Tech company Nvidia has just issued a voluntary recall of about 88,000 of its Shield eight-inch tablets. If you bought your Shield between July 2014 and July 2015, it seems you might need to worry about the tablet catching fire. The good news is Nvidia will replace the one in your hands absolutely free.
“Nvidia has determined that the battery in these tablets can overheat, posing a fire hazard,” the company said in a statement. “The recall does not affect any other Nvidia products.”
Shield customers with tablets that match the sell dates can visit Nvidia’s Web site to find out how to get new devices. Meanwhile, the company is asking people to stop using the recalled tablets other than to back up their data and to register for the recall.
A Supplier Issue
We turned to Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, to get his thoughts on the danger — and the recall. He told us overheating and even fires are recurring problems with lithium-ion technology.
“If you charge it fast, or screw up the formulation, it often has a tendency to overheat and it makes for a nasty and rather hot fire,” Enderle said. “We’ve had issues with phones, laptops — and a lithium-ion pack for my electric bike nearly burned down my home and put the bike manufacturer out of business.”
Enderle is quick to point out that the battery isn’t core Nvidia technology. In other words, it’s a supplier problem and the supplier will likely bear most, if not all, of the cost of the recall. Nvidia is doing the right thing with the voluntary recall, because even though the odds of a lethal fire are low it’s not wise to take risks with this kind of a problem, he said.
“The only right way to deal with it is to recall and replace the products with the questionable battery packs. It is unusual for just one company to have this problem as these batteries are often sold to multiple vendors, suggesting there are tablets from others in market that have the same problem but aren’t being recalled,” Enderle said. “This happened years ago when we had the Sony battery issue, only some of the PC makers initially did the recall and it took several people nearly losing their lives before the others got on board. We’ll hope that isn’t the case this time.”
A Long History
Indeed, Nvidia isn’t the first consumer electronics maker that had the unfortunate duty to warn customers its product might catch on fire. In 2006, Dell recalled 4.1 million laptop computer batteries because they could overheat and catch fire. The company issued the recall after it received six reports of batteries overheating, resulting in property damage to furniture and personal effects. But no injuries were reported.
By 2008, the problem had grown worse. Sony and three major PC makers recalled 100,000 laptop batteries in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Lithium-ion batteries used in about 35,000 Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and Dell notebook computers — as well as an additional 65,000 units sold worldwide — were found to be defective. The lithium-ion batteries were overheating, posing fire and burn hazards to consumers.
Jumping ahead to 2014, Sony encouraged people to stop using its Vaio Fit 11A laptop after several reports that its Panasonic battery overheated, burning people. At the time, Sony said the Panasonic-made batteries in 26,000 of its Vaio personal computers could not only overheat but also catch fire, and issued a recall.
Apple is not immune to recalls. In 2013, Apple announced a program to allow users to trade in third-party chargers for Apple-branded USB chargers at discounted prices. Apple launched the program after news reports surfaced claiming a woman in China was electrocuted while talking on her charging iPhone.
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