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(3rd LD) Samsung says faulty battery was main cause of Galaxy Note 7 fires

All News 14:25 January 23, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS quotes, details, Samsung SDI statement in last 6 paras)

SEOUL, Jan. 23 (Yonhap) -- Samsung Electronics Co. said Monday its monthslong probe into what caused some Galaxy Note 7 smartphones to catch fire has established that faulty batteries were the main problem, not the smartphone's hardware design or software.

"Our investigation, as well as investigations completed by three independent industry organizations, concluded that the batteries were found to be the cause of the Note 7 incidents," Samsung said in a statement.

"Nonetheless, we provided the target for the battery specifications for the innovative Note 7, and we are taking responsibility for our failure to ultimately identify and verify the issues arising from the battery design and manufacturing process prior to the launch of the Note 7," the statement said.

Samsung said design and manufacturing issues related to the batteries were blamed for the Note 7 fires, but additional investigations are needed to find the root cause of the battery problems.

The conclusion came after about 700 Samsung researchers and engineers replicated the incidents by testing more than 200,000 fully-assembled devices and more than 30,000 batteries, Samsung said.

Koh Dong-jin, head of Samsung's smartphone business division, apologized again over the Note 7 recall and vowed to regain trust from consumers around the world.

Samsung decided to discontinue the Note 7 in October last year after recalling millions of the devices worldwide over safety concerns.

Koh Dong-jin, head of Samsung Electronics Co.'s smartphone division, speaks at a press conference on Jan. 23, 2017. (Yonhap)

During a press conference, Koh said Samsung has "taken several corrective actions to ensure this never happens again, including the implementation of a multilayer safety measures protocol at the product planning stage, and an 8-point Battery Safety Check."

"For the last several months, together with independent industry expert organizations, we conducted a thorough investigation to find the cause of the Galaxy Note 7 incidents," Koh told reporters.

"Today, more than ever, we are committed to earning the trust of our customers through innovation that redefines what is possible in safety and as a gateway to unlimited possibilities and incredible new experiences," Koh said.

Samsung has estimated that the Note 7 recall cost the company about US$5.3 billion.

Samsung SDI, an affiliate of Samsung, was believed to be a supplier of the batteries for the Note 7 when Samsung announced the first recall in early September last year.

Samsung was believed to have picked Chinese manufacturer ATL as a battery supplier when it began swapping the Note 7s for replacement devices. The replacement devices, however, also caught fire.

Koh told reporters that Samsung will not file a lawsuit against the battery suppliers to seek compensation.

While Samsung is trying to limit the damage done by the Note 7 recall, the company is developing its next flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8.

Samsung has no plans to unveil the S8 at the Mobile World Congress show in Spain next month, Koh said.

Although Samsung did not mention Samsung SDI or China's ATL by name during the press conference, three independent firms -- UL and Exponent of the United States, and TUV Rheinland of Germany -- presented the results of their own investigations into the Note 7 batteries.

A possible root cause of thermal failure of one of the batteries was "determined to be internal cell faulting between positive electrode tab welding defects and the copper foil of the negative electrode directly opposite the defective welds," said Kevin White, chief scientist at Exponent, during the press conference.

"Some cells examined were assembled without protective tape over the positive electrode tab, increasing the likelihood of an internal cell fault," White said.

In a separate statement, Samsung SDI said it has conducted its own investigation into various aspects of the Note 7 batteries and fixed their defective parts.

Samsung SDI has been spending 150 billion won to strengthen its quality inspection and control over batteries in the wake of the Note 7 recall, according to the statement.

Meanwhile, the state-run Korean Agency for Technology and Standards, a government body in charge of technology standards, will release the results of its investigation into the Note 7 fires as early as this week or early next month, officials said.

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