Samsung Issues Update To Brick Remaining, Spontaneously Combusting Galaxy Note 7 Phones, Verizon Refuses To Pass It On
from the bomb-in-your-pocket dept
If you hadn’t been paying attention, Samsung hasn’t been having a very good year. The company was forced to recall the original Galaxy Note 7 in early September after numerous reports of spontaneous combustion. That was followed by a formal recall by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Samsung then doubled down on its incompetence, releasing an “updated” version of the phone that suffered from the exact same problem. By October Samsung was engulfed in an honest-to-goodness PR disaster as it failed to explain how it could “fix” the initial problem by somehow making things worse.
Samsung says that 93% of US-sold Note 7 devices have now been returned, which still leaves around 133,000 phones unaccounted for despite the endless media coverage of the issue. So the company last week came up with a solution: an update to the phone’s software that prevents the device from being charged (as in, ever again), effectively “bricking” the device. In a statement posted to Samsung’s website, the company said this “bold” step will begin on December 19, as the company works with carriers to finally force the issue:
“To further increase participation, a software update will be released starting on December 19th and will be distributed within 30 days. This software update will prevent U.S. Galaxy Note7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices. Together with our carrier partners, we will be notifying consumers through multiple touchpoints to encourage any remaining Galaxy Note7 owners to participate in the program and to take advantage of the financial incentives available.”
T-Mobile has said it will release the device-crippling update on December 27. AT&T confirmed it planned to release it on January 5. Sprint said it will deploy the software update to its customers on January 8. Verizon, however, posted a statement to its website stating that it wouldn’t be passing on the update to consumers for fear of ruining their holiday seasons:
“Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note7 users that do not have another device to switch to. We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation.”
It’s kind of a strange stand by Verizon, which has long been criticized for taking longer than is reasonable to pass on necessary Android security updates. One, because users can exchange the phone at any Verizon store for free. Two, the Verizon-cited risk of not being able to make a call kind of pales in comparison to the risk of carrying around a phone that doubles as a hand grenade. After all, given the FAA has banned the phone from being taken on planes, these users are putting themselves (and potentially those around them) at risk by ignoring the recall.
It’s certainly possible that Verizon actually is being sincere here and doesn’t want people without a phone for the holidays. But it’s just as likely that Verizon’s just tired of the entire PR fracas, and doesn’t want its customers thinking that it was somehow responsible for their phones not working when the update is released. Regardless, the onus remains on customers who, for whatever reason, think it’s nifty to ignore recalls and carry around a potential fire hazard during the holidays.
Update: It looks like Verizon has just as quickly reversed course without explanation, and now says it will deploy the device-bricking update on January 7.