note 7 burn explode

One of the at least 35 Note 7 units that caught fire or exploded

Every now and again we hear unfortunate stories about gadget batteries catching fire and even exploding (a term that is often used even for incidents that are less dramatic), sometimes causing harm to the unsuspecting user. While very rare, Samsung has been forced to recall its latest Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after concerns were raised that a small number of its handsets are shipping with defective batteries that may explode. Once again, dangerous lithium-ion batteries are back in the spotlight, but what actually causes a battery to go haywire?

Do not miss:

It’s official: Samsung announces worldwide Galaxy Note 7 recall

September 2, 2016

Causing explosions

Lithium-ion batteries seldom bulge or explode, but when they do, there are two leading causes. The first is a puncture, which might be caused by dropping your phone. A break in the thin compacted battery material between cells can produce to an internal short circuit, leading to swelling and potential explosions. Alternatively, cheaper batteries can sometimes accidentally feature rare microscopic metal particles inside that might come into contact with other parts of the battery cell, also leading to a short circuit.

With the Galaxy Note 7, Samsung and various reports suggest that the issue is caused when the device is charging, which leads us to our second major cause – heat. Excessive heat can again cause again internal short circuit within the battery, by breaking down the internal cells. However, this only usually occurs at very high temperatures, unless the battery is faulty. Overcharging may also be an issue, which is caused by batteries receiving more current than they can safely handle, causing them to overheat.

Too much heat in one area of the battery can lead to “thermal runaway”.  This happens when an area of a battery can’t cool down quickly enough, resulting in a breakdown chain reaction that generates more and more heat. In other words, excess heat causes a reaction that accelerates the temperature increase. Eventually, this can lead to a fire or explosion.

Typically, high-quality batteries will include safety features that can usually prevent this dangerous reaction from taking place. However, Samsung has stated that it has purchased battery packs from multiple providers, and perhaps some of these are more prone to failure than others.

Charging and heat

There are a number of potential causes of excessive heat in and around the battery in a modern smartphone. The move towards fast charging technologies is now forcing additional current into lithium-ion batteries, and with every power transfer there is always some heat generation. The more power, the higher the potential heat. While some of this heat-loss will occur at the battery itself, some heat will also be lost in the fast charging power conversion and power management circuitry, which is usually located next to the battery. This could certainly cause more heat at one end of the battery than the other.

The processors inside today’s smartphones are also producing more heat than the handsets from 3 or 4 generations ago. While not usually nestled next to a battery, this could further add to the temperate inside a modern smartphone, making it more difficult for heat to transfer away from the battery area.

We should be clear though that Samsung has indicated that it is the batteries that are at fault in the Galaxy Note 7 and not any other part of the handset. It seems unlikely that the Galaxy Note 7 has be built in such a way that it is producing too much heat that makes it unsafe to stick a battery inside. Instead, it’s more likely that just a small percentage of the batteries that Samsung has purchased are not coping properly with the heat produced or current provided while charging. Either by not matching up to the required charging specifications or by simply coming from a faulty batch.

Protecting yourself

Without knowing exactly what is causing issues with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7, we can’t say precisely how to avoid potential problems. However, there are some general tips to follow that can help protect yourself and your device from catastrophe. General warning signs that your battery is damaged and could explode include a hissing sound, popping, or swelling.

  • Stop charging your phone it if becomes too hot. Allow your phone to cool down before charging it again and make sure that you don’t cover your phone to let heat escape properly.
  • Stick to first-party chargers. Use the charger included in the box to make sure that your phone is receiving the optimal voltage and current. If you’re using a phone with a USB Type-C port or Quick Charge, it might be wise to stick with the cable that came in the box too.
  • Don’t charge your phone in bed. I know it’s very tempting to watch a video or read before you fall asleep, but you don’t want to roll over on your phone and have it overheat. Not to mention that leaving your phone under a pillow while it charges will cause it to heat up.
  • Be mindful of where you charge your phone. Avoid charging for long periods of time in really hot places, such leaving your phone on a car dashboard, next to a radiator, or in direct sunlight on hot days.

If you do happen to notice your battery swelling, unplug your phone and remove the battery, but only if the battery is user removable. Don’t attempt to dispose of the battery or device in the trash. Always get rid of your batteries at authorised disposal facilities or some electronics retailers, such as Best Buy, that offer battery recycling services.

