Samsung ends production of Galaxy Note7

Move follows fire concerns, even for replacements; users here may seek loan device of another model

A Samsung Galaxy Note 7 being held at the IFA trade fair in Berlin, Germany.
A Samsung Galaxy Note 7 being held at the IFA trade fair in Berlin, Germany.PHOTO: EPA

It is official: The Samsung Galaxy Note7 has been taken offline.

A Samsung spokesman yesterday confirmed that the world's largest smartphone maker had "permanently discontinued" the production of its latest flagship device just two months after its launch - the first time this has happened to any phone maker.

The move follows several reports of the phone emitting smoke or catching fire in the United States, South Korea and Australia.

"For the benefit of consumers' safety, we stopped sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note7 and have consequently decided to stop production," said the Singapore spokesman. A resolution for Singapore consumers will be announced soon, she added.

Some users told The Straits Times they hoped there would be a refund. In the meantime, customers may ask for a loan device of another model from Samsung's service centre at Westgate, subject to availability.

Said Mr Willy Tan, 34, who runs a digital marketing agency: "I feel bad for Samsung as I have been a Note user for years with no issues. But now, I just want a refund."

Sales of the Note7 were meant to resume here some time this month, after a sales halt and an official product recall and exchange last month.

Samsung shares ended 8 per cent lower on Tuesday to close at 1,545,000 won (S$1,890). The whole exercise could cost the company US$18 billion (S$24.8 billion), said Bloomberg.

The move to stop production raises questions, such as what could have caused the critical flaw, which continued to dog the Note7 even after the original sets were replaced.

Samsung said it is still investigating. Earlier yesterday, the firm and the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission asked consumers to stop using the phone over fire concerns, even among the supposedly safe replacement handsets.

There were reports of overheating in replacement devices, as well as smoke coming out of the handsets, including one that caused a Southwest Airlines flight at Louisville International Airport to be evacuated on Oct 5. Speculation is rife that the fault could be more than just a battery issue.

"Consumers with either an original Galaxy Note7 or replacement Galaxy Note7 device should power down and stop using the device," Samsung had said in a statement. It noted that consumers could ask for a refund at their place of purchase.

The Note7, launched in August, was meant to rival the Apple iPhone 7 released last month. The product, which sports an iris scanner and S Pen stylus, among other features, received rave reviews.

Some tens of thousands of customers in Singapore had exchanged their faulty Note7 devices for replacement sets as part of the global recall of 2.5 million handsets. A small number here even had to exchange the phones twice - after the replacements were found to overheat and had their power rapidly drained while being charged.

Samsung has not offered a refund to Singapore consumers. But Mr Clement Teo, principal analyst at market research firm Ovum, said it may have little choice. "It is the right move. Samsung should start afresh, instead of risking further customer dissatisfaction," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Samsung ends production of Galaxy Note7'. Print Edition | Subscribe