The Galaxy Note 7 has quickly become the most notorious smartphone in recent memory (and is one of the devices that people make fun of most.) The device clearly did not turn out the way Samsung planned, and the company’s engineers are still uncertain about what went wrong (though the Samsung rumor mill has plenty to offer in the way of theories). Reports of exploding batteries, a massive recall, and reports of exploding batteries in replacement units all doomed the Note 7. And Samsung’s choice to ultimately abandon the phone — which was expected to be a big hit this holiday season — has plenty of consumers looking for a good alternative to the Note 7.
As Mashable’s Raymond Wong pointed out in the fall, no phone is 100% explosion-proof. It’s certainly unfortunate that Samsung shipped phones with poorly produced batteries, but as Wong cautions readers, anyone who’s gloating because they have a device that isn’t the Galaxy Note 7 should know that “whatever phone you have isn’t immune to having a bad battery that could explode, either.” All phones store a lot of energy in their batteries. If those batteries are defective, the device could explode. In fact, Brian Barrett reports for Wired that “the Samsung incident is unusual only in scale.”
Wong notes that any product that’s mass-produced “can fall victim to poor components,” and that anything with a battery can explode. That’s certainly true. But it’s also true that the Galaxy Note 7 isn’t the only Samsung product to have major safety issues. Brian X. Chen and Choe Sang-Hun report for The New York Times that even though Samsung discontinued the Note 7, “the tech behemoth has not extinguished scrutiny over its safety record.” The company is currently “juggling” other safety problems and recalling other products.
The Times reports, “The panoply of other Samsung product recalls shows that the Galaxy Note 7 fiasco was not an isolated case, though it was the company’s largest by far, with more than 2.5 million devices.” Combined with Samsung’s history of making affected consumers “jump through hoops” to get replacements or refunds, the company’s record of recalls “raises questions about whether the company prioritized profit over consumer safety.” Read on to check out the other safety problems that Samsung is dealing with now and has contended with in the past.
1. Washing machines in Australia: 2013 to 2016
As The Times reports, the safety problems currently on Samsung’s plate include a “recall in Australia for more than 144,000 Samsung washing machines that were prone to causing fires.” The publication states that Samsung is still “in the process of a recall it started three years ago” for top-loading washing machines that were prone to catching fire due to an internal electrical defect. Samsung said that as of September, it had resolved the problem in 81% of the affected washing machines. But The Times reports that many consumers who bought the affected machines “contend their problems are far from resolved.” Samsung repaired the machines by placing plastic bags over some connectors, a fix that was ineffective because it didn’t stop moisture from reaching the connectors.
2. Washing machines in the United States: 2016
The Times also reported that Samsung was considering “a potential recall of defective laundry units in the United States.” Some models of top-loading washing machines between 2011 and 2016 “are at risk of causing property damage or personal injury when the machines wash water-resistant clothing and bulky items including bedding, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.” Fast-forward a month and Samsung, indeed, recalled these top-loading machines due to the “risk of impact injuries.” The company explains that “the drums in these washers may lose balance, triggering excessive vibrations, resulting in the top separating from the washer. This can occur when a high-speed spin cycle is used for bedding, water-resistant or bulky items and presents an injury risk to consumers.”
3. Refrigerators in South Korea, China, and Europe: 2009
Samsung recalled 210,000 refrigerators in South Korea in 2009 due to safety concerns about insulation. The refrigerators, originally sold between 2005 and 2006, suffered a defect that caused the defrost heater to overheat. The defect in the defrost system may have caused an explosion in South Korea and another explosion in the U.K. The recall was later expanded to cover refrigerators sold in China as well as in Europe and South Korea. The defect was found to cause short-circuiting and internal sparking, and an estimated 500,000 units were included in the recall program.
4. Microwave ovens in the United States: 2009
In 2009, Samsung recalled about 43,000 microwave ovens sold in the United States. The recall warned consumers that “if an installation bolt comes in contact with an electrical component inside the unit and the microwave is plugged into an ungrounded outlet, it could create a shock hazard.” The company explained that “on some units, a capacitor may have been inadvertently put in the incorrect location. As a result, there is some small possibility that an installation bolt can contact the terminal on the capacitor of the ventilation motor on some installations.”
5. Washing machines in the United States: 2007
Samsung recalled 20,000 washing machines in 2007 because of a fire risk. The recall was prompted by the discovery that water was leaking onto electrical connections to the washing machine’s thermal sensor. The leakage could cause an electrical short and ignite the circuit board, “posing a fire hazard to consumers.” Samsung explained that the recall was “being conducted to prevent a possible fire. You should disconnect your washer from the electrical outlet until you receive a ground fault circuit interrupt breaker provided by Samsung.”
6. Microwave ovens in the United States: 2003 and 2004
In 2003, Samsung recalled 184,000 microwave ovens in the United States. The safety recall was announced in cooperation with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) because the ovens were installed in recreational vehicles (RVs) sold in the U.S. in the preceding three years. Samsung determined that some of the microwave ovens presented a safety hazard “due to a defective part that may cause them to begin operation unassisted and result in smoke or fire.” Samsung advised that it would repair the microwaves free of charge. But it also requested that consumers with an affected microwave “should unplug the microwaves – or, if that is not possible, leave the microwave door ajar, which will prevent the oven from operating.” In 2004, Samsung announced an expansion of the previous recall, adding new models to the list of affected ovens.