesla will be the one to make a breakthrough.

> As for the "gigafactory", it's Tesla trying to get into that closed market

Tesla is actually partnered with Panasonic, which is one of the big battery makers and one of the three that actually make cutting-edge cells. Tesla's "plan" as far as I can tell is to make and sell batteries as cheap as they can, especially since the cells they are making right now aren't interesting in any other aspect than price.

From what I can tell, Tesla has been focused on making their batteries _cheaper_ at the moment so they get the best deal possible on their batteries. They aren't really trying to make "better" batteries because they need to scale up their production first to meet Model 3 demand.

I think you mean the electro-chemical cell. Batteries are just bundles of electrochemical cells (and 1 cell can be a bundle). I am far from an expert on this, but tighter packing of electrochemical cells could improve density.

> Batteries are just bundles of electrochemical cells (and 1 cell can be a bundle)

Correct. The problem with packing cells tighter is heat production: a ridiculous amount of heat is released and the individual cells can get up to 80 degrees C / 176 F. (80C is not a "doomsday scenario"; most cells are rated to sit there running at 80C just fine.) When they're all next to each other, tightly packed in with no place for heat to go, you're screwed.

The other reason is that volumetric density is usually not what people optimize for; gravimetric density is more useful most of the time, and in that case you don't really have any reason to use tighter packing.

Why is gravimetric density more important than volumetric density? That sounds counter intuitive to me.

Places where gravimetric density is more important:

- Electric vehicles

- Aircraft

- R/C

- Anything that goes into space

- Large scale energy storage (good energy density typically = less lithium used)

- Generally: anything that moves

Places where both are equally important:

- Consumer electronics (you don't want an ultra slim 2lb phone, or a ultra thick featherweight phone)

Places where volumetric density is more important:

- Batteries in smartcards

- Some medical devices

- Certain flashlights, IoT devices

You'll notice that there are a lot more things where people care more about gravimetric density.

Also, the best Li-Ion cells for volumetric density that you can buy are rather inconvenient shapes; a favorite is the 18650, an 18mm diameter by 65mm long cylinder. Yes, the best 18650 technically has much better volumetric density than the iPhone batteries. But if you swapped the iPhone battery with an 18650 you'd have a hilarious looking semi-cylinder protruding from the back.

Because nobody seems to want a 4 pound cellphone battery.

> The best battery that money can buy, for two of pretty much the most important applications (can't elaborate further, sorry) was only made from ~2012 until ~2014. A lot of really expensive things that need that battery are now running off of old stock, which will of course eventually run out.

Don't lithium ion batteries degrade over time? If that's the case, then how is this 3-5 year old stock still the best available?

In 2010 I experimented with Graphene as the Anode of a Li Ion battery. The results at the time were pretty promising but we (the lab at my uni) were synthesizing all of the material ourselves - there was no graphene supply chain and it was very expensive.

We always talked about specific capacity (q, charge per unit weight) so all the numbers I'm quoting will be in that - you can multiply by voltage to convert.

We were obtaining specific capacities around 500 mAh/g. Vs q= ~370 mAh/g max for graphite anode. I recall based on theoretical modelling ~660 MAh/g could have been achievable with graphene.

This pales in comparison to tin or cobalt anodes, which back in 2010 had q = 990 or so. We were not really optimizing for energy density. Rather with carbon based anodes we would see much better cyclical performance due to the lower volume expansion during Li intercalation. So you would be able to get much more charge/discharge cycles without the loss of performance you'd typically see in a higher energy density metal based anode.

I work in a different industry now and have not followed battery development closely. I'd speculate a similar thing has happened in the "real world" the energy density may not have improved significantly since 2006 but the cycle life is probably better.

multiply with what voltage? sorry I'm being dumb - can you say the number?

>The best battery that money can buy, for two of pretty much the most important applications (can't elaborate further, sorry) was only made from ~2012 until ~2014.


Haha, glad someone tried to guess! But nope, there are several cells that beat the VTC5.