Don’t miss: Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall – your questions answered

If your battery and/or device is damaged as a result of a swollen or exploded battery, take your device to the retailer that you purchased it from or get in contact with the manufacturer. A replacement battery or device will usually be issued, especially if you have a warranty.

Robert Triggs
Lead Technical Writer at Android Authority, covering the latest trends in consumer electronics and hardware. In his spare moments, you'll probably find him tinkering with audio electronics and programming.
  • Wear a condom.

  • Andrés

    I’d say, buy a phone only if it has removable (user-replaceable battery).

    Samsung does not respect warranty for its customers that root their devices, or install custom ROMs. With the non-removable battery, this is a real issue (as you HAVE TO go to a service center to get your phone disassembled, battery un-glued, replaced, glued again, and the phone sealed hermetically again – if you have luck, it maybe will still be waterproof after that, maybe). Apart from the battery cost, they will charge unpredictable amount of money for the battery replacement process, and they are completely not necessary (if the battery were user-replaceable).

    these sealed batteries are real disasters waiting to happen…
    if a battery does not burn immediately, it is very likely it will start swelling during the second year.
    my S3 battery did swell 2x of its volume, it was so scary i had to throw it away.

    • Psicosis

      Samsung is far from the only manufacturer to declare a warranty VOID if the hardware/software has been tampered with for starters. I’ve owned loads of phones and other devices with not removable batteries, none of them have swelled or exploded. Besides, who cares if it’s removable or not if it’s faulty? I wouldn’t wanna touch a screwed up battery…

      • Semianonymous

        Virtually every phones warranty is void if you fuck with the software. Hell, Moto phones have a splash page on boot up announcing the bootloader has been unlocked and the warranty is void.

        • Jadoei1

          Except if you own a Oneplus phone, they don’t mind

    • Semianonymous

      So…what phone are we supposed to buy then? Used S5’s? LG G5’s?

      • Keep the one you have and stop being a “keep up with the Jones’s” wanker.

        • Brownsville#72

          Agree. Motorola is good one for $150-$400

      • noh1bvisas

        the lg v20 is worth a look. to be released in a week.

    • Justin Chao

      There are rarely any phones now made with removable batteries. Big companies such as samsung, HTC and Apple. Plus, if you want a water resistant phone, the removable back won’t help. I recommend buying phones by trustworthy companies (Not Samsung and Apple, after their incident) like Motorola and HTC.

  • LastKings31

    My brothers note 7 is charging next to my bed. I’m just laying here still.

    • Mankeerat Singh

      Get away from it bud.

    • Nikki

      I would stand a few feet away…

  • AndroidUser

    thanks for scaring us for the rest of our lives…

    • Psicosis

      This is pretty much just common sense as long as you have even a basic understanding of how rechargeable batteries work…

  • deltatux

    Like I’ve always said, batteries are stablized explosives lol.

    • purple

      And yet if you dare mention this on the internet people jump at you calling you uneducated conspiracy theorist. Happens to me quite often. People just don’t realize that the amount of energy that is stored in these little bombs needs to be treated with care.

  • Keith Ho

    I charge my phone in bed, use chargers from eBay, work outside in Vegas heat and sit on my phone in back pocket. Am I at risk?

    • Jadoei1

      Nope, not enough that you should worry about it. This only happens to several phones a year and with billions of phones on the planet I don’t think it is anything you should worry about.

    • Andrés

      oops! sounds like it’s the matter of days! :(

  • Semianonymous

    All these exploitative explosion articles and not one mention of the best thing to do: TURN. OFF. QUICK CHARGING.
    There’s a toggle in the battery settings. Charges at about half the speed, but also notably cooler to the touch.

    • Jadoei1

      Charging isn’t causing the explosion, if you’re using a quick charger you probably bought a qualcomm certified charger and it should be a good one. The problem is most likely to occur when it over chargers or when the voltage drops to low. All that disabling quick charge does is extending the amount of time between the first and last charge.

  • V-Phuc

    Annoying, to say the least. Dangerous, to give it its own due importance. I usually charge my phone on the kitchen counter at night. So there is no danger of someone getting hurt (not counting rat or mice, LOL). Nevertheless, if the phone explodes during the night, other things may catch on fire and us, losing sleep. Not to mention, a $900 toy out of the window (literally). Really, Sammy?

