Samsung is urging consumers to turn off Galaxy note 7 smartphones and exchange them for another device amid a handful of reports of a battery cell problem that caused the units to catch fire.
“We are asking users to power down their Galaxy note 7 and exchange them now,” Tim Baxter, president of Samsung Electronics America said in a statement on the company’s website.
He said customers will receive another device until new Note 7 models are issued. The move comes after Samsung announced a voluntary recall of 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones worldwide two weeks after the phones are rolled out.
U.S. authorities urged users to switch it off and not to use or charge it during a flight. Several airlines around the world asked travelers not to switch on the jumbo smartphone or put it in checked baggage, with some carriers banning the phone on flights.
A Samsung investigation found that rechargeable lithium batteries manufactured by one of its suppliers were at fault in the fires. Samsung said it had confirmed 35 cases of the Galaxy Note 7 catching fire as of Sept. 1, most of them occurring while the battery was being charged.
There are at least two more cases that Samsung said it is aware of — one at a hotel in Perth, Australia, and another in St. Petersburg, Florida, where a family reported that a Galaxy Note 7 left charging in their Jeep had caught fire, destroying the vehicle.
The recall is abruptly cooling excitement for the new 5.7-inch pen-based phablet, which drew rave reviews. While pricy, at $850, it was applauded for water resistance, ability to unlock with the owner's iris, and 64GB storage.
U.S. wireless carriers stopped selling the Note 7 earlier this month and began working on how to handle customer returns and questions. Sprint customers who bought a Note 7 can get a "similar device" until Samsung resolves the battery issue and makes replacements available.
The number of bad batteries remains small, but the potential impact on Samsung's brand remains to be seen. "It’s a small percentage of the whole, but on the other hand, it’s really bad publicity when this is your flagship product and it is literally going up in flames," said Tuong Nguyen, principal analyst with research firm Gartner. "I would expect at least a slight loss in consumer confidence."
Contributing: Associated Press