Two that come to mind immediately (that beat the VTC5) are the 25R and the VTC6, both of which run cooler and have a higher capacity than the VTC5.

You probably haven't heard of the specific battery I'm thinking of unless you've worked a decent amount with batteries, though; it's not terribly popular with hobbyists (part of that, of course, is that it can be hard to get.)

I understand that some technology is kept secret for competitive reasons, but it seems to me that what is shown here (composition of batteries) could also be found out by simply opening one, of course assuming a somewhat expert is doing it. Or is there something preventing this?

On the other hand, revealing causes of failure seems much more specific and valueable, so there's that.

The basic structure of Li-ion batteries is well known and not really different between manufacturers and physical configurations (e.g. cylindrical versus pouch cells).

What's significant is the details. The exact chemical compositions and dimensions of the different components result in significantly different performance characteristics.

A relatively small number of batteries had the issues. The one we knew for sure had, well, burned or exploded.

> They never release any information of any value whatsoever to the outside, and there are only a handful in the world

Technical explanations are fine, but catching potential problems like that is why QA, and locking processes, exists, on the shipping and receiving end.

Ideally, there be a sampling and analysis of the batteries, for a specific process, for a specific plant, before accepting them at the factory. Xray imaging, mechanical stress testing, accelerated life testing, etc. Sealing that many flawed component in your phones isn't the result of battery manufacturing opaqueness, it's a test escape for QA. Something went wrong. An incorrect sample size from an incorrect confidence, a process change at the battery end, without resampling, or ignoring or not readjusting the confidence after seeing failures.

Otherwise, you know, phones could blow up in people pockets and be a PR disaster for your company, because customers only see the name on the case.

I was lucky to pick up German as a teenager. This episode of Omega Tau (german only) has an amazing discussion about batteries.


So can you translate the VIP bits to us that don't speak or understand German?

I'm definitely glad they posted it. It's interesting to see what factors contributed to the failures. However, I doubt Samsung published this out of the goodness of their hearts. I would be surprised if publishing this was not a requirement of some consent agreement with the US FTC or some other regulatory body.

Thanks for the post, interesting information. I know nothing about the battery market but wouldn't it make sense for big players like Samsung to buy into that part of the supply chain if it's in the state you describe?

You're welcome!

And they do. The big battery makers are Panasonic, LG Chem, Samsung SDI, and a few companies that make things internally. Apple has tried to get into batteries with a few strategic acquisitions but didn't really get anywhere (as far as we know.)

I'm also surprised by the level of transparency here. The Galaxy Note 7 warning signs are at every major airport I've visited recently, the damage is done. Hope to see them recover in the coming years.

If the battery industry is so secretive, how do you find out where jobs are?

I'm not actually working with batteries right now, but as I posted on an earlier HN thread [0] I'm a generalist, and typically when a company hires me one of the first things I do is help them with batteries. Pretty much any company that uses batteries these days can really benefit from my help (for example, reducing the battery cost from $20/battery to $6/battery, or bringing the capacity, given the same space and weight, from 2800mAh to 7000mAh.)

Regarding how people specifically hire me, I've been lucky enough to never really need to search for work; it just finds me. Either through HN, or from people I've worked for before.

By the way, my email's in my profile; anyone in this thread feel free to contact me. You should especially contact me if you're involved in any project that uses batteries, I always love to hear what people are making.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13410359

Do you have any details or examples of your battery work? Those battery numbers almost sound like switching someone from older battery chemistry to a lithium based formula.

Although sometimes it is that simple, the two examples I quoted above (battery cost from $20/battery to $6/battery, and bringing the capacity, given the same space and weight, from 2800mAh to 7000mAh) were both examples where I swapped out existing lithium ion batteries to custom lithium ion battery packs (I build packs myself.)

Another example is when a company needed a 10kW output for just a few seconds. I was able to reduce their already-optimized battery pack (the largest weight part of the system) to one twentieth of its original weight.