    • JRemi

      Do all charging while you’re awake, disconnect when full. Nothing good comes from leaving a battery on a charger overnight.

    • Grant Ding

      While Samsung should exercise quality control, they do source their batteries from other manufacturers, and they wouldn’t really know if one of the providers gave them a bad batch.

  • digitaldr

    Am I correct in thinking that Dash charging as featured in the oneplus 3 does not heat the battery much and instead dissipates the heat via the charger. Might also explain why the charger has to be so long!

    • Jadoei1

      Yes you are

  • Pedro Obengar

    And people laughed at the lg g5 removable battery module…

  • justmy2pennies2012

    My S6 gets hot when trying to charge in the car an using GPS/Navigation at the same time. It gets ho at my desk using the fast charger as well. In both cases, I get notification on the screen that the phone is cooling down.I really don’t like the battery life on my S6, waiting to see what the next google phone brings to the table or the LG V20.

    I have only experienced 1 device heating up and almost catching fire. My sons Nexus 7 Tablet 2012 wi-fi. it starting getting hot, the battery swelled, and it started smoking. Never really caught fire. It was under warranty and ASUS initially denied the claim That was untl I sent them pictures and links to multiple reports of the same tablet exploding. It took close to 1 month to get a replacement.

  • Juniors234

    I blame Samsung but i also blame user error. Its amazing the number of people who have these really high end expensive phones but don’t take the time to learn “ish” about taking care of their device. How you gonna buy a $900.00 Note 7 and leave it in the heat of your car, or roll over on it while you sleep, or buy a $2.00 type c cable to charge it off of eBay. Its amazing how silly and wasteful the human race has become. Man if i could even afford a phone that is half the cost of a Note 7 i will be treating that thing like it was a golden egg. Reality is, paying for a phone over 24 months gives people the opportunity to experience the joy of having a new device each year, but also enables them to be more callous and wasteful cause they know they just gotta pay that deductible and they can get a near-new one.

    • Marc Perrusquia

      All Samsung’s fault no one else’s.

      • Grant Ding

        Well, partially Samsung’s fault because they should know whether their battery providers are all up to par, but also the fault of the battery manufacturer who gave them the bad batch.

    • Andrés

      consumer devices must withstand all that.

      • Juniors234

        Yeah? So a Mercedes or Lamborghini must handle whatever fuel the owner throws into it? Or what ever grade of oil the owner chooses? Nah brah. Just because something is expensive doesn’t excuse the user from taking time to care for their phone correctly and understand what they should and should not do. I’m not saying the some of those phones were not totally defective. But I bet you most of those phones did not get their due treatment from their owners. I work as a mobile device repair technician with over 7 years experience and I see the same shit happen over and over again. People not wanting to protect their phone with a case or buy certified accessories that will not harm their device. One guy I knew when kayaking with his S7 edge and complained to me that his speaker got wet and he was unhappy. Really brah? Get a freaking GoPro. Don’t take your nice phone kayaking. Again, both Samsung And User are to blame. Take pride and care in the expensive shit that we own. Good day to you all.

        • Andrés

          Galaxy Note is NOT a Mercedes or Lamborghini.
          it’s just a grossly overpriced korean phone questionable quality (as the scratchable screen, and battery fires have demonstrated). And it will only fully last you about 1 year thanks to the non-removable glued battery, and the batteries start degrading significantly after 1 year.

          Just because you are asked to pay about 1000 EUR for a phone, it does not mean it really costs that much (don’t forget about the inflated advertising budgets), or that it could be a luxury item… Not really.

          compare bicycles to bicycles, not bicycles to airplanes.

          • Juniors234

            Simply an example.we are comparing the note 7 to other devices out there obviously. And the note 7 can be considered a Mercedes in the cell phone world. Most people can’t afford to own one, much less pay for one on a plan. Hence it indeed can be thought of like a Mercedes in way. And if Samsung phones are so questionable why do we all rush to the store to buy them each year? :)

          • Andrés

            Why won’t you compare it to a space shuttle then, as an example?

            Galaxy note is not a car.
            and does not cost like a lamborgini (yet), fortunately.

          • Juniors234

            You seem to have a bad habit of focusing on the unimportant. The point was simply as a reference only. it is perfectly acceptable to compare something to that which is not, to facilitate clarifying a point. The main point which you have clearly missed(either intentionally or not) is that if one buys an expensive item, one should naturally show interest in taking the best care of it. And yes I can compare things with other more costly things. It is used all the time in literature.

