Samsung has unveiled the results of its inquiry into why its flagship Galaxy Note 7 smartphones began exploding shortly after launch, and the company has put in place measures to stop this happening again.
All of this is welcomed, but it needs to be put into perspective – lithium ion batteries used in smartphones, tablets, laptops, and countless other devices have an incredibly high safety record.
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Last year some 1.5 billion smartphones were sold worldwide. Each one of those devices contained a battery. And that number doesn’t include all the laptops, tablets, and other devices that include a built-in battery pack (with the exception of hoverboards, which seemed to suffer from the same “rushed to market” problem that sank the Note 7).
And yet other than the Galaxy Note 7 and a few other smaller and less dramatic issues that resulted in recalls, most of these devices had no problems and were totally safe.
The bottom line is that battery technology is already incredibly safe. And that’s all the more surprising considering how roughly people treat their devices, exposing them to large fluctuations in temperatures, leaving them plugged in for extended periods, using third-party chargers, and exposing devices to impacts and bending on an almost daily basis.
And in many ways, this fact makes Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 predicament all the harder for the company to shake off. Samsung failed at something that other players – from giants such as Apple to no-name brands making portable battery packs – seem to have no problem with.
As someone who has been witness to several battery fires, some deliberate, others unexpected, I have a healthy respect for just how much energy we carry around in out pockets and bags, and just how much of a freak-out a battery going rogue would be if it happened while I was asleep or travelling driving down the highway.
Fortunately, it doesn’t happen all that often.
That said, the steps that Samsung have adopted are welcomed, and it is my hope that they are adopted by all the battery manufacturers out there (and given the fallout that Samsung has had to deal with, I expect that other players will implement similar safety measures). As devices become thinner, and battery tolerances becomes smaller, better design is going to become increasingly important.