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Explosive features: when tech turns bad like the Galaxy Note7

samsung note7 Aaron YooUnless you have been living under a very large rock or still have a telephone attached to the wall by a long cable, you can’t have escaped the news about Samsung’s Galaxy Note7 phablet (phone/tablet) recall.

Following a series of incidents of the device bursting into flames on its initial release, Samsung recalled the affected batch of Galaxy Note7 phones and replaced their faulty batteries.

When some of these replacement phones subsequently overheated, Samsung took the decision to stop sales and shipments and recall all Note7 devices.

It’s a salient reminder that when tech goes bad, it can be extremely disruptive at best, and downright dangerous at worse. What's more, if it does all go up in smoke, your most valuable asset pobably isn't the phone, but the data on it...



No Galaxy Note7 phones on flights

If a phone explodes in your bag, you’ll probably lose some stuff. If it overheats in your hand, you could get burned. But if it explodes on a flight, the situation can quickly become very serious indeed. That’s why airlines across the world have banned the devices from their flights, and why Samsung has taken the extraordinary step of setting up stalls in airports where Note7 customers can hand their phones in.

The stalls are opening in airports in Australia and South Korea, following the ban on passengers carrying the device on flights with Korean Air, Virgin Australia and Qantas. To date, airlines in Hong Kong, China, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Germany and Italy have all banned the device on board their airplanes. For airlines who will carry the devices, they must be taken on board as hand luggage and fully powered down before the flight. (Always check the latest information on your airline's website before you fly - the situation is changing daily.)

Canada is no fly zone for Note7 

In Canada, there is an outright ban on the device, as Air Canada’s website explains:

“ Transport Canada has banned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 devices from commercial aircraft in Canada. As a result, Air Canada ‎informs customers with this device not to travel with it or bring it to the airport. Travellers will not be permitted to board aircraft with this device or in their checked luggage, and it could result in travel disruption, including missing your flight.”

The hazards of lightweight batteries

The issues with the Galaxy Note7 are most likely due to the battery short-circuiting, and igniting the flammable electrolyte solution inside most lithium ion batteries. To compound the problem, most modern batteries are made by squashing together a whole stack of battery components to give as much capacity as possible. In order to further decrease weight, the positive and negative terminals in the Note7 battery were divided by a thin layer of plastic, which if punctured or ruptured in any way, would potentially cause the battery to short circuit.

See this video for what happens when a phone battery is deliberately short-circuited:

Back up your data

Implementing a worldwide total recall of all Note7 devices, Samsung will now offer every owner the choice “To replace your Galaxy Note7 with a Galaxy S7 or S7 edge, with a refund of the price difference, or you can obtain a full refund.” However, for many, it’s not just the device that’s at risk: so is their data.

Samsung are advising customers to use one of two methods to back up their data:
1. Using the Smart Switch function to transfer data onto an SD card
2. Move data across wifi

This backs up all your data ready for uploading into a new device, but it does not clear data from old device. Given that you can return your Note7 to a variety of locations, with no clear indication on what will happen to it after you hand it in, you should wipe all existing data from your phone AFTER backing it up and BEFORE returning it.

HOW TO ErasE and reset a Galaxy Note7

Erasing data from a Galaxy Note7 is as simple as performing a Factory data Reset, to clear all data and restore the phone to its original factory settings. You can find details of how to do this here.

Of course, you should always erase the data from any digital storage device in any piece of tech prior to recycling or selling, but you knew that already…

Equally, you should back up all your data regularly anyway, preferably to a variety of locations in case one backup system fails for any reason. But again, you know that already…

The legacy of faulty phones

For many Galaxy Note7 users, getting a new phone transferring their data from one device to another will be annoying but probably won’t impact their business too much.

Time will tell if the same is true of Samsung, whose brand has been burned to cinders like its flagship device, and now faces a loss of an astounding $19Bn...



Image of Galaxy Note7 by Aaron Yoo at flickr.com

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