A Galaxy S7 has reportedly exploded. Let's talk about it.
It's a sobering thought: you're driving down the street and you feel your pocket start to get hot. You instinctively pad it down, realize it's your phone and take it out. The phone then starts smoking, bursting into flames as you hold it. You try to safely get to the side of the road while still holding this flaming piece of metal and glass. It burns you as you do this, so you open the window and throw the phone outside, as flames consume it from within. Later, after being bandaged and treated for second-degree burns, you retrieve the piece of wreckage and begin to make sense of the madness.
No, this isn't a story of the now-cancelled Galaxy Note 7. This is something that happened earlier this week to a man, Amarjit Mann, in Winnipeg, Canada. The phone? A Galaxy S7. We've reached out to Samsung for some clarification, and have yet to hear back, but let's not jump to conclusions about this obviously-terrible incident.
Clearly, this exacerbates the existing image problem for Samsung.
Samsung is still investigating the cause of the Note 7 fires. Clearly the first round of recalls and subsequent reissuing of devices with batteries from a different provider didn't solve the problem. It's increasingly looking like the issue was not with batteries themselves, but either the hardware controller keeping them from taking on too much current, or the software managing the battery components, giving them too much charge.
Over the months, we've heard about sporadic cases of other Samsung phones lighting on fire — one of the first reported cases of a Note 7 explosion was in fact a Galaxy Core Prime — that were never linked to the Note 7 debacle. Like all phones, from Samsung or otherwise, anything with a lithium-ion battery has the potential to combust when exposed to certain extreme conditions — heat, spark, high voltage — but that doesn't indicate an endemic issue.
So let's go back to this Galaxy S7. Clearly, this is an image problem for Samsung, since the GS7 has so far been spared from the Note 7's battery issues. While we've heard of a few cases of Galaxy S7s overheating since being released in March, the number of affected units appears to be in the same range as any other smartphone — we've heard of iPhones randomly going off, too. The problem is that the industry is now far more attuned to the safety of Samsung's phones, and its damaged brand, as a result of the Note 7, so it's hard to see this latest incident, awful as it is, as an isolated incident. But until we start hearing about multiple cases of GS7 conflagration, that's exactly how we have to approach it, and trust that Samsung is going to do the right thing and investigate the core issue.
As we found in our survey, most long-time Galaxy users have remained loyal to Samsung since the Note 7 recalls and subsequent cancellation, and plan to buy the Note 8 when it is released. Obviously, Samsung still has a lot of work to do, and incidents like this continue to chip away at its pockmarked reputation, but let's not jump to conclusions about a phone that has, for months now, stood out as being one of the best and most reliable on the market.
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