Given a random company that hired me, I could probably accomplish one or two of the below:

- Increase battery capacity by 20-120% (average maybe 50% improvement or 1.5x original, for example 900mAh -> 1400mAh)

- Increase battery max output power by up to 70x (for example output power 15W -> output power 1000W)

- Decrease battery weight by 20-100% (average maybe 40% improvement or 1.4x original, example 500g -> 350g)

- Increase cycle lifetimes by 10x (example 300 cycles to 3000 cycles)

- Increase or decrease operating voltage of battery

- Make a lithium-ion battery extremely safe (not dangerous after extreme drops, heat, cold, short circuits or punctures)

- Change battery form factor into something much more convenient

That list is of course assuming that they're already using semi-decent lithium-ion batteries. If they're not using li-ion or using bad li-ions, the improvements are (usually) much more drastic than above.

If anyone reading this is working on any project requiring batteries, shoot me an email (it's in my profile.) I can reduce cost/weight/charge time and increase power/capacity/durability (whatever you choose) - and the worst case is that I tell you your batteries are already optimal.

Jobs find you, probably.

Can confirm. My MA research was on an EMD Li-ion cathode material and I get approached by recruiters for companies I haven't even heard of every so often.

Why are EVs considered small fish? Sure, they might have a minority of the car market, but they also have thousands of times the battery capacity of a laptop or a smartphone.

think of the sheer number of applications for batteries then just mass alone of all those supported devices should give a clue. while many longer range EVs will have 400kg or of batteries their numbers just aren't sufficient to matter; yet.

And yet, the battery production capacity is apparently nowhere near enough to supply companies like Tesla, making them become a battery manufacturer themselves. Which plays right into the parent comment - the battery business is huge, and Tesla could probably pivot from a car company to a battery / energy company easily enough. They kickstarted electric cars, the established companies are trying to catch up, but are doing so in part thanks to Tesla, their open patents, and soon enough, their hugely scaled battery manufacturing capacity.

> the battery production capacity is apparently nowhere near enough to supply companies like Tesla

All conjecture, but it could have just been a risk thing, not a capacity thing.

Tesla isn't a problem, it is Tesla's ambitions that are a problem. There is sufficient supply for the Model S/X but not the Model 3 and they were likely having difficulty finding a partner willing to spin up enough production capacity for the later.

If I were to hazard a guess everyone wasn't willing to take on the risk at the usual price so there was enough price difference (to cover the risk of problems) that it made sense for Tesla to spend the capital to build there own.

Heck you might even be able base Tesla's expanding ideas of what to do with batteries on this. "What do we do if we can't sell the cars at the expected price point so we move fewer of them?" "Just make other products that can shore up demand".

Again all baseless conjecture but depending on the quantities involved could make sense. If Tesla said "I guarantee I will by X but you need to be able to produce 5X in case I don't run into any issues" would you bite without compensation for that risk?

So was this a design problem with the batteries or an engineering one? Or both? Did the fact that they tried to pack the battery as tightly in as possible contribute to those flaws?

This was mainly a QC problem. Batteries were produced with an unusual rate of defects that resulted in internal short circuits. Cramming the battery in to the smallest space possible may have exacerbated those defects, but batteries for consumer applications should not be so fragile that moderate pressure on their shells causes them to explode.

The phones that have nonfaulty batteries do not explode.

Maybe the designed tolerances were too close. ie they design something that could not be reliably made.

People had these devices explode and planes had to land due to them, I'd say some candor is in order.

  "I was shocked when I saw the post."
Are you still using a Samsung Galaxy Note7?

I'm pretty proud of them for making an easy to understand infographic about the problem instead of a bunch of text jargon.

It made me mad TBH. I feel like I'm being sold further on their high-tech image instead of given an apology or any recognition of the seriousness of the issue.

Maybe you would prefer this, it explains new measures they will be taking for QA instead of just the battery-centric infographic https://news.samsung.com/global/samsung-announces-new-and-en...

It seems you don't work for Samsung (use of word 'them'). Gramatically speaking, how can you be proud of something you had no hand in?