          • Andrés

            Wrong. Those purchasing expensive items, have too much money to burn, and they don’t REALLY care. It has burnt? what a pity. ok, throw away another 1000 EUR, but this time on another brand.

          • Grant Ding

            You do realize that not all countries are in the same shitty economic situation as most of Europe right now? In America, the Note 7 goes for $700 or so, unless you get it bundled into your carrier contract, then it’s even cheaper.

          • Nikki

            Same in Canada, it was about 1,O7O$ canadian. 130$ with a 2 year contract.

  • Samsung phones, in my experience, shut down if they start to overheat. Leave one in a car in the Summer and watch what happens when you come back to it. So It seems it would shutdown if it was a heat issue but hard to say. I’m not sure if other manufactures have this built-in.

    • Grant Ding

      Some manufacturers like Apple have a heat warning screen that doesn’t let you use the phone until it cools off.

  • vonskie1

    I called Verizon they confirmed this and told me to contact Samsung for a replacement, Samsung told me that it was very few units that had this problem and told me to contact them If I had any problems with it. I told him the news said there was a worldwide recall and to ask his supervisor about the swap and he told me they should have a report about what is decided in a few hours. So someone does not have their ducks in a row and has not communicated to the front line a game plan. I tried calling in and never got a person, I finally got someone on chat. I bet they are flooded with calls from concerned customers… I for one do not want the phone exploding in my front pocket.

  • Max Olande

    A Samsung Note that “may” catch fire is still far better than an iPhone that makes me want to start it on fire…

  • Piotr Rogulski

    It’s amazing how I managed to disobey all four points in the ‘Protecting yourself’ section and still survived

  • thehermit

    I’m upset. I just bought an expensive screen protector for my phone. I can’t take it off and reuse it when I get my new phone. How do I contact Samsung to complain about this? I want to be compensated for a new screen protector!

    • noh1bvisas

      if you got the from from tmobile, they are reimbursing you for the screen protector.

    • Tony

      You don’t need a screen protector on any new samsung phone. your just wasting your money!

  • noh1bvisas

    from tmobile’s webite:
    “Starting immediately, customers who are concerned about using the Note 7 can return the device to T-Mobile for a full, complete refund. They’ll get a full refund of anything paid for the device and any Note7 accessories. We’ll waive any restocking charges and shipping fees, and customers can keep the free Netflix subscription they received with purchase during pre-order. ”
    .
    nice. they even get to keep the netflix gift!

  • My Galaxy Note 1 (GT-N7000) is still going strong. People who replace their phones every year are mugs with more money than sense.

    • noh1bvisas

      i agree, to a point. it’s none of my business what people do with their money. that being said, my G3 is still working fine. whenever i look at a new phone it’s not worth the money to upgrade.

    • Grant Ding

      I replace my phone every two years because I have a contract plan with a third party retailer who throws the phone in for a greatly reduced price when I pay for the contract so I’m not really paying much for a new phone. Less than you’d pay for a OnePlus 3

  • Marcia

    I have a Verizon phone but I got it from Best Buy so far no word from them that I can find. Anyone know?

  • Befuddling

    Given that Amazon (and possibly other retailers) is issuing refunds for the Note 7 without requiring that it be returned, where can I find them advertised for sale? I’m prepared to take a 1 in 42,000 chance for a $100-$200 almost-new, top-of-the-range phone.

  • Loretta

    My daughters Samsung S6 Active (NOT the Notebook) exploded and caught fire in her pockect 9/10/16. She was wearing loose cargo shorts, luckily for her or her 2nd and 3rd degree burns would have been so much worse. The phone had been charged the night before, it was not “hot” before it exploded, it was not in use and she had nothing else in her pocket. It also had not been previously dropped or damaged in anyway. She had noticed a few times it being a bit hot when she unplugged it from charging but nothing dramatic. So why did this happen to her? I have been searching the web ever since trying to figure this out as I have several grandchildren who have the same phone and I am frighten about what could happen to them. Currently I have asked their parents to not let them use the phones but as they were given them so they can be safe and be able to call for help when away from home this is counter productive. So what is the answer? I am not very tech savy, does any one have answers? Samsung doesn’t seem to as they still have not responed to our report of the occurance I made Saturday though I was promised a response by 1 on Monday.