After almost a year of twists and turns since September 2016, the Galaxy Note 7 story has (effectively) come to an end. As is well known by now, Samsung faced battery quality issues in the handset, leading to personal and property damage. In the original, pre-recall Note 7, hundreds of phones worldwide had critical failures.
Following initial reports of fires, the phone was recalled in the U.S. once, and Samsung launched exchange programs in other countries. But the new models experienced further issues, with replacement units catching on fire in early October 2016. This led to Samsung telling Note 7 owners to stop using the phones and return them, before permanently discontinuing the Note 7 worldwide. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. CPSC officially issued a second recall.
In July 2017, the Note 7 was reborn as the Galaxy Note Fan Edition, built from new, unused Note 7 components, paired with a smaller 3,200mAh battery that had passed Samsung's new battery testing standards.
Here's everything you need to know about this unprecedented situation.
How did we get here?
Following worldwide reports of battery failures and fires with the Galaxy Note 7 in early September 2016 — including nearly 100 cases in the U.S. alone — Samsung and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced a complete official recall of all Galaxy Note 7s in the U.S. Similar movements were made in Canada, as well as throughout Europe and Asia. Regions in which the phone had yet to launch simply postponed shipments of phones.
The whole saga lasted over three months.
Weeks later, with the recall in full swing and old Note 7s being replaced by hundreds of thousands of new "safe" models, reports started to arise of the same exact failures happening with these replacement phones. With consumers quickly losing faith in the Note 7, carriers in early October voluntarily offered free returns and exchanges for all Note 7s, and eventually stopped selling the phone altogether.
On October 10, Samsung issued a statement that it was halting sales of the Galaxy Note 7 globally and encouraging consumers to return their Galaxy Note 7 to where they bought it from. Shortly after, Samsung officially canceled the phone, and the U.S. authorities issued a second recall, banning sales of the Note 7, and forbidding passengers from bringing it onboard airplanes. Major airlines banned the use of the phone while on planes, shortly followed by the FAA officially banning it on all flights. (In-flight warning announcements continued well into 2017.)
On December 9, Samsung finally started pushing an update to Note 7s in the U.S. that would all but brick the phones, limiting battery capacity and functionality when not plugged in. It's an update that had been released with various differences other regions, but the release in the U.S. marks a final push to get the last Note 7s still in the wild returned to Samsung. At that time, some 125,000 phones still remained in the wild.
Can I keep using my Note 7?
Samsung's official stance is that all Galaxy Note 7 owners — of both old and new phones — should immediately return their phone to the carrier or retailer they purchased it from. In the unlikely even that you still have a Note 7 kicking around, you should follow the manufacturer's and return it for a refund.
Samsung has a Note 7 recall page with information on how to contact various U.S. retailers for a refund or exchange. The company has done the same in Canada, asking customers to call 1-800-SAMSUNG to find the closest place to return their Note 7.
The future of the Note
As far as the Note 7 is concerned, Samsung has put things to bed by announcing that the phone has been discontinued. Here's the announcement that was made in October 2016:
Taking our customer's safety as our highest priority, we have decided to halt sales and production of the Galaxy Note 7.
In July 2017, Samsung made good on its promise to reduce the environmental impact of the Note 7 recall by announcing the Galaxy Note Fan Edition. The Note FE was made from components of new, unused, unsold Note 7 devices, combining the core specs and feature set of that phone with a smaller, safe 3200mAh battery that has passed the company's new eight-point battery safety checks. The Note FE was launched in South Korea but won't be coming to the United States.
As for used Note 7s, Samsung plans to extract 157 tons of valuable rare earth metals from the handsets, including gold, silver, copper, and cobalt. It is also going to reuse camera modules and displays, along with some internal system chips.