'Proud of' is an acceptable colloquial substitute here for 'pleased with'.

Really? This must have passed me by

More commonly one is "proud of" one's children or "proud of" one's country - in the latter case especially, your direct hand in whatever "they" did may is probably a statistical rounding error away from zero. Not very different to be "proud of" one's compatriots in the world of technology.

What a strange correction. Nothing they said was unusual or incorrect. It was a perfectly acceptable choice of words.

I hope you're being sarcastic. I, for one, would have preferred an actual root cause analysis, with all the technical detail. This just feels vaguely patronizing, like Samsung expects me to not be able to understand the electrical details.

I mean, I get why they're releasing a summary infographic. The fewer details they release, the fewer things they're vulnerable to lawsuits over. But at the same time, I do think that it's important for society as a whole for companies to release the root-cause-analyses when their products have caused harm, so that other companies in the future know exactly what to watch out far and what sorts of designs to avoid. Right now, there's nothing preventing some other phone manufacturer from making the same mistakes as Samsung, with the same results.

I see I'm not alone in downvoting you. Personally, this is because you're just being contrarian and not really adding to the discussion. Deflected electrodes, insufficient insulation tape, and high welding burrs are absolutely fine explanations for what happened here. As someone who works with batteries, that would tell me everything I wanted to know.

In this case, the "root causes" are not terribly interesting. The cause for the high weld burrs is that the settings on the welding machines were set wrong. If they said "the settings on the welding machines were set wrong", or the root cause for that ("our battery technicians were incorrectly trained"), that would have been useless.

In contrast, this is a fantastic explanation, presented in a very clear way. If I was running a battery fab, I'd be able to check for these problems in 20 minutes.

Further in the favor of Samsung is that battery fabs are some of the most opaque places in the world. They never release any information of any value whatsoever to the outside, and there are only a handful in the world. For Samsung to release something like this so candidly is absolutely unprecedented in the world of batteries; I was shocked when I saw the post.

The root cause analysis from three different engineering firms is in the linked analyst reports in the footer. Samsung are not being patronising, they're producing content all their affected customers can understand with the infographic, and for those that are more technically inclined or curious - they releasing the technical reports they commissioned in full with all the analysis and findings. You can't fault them for that level of disclosure.

Actually, the linked pdf's are presentation slides that do not contain any relevant information that is not in the infographic. On the other hand, on this level there is not much more to say, finding and removing the true root cause (ie. "this process step was badly designed") is problem of the battery manufacturer and not Samsung itself.

Wasn't Samsung one of the battery manufacturers for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?

I second this, except for the "hope you're being sarcastic" bit. Publicly accessible root cause analysis data could do for consumer electronics and software development what the NTSB has done for aviation.

However, it does look like in this case additional data from a few regulatory or quasi-regulatory agencies has been provided (PDF links after the infographic), and the infographic is reasonably detailed.

Samsumg was communicating with the majority of their customers, not writing a report especially for you, quanticle.

Samsung Announces New and Enhanced Quality Assurance Measures to Improve Product Safety https://news.samsung.com/global/samsung-announces-new-and-en...

Also a YouTube video with findings and new Quality Assurance Measures https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OeKdcIOAEL8

The MSN reports this as battery defects. Both "defects" were however made more critical by the tight containment within the phone. It is not simply a component but a system engineering issue - from objective, design, tooling, manufacturing to QC. Like with the Challenger disaster there is a cultural problem.

The press release calls into question that Samsung fully owns up to it.

I'm glad my question was finally answered! During the paranoia in September/October, I remember reading everything and wondering why nothing seemed to explain why the issue happened in the first place. Note7's aren't exactly the only tech with batteries...

Otherwise, sorry for being negative, but this doesn't seem like a very complicated reason for the batteries to have been defective, right? Why didn't they just release this a couple of weeks after the incidents started happening? (Did they want to confirm with a large number of the recalled ones they got back you think?)

