Samsung limits Note7 battery life to 60% to prevent overheating

A visitor at the IFA trade fair in Berlin testing out the Samsung Galaxy Note7 on Sept 2, 2016.
A visitor at the IFA trade fair in Berlin testing out the Samsung Galaxy Note7 on Sept 2, 2016. PHOTO: EPA

(BLOOMBERG) - Samsung Electronics Co will push out a software update for South Korea that caps the capacity of Galaxy Note7 smartphone batteries at 60 per cent, a stop-gap measure to prevent overheating as the device's global recall proceeds.

The unusual move, announced on the first day of a major national holiday, reinforces the urgency with which Samsung is trying to contain its deepest crisis in years. The company announced the recall of the Note7 - one of its best-reviewed phones upon debut - on Sept 2 after receiving 35 reports of the device overheating or catching fire. A week later, it urged local users to immediately power off their phones.

This measure will not be rolled out in Singapore, Samsung Singapore told The Straits Times. 

“The software update to limit the maximum battery charge to 60 per cent is intended to urge Galaxy Note7 users to immediately participate in the exchange programme.  More than 50 per cent of Note7 owners in Singapore have already registered for our Note7 exchange programme," a spokesman said.

The exchange programme starts on Friday (Sept 16) in Singapore.

It's unclear if Samsung will also push out updates in other countries where the Note7 went on sale, including the US. A representative for the company didn't answer e-mails and phone calls seeking comment on the public holiday.

"We plan to carry out the Galaxy Note7 software update starting from 2am on Sept 20," Samsung said in a statement, which it said will only apply to phones that haven't been exchanged for new ones. "This is a measure we are taking for our customers' safety but we apologise for the inconvenience caused." Samsung said replacements for the recalled phones would be available from Sept 19.

The world's largest smartphone maker also apologised to Korean users through nationwide newspaper ads on the first day of Chuseok, one of the country's biggest festive occasions. It pledged to pay part of the mobile fees for customers who replace their Note7s with new phones, without specifying amounts.

Samsung lost $22 billion (S$30 billion) in market value over the two days from Friday after regulators, airlines and the company itself warned against the use of the devices. The stock rebounded to end 4.2 per cent higher on Tuesday.

"Samsung Galaxy will be reborn as a loved and trusted brand through more rigorous quality control," it said in the ads.