Just under a month ago, Samsung announced that it was recalling/replacing all Galaxy Note 7 phablets shipped prior to early September due to exploding batteries. Roughly two weeks later, news broke that Yahoo more than likely allowed US government agencies full access to the entire breadth of all email accounts hosted by Yahoo, while the fading tech giant was still reeling from a reported data breach and the pending sale to Verizon. Unfortunately both companies are back in the news this week and not for good reason. Samsung’s replacement Note 7s with the less explodey battery, has – you guessed it – started exploding again, even putting a customer in the hospital. This incident and at least 2 other reports of flaming phones has prompted Samsung to halt production on the Note 7, and all major US carriers will no longer sell the device. Yahoo’s troubles continue as well: the now infamous email service has suspiciously dropped the forwarding function from its service, making it more difficult for people to move to another provider. When you combine this mysterious change with the lawsuit against Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Meyer, Yahoo is looking less like a technology leader and more like a troubled company struggling to survive.
What this means for you:
Companies of this size typically have resources enough to pick themselves up and shake off these types of events. Heck, breaches are so commonplace now that most of the time consumers just shrug and carry on. Despite various widespread problems with iPhones (Antenna-gate, Bend-gate, Touch Rot) Apple still manages to sell lots of units every year. While Samsung will undoubtedly take a huge reputation hit in the mobile market, the Korean megacorp itself is so broad that it’s hard to image the Note 7 sinking the entire company. If anything the repeat failure just highlights the complex manufacturing chain that goes into producing our smartphones and will perhaps push Samsung and its competitors to look for safer, better battery solutions.
Yahoo is looking a lot less resilient than Samsung: it doesn’t have the broad product base to fall back on, and one might argue that its most valuable asset – the millions of people who still use Yahoo Mail – is in jeopardy at a time when the company can least afford it. Whether the disappearance of mail forwarding was ill-timed or carefully calculated, the long-term optics look worse than a smoking phablet. Last week’s news of Yahoo’s compromising relationship with US intelligence agencies should have been enough to encourage you to retire your Yahoo account, and their current strategy is not the Hail-Mary play they need to stay in the game.
With as many as 70 reports of exploding batteries in the US alone, Samsung has officially announced that it is recalling all Galaxy Note 7 phones sold prior to, well, this week. In case you were considering ignoring the recall to continue using your shiny new phablet, know that even the US Consumer Product Safety Commission is recommending everyone stop using the device immediately. Still not convinced? Just do a search on YouTube for exploding batteries to gain a new understanding of just how Samsung’s “hot” new phone is really not one you want in your pocket or purse. While certain less savory media outlets may be sensationalizing Samsung’s flagship recall with lurid headlines, there are at least several lawsuits pending which allege grave bodily injury and extensive property damage.
What this means for you:
Make sure your important data is backed up somewhere other than the device, stop using your Note 7, and head to your nearest carrier service center/store. Know that in most cases, carrier personnel are being instructed by their leadership to not turn on the phone or assist customers in transferring data off the device (which they normally do). Expect your phone to go straight into a box, and if you’ve not retrieved your data, you will not see it again. Depending on your carrier, you will have options to replace the device with something else, get a loaner while you wait for a “safe” Note 7, or just get a full refund for your purchase. Here is Samsung’s official page on the “exchange” program. You should also know that Samsung plans to “nudge” Note 7 holdouts by sending an over-the-air update to lower the phone’s battery capacity to 60%, hoping to provide further incentive to reluctant Note 7 owners to turn in their phablets.
Even if you don’t own a Note 7, there are several valuable lessons that can be learned from the recall.
- Any mobile device that is too hot to touch, especially while being charged, is potentially very dangerous. Immediately unplug it, power it down (if you can do so safely/quickly), and set it away from any flammable materials until it cools down. Definitely replace the charger with a high quality charger – be careful of “booster” or “fast” chargers, especially cheap ones – even if they don’t explode your battery, you can do serious damage to your phone with repeated use if the amperage/voltage is not aligned with your devices requirements.
- Make sure your important data is backed up and retrievable from another device that isn’t your phone. This includes contacts, emails, photos and text messages, as well as any other content you create exclusively on your phone. Both iOS and Android offer “native” cloud platforms that can help you store your phone data, and most major carriers also have custom apps/plans that will also cover you there, but don’t assume these services are activated and working from the start. Most need to be set up, and depending on the amount of data that needs to be stored, may require additional payment to expand your cloud storage. Also, backing up data takes time, especially if your internet connection isn’t very fast.
If you can’t live without your mobile device for more than couple hours, why not swap to your older phone for awhile until Samsung can ship you a phone that has less potential to cause 3rd degree burns. At minimum, know how to check your phone voicemail from another number/device. This will allow you to answer all those concerned calls from friends and colleagues who know you are still walking around with Samsung’s “hottest” new phone.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In a list of things in life (blind dates, new sports cars, Spotify playlists, etc.) that should be “fire” (latest slang for “hot”) your laptop and its battery should not be named. Unfortunately, if you happened to have purchased certain HP laptop models between 2013 to 2015, you might be re-introduced to the literal definition of “fire”. Technology manufacturer HP announced a worldwide, voluntary recall of certain batches of batteries that “pose a fire and burn hazard” that have shipped from the factory in 35 different laptop models, and may have been installed after-market in 38 other HP and Compaq models. HP has a full listing of impacted models on their website, and offers both software and physical means to determine if your battery is affected by this recall.
What this means for you:
If you’ve purchased an HP laptop anytime between now and 2013, I recommend flipping it over and checking the battery’s serial number on HP’s site. While you’ve got it upside down, visually inspect the battery and laptop for warped plastic, bulging or discoloration of any surrounding materials. Carefully check if the battery is hot to the touch. Warm is OK, but if it’s too hot to touch with your finger, you may have a problem. Keep in mind that certain laptops may run quite hot during CPU-intensive activities, including working with very large documents, playing video games or watching streaming video, and more so if the laptop is resting on insulating materials like blankets, cushions or even your pants or dress. It may also get hot if vents on the sides or bottom of the laptop are blocked for even short periods of time. Don’t panic if your laptop doesn’t have vents – the manufacturer only puts them in if the design calls for it. If your battery is not part of this recall, shows no signs of warping or heat damage, but still seems unusually hot to the touch even after working with it on a cool, flat surface, consider replacing it, either under warranty if still applicable, or by purchasing a replacement, preferably from the same manufacturer as your laptop. Cheaper, off-brand batteries might be an option, but check reviews as the knock-offs tend to have more problems with reliability and longevity.