There were about 100 reported incidents out of something like 2.5 million Note 7 manufactured, so whatever the defect is it is not a common one and thus hard to find and confirmed. Not to mention most of the phones with problem burned so you can't "debug" them directly.

Not all units had these flaws.

Missing insulation tape. That one made me say, "of course they caught on fire."

> Missing insulation tape.

Yeah, wow, how does that even happen?

Oh well that's not very typical, I'd like to make that point... (reference: https://youtu.be/3m5qxZm_JqM)

Seriously, these findings are facepalm-worthy. It really doesn't inspire any confidence in their quality control.

It looks like, based on the infographic, the insulation tape was punctured by overly tall welds.

That is not the missing insulation the parent comment is talking about. The insulation puncture is another fault.

I realize they had to root cause this problem but it was interesting to see and I wonder if they fired the Battery manufacturer.

The other thing I find interesting is that given the root cause they could essentially do 100% battery screening and have a lot of stock of G7's. They would be better than a cheap android phone in a magazine advertisement[1] :-). Also the G7 has a gorgeous screen, I wonder if those are being recycled into new gear or if there is some booth selling off screens somewhere.

[1] http://mashable.com/2012/10/02/ew-has-smartphone-inside/#Nq6...

The original batteries were supplied by Samsung SDI [1], so I doubt there would be any firing. I haven’t seen the who the second supplier was.

[1] http://www.gsmarena.com/galaxy_note7_will_longer_come_with_s...

Reports say that it was Amperex Technology (ATL)

..Who is secretly owned by Apple.

I'm not sure if you are joking or not. But if it's true, that was a nice revenge (with tools that self destruct) by Apple against Samsung. Intentional or not... Lol.

Now if the battery would have been removable this would probably have worked out a lot different.

Why do we not have standardized removable batteries for mobile phones?

> Why do we not have standardized removable batteries for mobile phones?

Because customers don't want them. Yes yes I know almost everyone, including myself, on HN and probably a good chunk of Reddit does want removable batteries. But the majority of customers simply do not care and having them non-removable means it's easier to make them properly water proof or resistant, thinner and larger batteries (easier to cram into the available space).

Another thing to keep in mind is the average life span of a phone in the US is 2 years. That amount of time is unlikely to wear a battery into being useless so you're only going to need to replace it if you are a heavy phone user and carry additional(s) batteries with you.

I should point out for years we had phones with replaceable batteries. I didn't know anybody that carried one with them.

Those phones were lasting for a week on single charge but novadays phones are hungry, many people carry external power banks or whatever they call them these days. I would happily use swappable battery. Design could also be improved so you can quickly slide empty battery out and charged one back in. Phones could have tiny built in battery which would make the process without the need to turn off/on the phone.

As someone who seems to be a vocal advocate for swappable batteries, I've got a genuine honest question to ask. What's significantly better about a swappable battery vs. an appropriately sized for your needs USB battery pack?

One big benefit is being able to replace the battery after the capacity is reduced due to age. If you get a new phone every couple years anyway this is probably less of a concern, but it's rather nice to be able to spend tens of dollars to get 100% capacity again vs hundreds of dollars for a new phone (even if it's a bit faster).

Even the new iPhone 7 (picking it as Apple is potentially the worst at user friendliness re: batteries) can have its battery replaced fairly easily if its aging. Yes, it's not as simple as popping a latch and snapping in a new one, but it's still very achievable and for a reasonable price (unless you go to Apple that is).

Having a replaceable battery has easily extended the life of my Samsung Galaxy S3, which has lost the ability to charge through the micro USB port (from what I understand this is a fairly common problem).

There are certainly other ways to fix this issue (ranging from switching to inductive charging to, if your good with soldering, actually swapping out the micro USB port on the board). But swapping out a battery is so simple, even not very technically inclined people can do it.

I'm not sure I could say the same for something like a iPhone 7 battery swap (such as this -- https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/iPhone+7+Battery+Replacement/67... ) -- I agree it looks doable, but non-technically inclined people might run away from those type of instructions.

