The Note7 may live again. It probably won't be sold in Australia or other first-world markets, but Samsung's ill-fated big-screen smartphone might make its way onto the store shelves of countries like India, Brazil, Russia and China. That's the surprising news we're hearing from a Korean news outlet, which says that Samsung will fit the millions of devices sitting in its inventory with a smaller, less ambitious battery.
A report from Korea's Han Kyung via VentureBeat suggests that Samsung is planning to offer the Note7 with a battery pack in the 3000 to 3200mAh range, a 10 per cent drop from the 3500mAh cell that the device originally shipped with. It was that 3500mAh cell that was responsible for Note7 phones catching fire.
The company apparently has in the order of 2.5 million Galaxy Note7s sitting in storage, after using up to 200,000 for testing to determine the root of the issue that caused it to recall every Galaxy Note7 worldwide at a cost of over $4 billion. Selling those, even at a marked discount from the Note7's initial $1349 asking price (in Australian dollars, at least), would be a huge boon for the phone manufacturer's bottom line. These refurbished phones could go on sale internationally in developing markets around June.
Samsung is also apparently getting ready to release a controller for the Gear VR, for what it's worth: Variety suggests its FCC filing looks like a one-handed controller similar to the one bundled with Google's Daydream View, and its diagram is distinctly reminiscent of Playstation's Move peripheral. That would massively increase the usability of the Gear VR, which was re-released alongside Note7 with native support for USB Type-C and a slicker, sharper design.
Samsung's Galaxy Note7 Recall: The Timeline
The Samsung Galaxy Note7 was unveiled to the world at an event in New York City on August 3. It went on sale to customers in Australia on August 19. It was praised for its excellent design and futuristic iris scanning biometrics.
Sales of the phone were suspended due to battery issues causing devices to overheat and catch fire on September 2, first reported by Gizmodo Australia. That was escalated to a full recall a few days later on September 5.
Samsung offered customers the choice of a replacement phone (with a temporary loaner handset in the interim), a refund or exchange to a similar Samsung phone like the S7 Edge, as well as around $250 in incentives which varied depending on the telco or retail store the Note7 was purchased through.
Stock of replacement Galaxy Note7s — with the battery issue apparently fixed — arrived in Australia on September 20. Customers who had returned their phone for an exchange were contacted and told they would receive trouble-free units.
Samsung Australia repeatedly told customers to switch off both original and replacement Galaxy Note7 phones, and to return them to their place of purchase. he company limited the state of charge of phone batteries to 60 per cent, disabled Gear VR support, and cut it off from Australian mobile networks.
Currently, over 95 per cent of Samsung Galaxy Note7s have been returned to Samsung in Australia. Approximately 2500 phones are still at large. This recall rate is far ahead of the average Australian recall return rate, which is around 56 per cent according to a 2013 statement by longtime ACCC chairman Rod Sims.
Samsung's 23 January press conference is likely to be the last official conference on the matter, but the issues with the Note7 will continue to affect Samsung's public perception for some time. The impact of the Note7 recall is expected to cost Samsung at least $3.4 billion in the Q4 2016 and Q1 2017 quarters.