Samsung Says Phone Explosions in China Not Caused by Batteries – Wall Street Journal

A Samsung Galaxy Note 7 being held at the Internationale Funk-Ausstellung IFA 2016 in Berlin on Sept. 2.
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BEIJING— Samsung Electronics Co.
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sought to distance fresh reports of phone combustions in China from its global recall Monday, saying that for at least one case, it believed the fire began outside the phone.

It remains to be seen if the brand damage to Samsung among Chinese consumers will be lasting. Stores pulled the devices off shelves Monday and buyers scrambled for refunds after photos of charred Galaxy Note 7s went viral in China over the weekend.

Some Chinese consumers were already miffed that—aside for a small presale batch—the country wasn’t included in Samsung’s recall of 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7s in 10 some countries due to battery overheating, even though Samsung has said phones sold in China aren’t faulty. Buyers in China are sensitive to perceived second-class treatment, especially after a controversy in which Apple Inc. was found to be offering different warranty terms in China than the U.S.


Two reports of phone combustions Saturday and Sunday added to the controversy. The phone owners posted photos online of their blackened phones and said the devices combusted during normal use.

“The test results show that the damage to the device was caused by external heating,” Samsung China said in a statement.

Amperex Technology Ltd., the Galaxy Note 7’s battery supplier for handsets sold in China, said Monday that tests conducted jointly with Samsung on one of the burned devices proved its batteries didn’t start the fire.

“Based on the burn marks on the specimens, we inferred that the source of the heat came from outside the battery itself,” Amperex said in a separate statement. “There is a large probability that other outside factors were the cause of the heating problem.”

Samsung has tipped faulty batteries as the cause for combustion cases outside of China.

In the global recall, most of the problematic batteries were from Samsung’s own affiliate, Samsung SDI Co.
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with phones sold in the China market containing batteries from Hong Kong-based Amperex, The Wall Street Journal has reported. Because the batteries were supplied by another manufacturer, Samsung went ahead with the launch in China on Sept. 1. But last week, it recalled a small batch of test devices sold before the official launch in China after discussions with a regulator, citing problems with overheating.


It is unclear if Samsung’s statement will be enough to appease consumers in China, which has been one of the company’s toughest markets due to up-and-coming local rivals.

The two China combustion reports played prominently in local media over the weekend, chilling sales. While China’s three major telecom operators haven’t halted sales of the device officially, some individual branches have. At one China Telecom
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branch in Beijing, a salesman said the company had stopped selling Galaxy Note 7s on Monday due to concerns over battery explosions.

Five other major carrier stores in Beijing and Shanghai visited Monday didn’t sell Galaxy Note 7s.

A China Unicom
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spokeswoman said she wasn’t clear on the situation. China Telecom and China Mobile didn’t reply to requests for comment.

The Galaxy Note 7 was listed as sold out much of Monday on Chinese online retailer JD.com,
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the vendor for the two devices that exploded, but sales later resumed online. It said it had referred the case to Samsung for investigation. The two phones sold through JD.com were authentic Samsung devices, said a person familiar with the matter.

JD.com was inundated with Galaxy Note 7 refund requests Monday, according to online posts by phone owners. Many consumers had exceeded the 7-day refund period but still sought to return them.

The two exploded devices were purchased after Samsung’s official launch in China on Sept. 1, unlike the China presale units that Samsung is recalling, according to receipts posted by owners online.

Write to Eva Dou at eva.dou@wsj.com and Alyssa Abkowitz at alyssa.abkowitz@wsj.com

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