There are numerous places across the globe that will do the work cheaply, usually for about the price you'd pay for an extra battery for the few modern phones that allow you to swap batteries still.

The problem with USB battery packs is that the connector is fragile and awkward. You can't really use the phone when you're walking around while the external battery is connected.

I have a spare battery for my phone and it's very convenient. Swap the battery and you're back to having a 100% charged fully usable device in about 30 seconds.

What kind of battery pack are you talking about. I fairly regularly have my battery in my jacket pocket and easily can use my phone, including making calls if needed, while plugged into the battery via a standard USB cable.

You can swap-and-go with charged phone in seconds. You leave empty battery for charging - you don't carry anything you don't need to think about your phone and battery pack charge level.

>What's significantly better about a swappable battery vs. an appropriately sized for your needs USB battery pack?

Try making a call from a phone with a USB battery pack plugged in.

I do it regularly. I don't see the issue. Battery pack is in my jacket pocket, USB cable runs up to the phone.

Any cable plugged into phone reduces usability. Phones are wireless for a reason.

Wearing gloves reduces the usability of a phone too. Thankfully people find a solution rather than ranting on the Internet about things that are easily solvable. YMMV! :)

The Moto Z family has something similar (an internal battery plus an optional removable external battery). And from what I've read, the technology it uses seems to be in part based on Google's modular phone prototype.

Flagships as recent as the Galaxy S5 still had swappable batteries.

It seemed like anyone who traveled with a Blackberry carried a second one in their bag.

Not everyone outside US does change their mobile every two years, rather only when they die or get stolen. The people appreciate being able to change the battery when it stops charging properly instead of being forced to buy a new phone.

Also I do see quite an increase in people carrying battery packs, because their phone doesn't allow changing them.

I asked this elsewhere, but I'll ask you too. What's significant better about a replaceable battery vs a battery pack that's appropriately sized to your needs?

A less-commonly mentioned benefit: you can remove it to be more confident that your phone is really powered off.

Wondered if somebody would mention that. I agree completely. It's the only really universally legitimate reason to need a removable battery. Everything else is personal preference imho (not saying it makes "your" preference illegitimate, just that there's an equally valid solution "you" chose to not follow).

* your/you above wasn't referring to any specific person

> It's the only really universally legitimate reason to need a removable battery.

So if it dies, one should just shut up and buy a new phone?!

Or you know, just replace the battery! Just because you can't swap it on a moments notice doesn't make the phone junk.

Not having to buy a new phone just because the battery doesn't charge any more.

>Because customers don't want them.

I'm sure quite a few customers would prefer switching battery rather then looking around for a power socket.

Probably makes industrial design much simpler, A) no removeable case, B) battery does not have to be in an accessible area so internal cords/boards can go on both sides.

I personally used Galaxy phones instead of Nexus for the entire reason it had a replacable battery. I loved never having to charge my phone when it died, just popping in the battery into a charger with 2 backups. One always in my bag. So removing it was the reason I stopped using their phones and I doubt I'm the only one.

But that said I doubt they would recall the battery only. They'd definitely ask for the whole phone back until investigation is done. Look how long this took.

Because a removable battery needs a protective shell. It also requires an internal cavity and connection mechanisms. All of those things take up space that could otherwise be more battery.

This entire ordeal would have been so much less impactful to both Samsung and the end users if they simply went down the old and proven replaceable battery route. Not to mention it'd very likely be much more economical and eco-friendly from overall end-to-end perspective. It has consumed the time and resources they could have otherwise devoted to innovating for next generation of the phone lines.

All they needed to sacrifice is about ~1mm of phone thickness...

Even so I still think Samsung phones are getting worse for quality as each year passes the quality is rapidly declining.

My old Samsung Galaxy S2 is still going strong no screen protector, whatever OS version it is now, and the original battery.

I gave the S2 to my dad for a while then I gave him my old S3 so then my sister got the S2 and it still has no scratches on the screen still works great.

