Samsung was riding high on the success of phones like the Galaxy S7 last year when it launched its most ambitious phone yet; the ill-fated Galaxy Note 7. The phone was sleek and capable with a built-in stylus and the prettiest display on any phone in the world. However, defective batteries led to numerous fires and forced a full recall. Now, Samsung is gearing up for the Note 8 launch, and it’s seeking to assuage fears of a repeat by detailing its revamped testing process.
Several months ago, Samsung began work with MIT Technology Review to produce a whitepaper (PDF) that describes how it tests batteries. That full report is now available, and details a new test program Samsung uses to ensure it doesn’t have another incident like the Note 7. Those failures were eventually traced back to two distinct battery defects. In the first round of phones, compressed battery corners caused the negative electrode to wrap around and create a short circuit. After the first recall, Samsung’s replacement batteries suffered from welding burs that allowed the positive and negative electrodes to come in contact. Again, this caused short circuits and fires.
Samsung says it has decided to open up its testing process to the public for three reasons. First, it wants everyone (even its competitors) to see what it takes to test batteries so processes can be improved. Second, Samsung believes that its testing procedures could spur new innovations in battery technology to benefit everyone. And finally, Samsung says that “reflection and learning are integral to innovation.” Translation: It wants you to trust your Samsung phone won’t blow up.
New batteries for Samsung devices are now put through an eight-point inspection process, whereas before it only had five battery tests: a physical durability test, a visual inspection, an x-ray test, a disassembly test, and an OCV (voltage) test. Samsung now runs these tests on more units, and it’s added three entirely new tests including a charge/discharge test, a volatile organic compound test, and an accelerated usage (battery aging) test.
Some of these tests are intentionally destructive, like the physical durability puncture test, so Samsung destroys about 3 percent of the batteries it gets. If even a single unit fails, the entire lot is sent back to the supplier for analysis.
Samsung says its new process is working, but we don’t have real data on that yet. Although, at least anecdotally there have not been any reports of battery failures in the Galaxy S8. One would expect even a single bad unit to get plenty of coverage after the Note 7 fiasco, and so far not a peep.
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