The S3 was my second one it was replaced after the screen spontaneously cracked now it's on it's third battery and the WiFi had stopped working. The screen has a scratch on it too I barely got it home before it was scratched I didn't even have time to buy a screen protector.

My S5 is failing even faster and I am also on my third battery soon to be fourth. The screen scratches far easier than the S2.

My next phone will not be a Samsung.

Anecdata, anecdata... My experience is quite the opposite. My current phone is Galaxy S7, and I'm very happy with it. Close to year of use without any screen protector whatsoever, and it only recently got some tiny, barely visible scratches (I think I may have accidentally put it with something sharp in the same pocket). My previous phone, S4, survived a lot of abuse, including breaking the glass twice; when I switched to S7, it was still perfectly fine, so I gave it to my brother. My SO's S3 works fine to this day; only recently I replaced her the broken glass.

The only issue my SO and I have with our phones is that, in time, they get annoyingly slow. But I can't really blame Samsung for the absurd amount of software bloat the mobile ecosystem accrues every year. Same crap is continuing to eat desktop and web anyway.

(I'm dreading the day when someone will have the brilliant idea of porting Electron to Android...)

I agree completely. I had the original Samsung Vibrant, then almost every Galaxy phone up the 7. After the 5th one, each phone was worse than the last. I'll never go back to a Samsung.

Couldn't be happier with my Nexus 6P. Not the most powerful phone out there, but it just works.

Maybe all those Note7s are already recycled, but couldn't they just release it again with good batteries?

Or would replacing the battery and re-distributing the phone cost more than just release a new phone?

Didn't they already do that once though? The problem was the new battery was bad too. If lightning strikes twice you generally don't take a third chance, at least not when the PR is this bad.

They could, but after the bad PR I doubt anyone (in large amounts) would want to buy them.

If they did, it'd be better to make it a slightly different shape and then release it under a different name.

Props to Samsung. They reacted fast to the incidents, quickly announced recalls and worked hard to convince people to return their devices, launched in depth investigation, identified the problem and made changes to their processes.

If the result of the investigation is correct then they have different flaws in both the original and new batteries, which is quite unfortunate. The fiasco costed them something like $17B so they can't afford to have it happen again.


I'm having trouble thinking of a more poorly organized recall in consumer electronics:

- Samsung initially refused to work with US regulators (CPSC) to coordinate a recall.

- They didn't communicate to customers the danger of the situation until after people got burned and there was widespread media coverage.

- They didn't work with carriers to allow returns in stores. People who bought their Note 7's through their carriers weren't clear on how they could return the phone. In some cases, the store employees even told customers that they couldn't swap the device.

- For those who managed to swap their phones, the replacement had the same issue. They had a defective battery because they rushed Note 7 develpment -- you'd think they would have learned not to rush the recall...

The handling of the recall outside the US was even worse. For instance, after reports of exploding phones started circulating in China, Samsung claimed that the phones distributed in that country were not defective, and insinulated that the owners had deliberately mistreated the devices:


To be fair, they probably didn't expect their other supplier of batteries to have another, totally different flaw that caused those batteries to catch fire too.

When you ship a product to millions of customers, you don't "expect" or assume anything. You have your own people, on your payroll, test parts before they get used.

If you can define a testing regimen that would have caught this issue, I'm sure Samsung would gladly pay you in suitcases of cash.

My friend in Germany is still waiting to get his money back, that's how swift Samsung's response is.

I'm also waiting a.) for my money b.) someone to get my Note7. They've sent twice someone without packaging material who wouldn't take the Note, then never react to my inquiries. Samsung customer support in Germany was one of the worst I've ever experienced.

Unfortunately the fast return after first recall seems to be the cause of the second recall.

In some respects it was well handled. But in others it was horrifically bad. Same here. I was admittedly in the strange situation of having moved countries after I purchased the phone, but the kafkaesque hell I ended up in (about 5 emails, 4 online chat sessions and 8 phone calls all probably totalling 12 hours of my time) nearly drove me crazy. And much of the craziness was due to deliberate deception on Samsung's part - see below for an interesting read about how Samsung forced it's call center staff to lie to their customers:


Bullshit! the facts state exactly opposite.

no replacement or refunds for half of customers, lack of communication with public, false statements and lies. they even removed videos from youtube!

Big Clive does a really amazing (and dangerous) tear down of what's inside a Lithium Ion cell, in case anyone wants to see what the parts in the diagram physically look like:


This whole thing would have been avoided easily, if the batteries were removable.

I think the Galaxy Note 7 is going to become a classic business case study. They did everything right following the crisis and in the follow-up investigation. I wonder how will it will actually pan out for them, though.

Really? They were late in doing a recall, the government had to do one first. Then they finally did, but not in every country (they still haven't done one in many countries). Then they re-released the phone that was still exploding.

How anyone can say they did everything right is insane.

1. Which government did this Recall? In the US all Recalls were Voluntary as defined under US CPSC Rules

2. None of the phones "Exploded" they caught fire, big difference

3. What exactly do you believe they should have have done differently

>They were late in doing a recall, the government had to do one first.


Classic business case study, yes. Perhaps in direct contrast to doing everything right, unlike Intel's FDIV recall and J&J's original Tylenol recall.

I'll bet that if you do word associations with "Samsung phone" a lot of people will say "fire," "exploding" or something similar. Now if you were trying to create that association it would be great marketing, but I'm guessing Samsung's marketing department was going for a different association.

I predict the next phone from them will be: Samsung Galaxy Fyre. If not, a terrible missed opportunity in branding.

> They did everything right following the crisis

Like asking for the removal from Youtube of the GTA video showing a Note 7 used as a bomb?

They did everything right only AFTER ignoring the problem first, then doing a wonky first recall and only in the end recalling the devices completely. So while in the end they did the right thing, the way they've handled the whole situation was suboptimal to be generous.

> They did everything right following the crisis

They were radio silent for MONTHS longer than they should have been. No "we're sorry", no "we're looking into it and will update you soon", nothing, for MONTHS.

Considering the amount of support they get from the Korean government, I think it's a safe bet that the company will be able to move past this.

everything right to the point of FAA having to ban the device specifically...? i'm not sure this 'everything right' territory.

You suggest using armed gangs breaking in houses to forcibly confiscate the devices? People were not returning the device. There are still about 90000 Note 7s in use.

TL;DR Both batteries had a design / fabrication error which caused issues

It's also important to mention that there were two different batteries (based on 1st and 2nd recalls) with two different flaws.

each with two different flaws

Makes you wonder if this is limited to the Galaxy Note 7 if there is a design fault in making the battery safe.

At least they admit to theit mistakes...

What about independent researches and tests that all state obvious facts - battery is not that bad, but the overall internal construction was flawed the battery was positioned close to high-heating elements which caused the overheating the battery and blasts. Pathetic false statements from Samsung, but nothing new. Who can trust this crooked company after such bs explanations...

I'm confused. The only "independent research" I've seen regarding the battery has been articles written by people guessing (maybe educated but still a guess) at the problem.

Was there independent research outside of the 3 separate companies Samsung used? Is their research available for download and how does it compare with the 4 sets of research in the linked article above?

> Who can trust this crooked company after such bs explanations...

Considering there really wasn't a lot of exploding phones they recalled pretty damn quickly. Why would they even lie here? What would they gain? If they lie, do it again and they're going have to take them all back again.

I don't get what you're going on about.

Removing videos from youtube of explosions.

It will be hard for them to recover from this. They will have to aggressively lower the prices to attract customers.

Is it me or the zoomed-out images for both sides in the Main Cause section of Battery B are the same? They clearly shouldn't be when they expand to such different images, and the difference is precisely what the infographic is trying to explain.

It seems to me it's a classic copy-and-paste error caused by haste/laziness. How ironic that the infographic made to explain the buggy batteries is buggy as well.

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