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Why I’m Keeping My Note 7 (For a While)

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Show Transcript


Before half a dozen people post it in a comment, let me be the first: Samsung Note 7 recall deniers – a comic by The Joy of Tech. It’s almost like they watched my video. :-)

Update #2

I’m a little taken aback by the controversy my opinion has evoked in the comments. I’m also more than a little discouraged by some of the animosity. Clearly I wasn’t clear about my purpose in sharing my opinions and plans.

Don’t know if this will fix things or make them worse.

First, if you own a Note 7, I’m not making a recommendation as to what you should or should not do. I’m describing my plans and my rationale behind my plans. Make your own decision based on your own research and levels of concern.

Don't PanicI have three reasons for sharing my story, and they have little to do with the phone itself. I use the phone as a convenient example of how issues like this are often treated. I believe I mentioned these in the video, but to be clear:

  1. The internet loves to hype and over-sensationalize issues for more page views, clicks, shares and likes. It’s my opinion that this is part of what’s driving the extensive coverage of the Note 7 situation; it generates page views. (Some will probably claim that I’m riding on that coattail, which to me is just support for this opinion.)
  2. Companies, out of necessity, must take extremely conservative positions to avoid litigation and bad press, even if those positions aren’t completely supported by the data. It’s my opinion that this is part of the reason that Samsung has taken the extraordinary step of recalling all phones and halting all production on this model; fear of lawsuits (or of not being able to show proper intent in the lawsuits that will inevitably happen anyway).
  3. We all accept risk every day in all manner of ways to which we don’t give a second thought. In my opinion, my risk of continuing to use my Note 7 is less than other choices I regularly make every day without concern.

Yes, my phone could catch fire. That’s actually true for any phone or laptop using current battery technology. The only difference is risk, both actual and perceived. (PC Pitstop, for example, has reported on exploding LIon batteries.)

Bottom line is that I feel that the probability of something actually happening to my specific phone in the time before I trade it in is very small. Smaller than news reports and press would make it seem. Smaller than many risks I take for granted every single day. I’m not saying there’s no risk, and I did state that I plan to exchange the phone, I just don’t feel that the risk is so high that I need to power down immediately and step away from the phone in fear.

Your mileage, as they say, may vary. You may feel differently. Fantastic. Do what’s right for you.

And as a side note, if news reports are true that Samsung plans to cripple the charging capacity of the device in the next few days (in my opinion likely due to point #2 above), I may be forced to make my swap sooner than planned, and for less of a phone than I had planned on waiting for. Oh well.

Update #3

I’m now the happy owner of a Google Pixel XL. As I mentioned in the video I wasn’t planning on keeping the Note forever … just until I found a suitable (to me) alternative. The Pixel XL fit the bill, and after using for several weeks now I’m quite satisfied. My Note 7 has been returned (in what turned out to be quite elaborate protective packaging).

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79 comments on “Why I’m Keeping My Note 7 (For a While)”

  1. How long is Samsung allowing customers to exchange a Note 7?

    Related to those considering the Google Pixel XL, below is a link that contains information, one table comparing Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy S7, and LG G5, and another table comparing Google Pixel XL, Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and LG V20.

    As a sidenote, the video and audio in your YouTube video are out of sync with each other.

    • I was thinking along those lines too. Considering the legal ramifications that Leo mentioned, Samsung might want to get back all those phones sooner rather than later. A time limit to being able to trade or receive credit could be a way of encouraging people to surrender them faster. People should be aware of time frames before deciding how long they will hang on to it until something else comes along to replace it.

        • Your carrier might decide that their liability is too high if they leave phones out there and decide to cut off service to force a trade in and protect themselves.

    • Knowing the return/exchange window will also allow folks to make a decision about what device to upgrade to.

      Right now the best option, according to most credible sources, is the Google Pixel XL.

      In a “short time” (whether it be weeks or months) the best alternative could be someone from HTC or LG.

      Continuing my sidenote, the video and audio sync issue seems to have fixed itself or maybe the problem was on my end when I was watching it on my desktop Mac Mini in Google Chrome. I just watched it on my iPhone 6 in Google Chrome and didn’t have any problems.

  2. “Those are odds I can live with because those are odds I accept every day when I get into the car.” – You don’t necessarily have a viable alternative to using your car and so have to accept the odds. You do have a viable alternative to the Note. In fact, you have plenty of viable alternatives.

    “Unless, of course, you were to be toasted in the fire the phone caused. Then you’d not need to worry about replacing it.

    • Depends on your definition of “viable”.

      I certainly could have viable alternatives to my car: bicycles, calling a cab or Uber, taking a bus, electing to have whatever delivered instead of going to get it, teleconference instead of in-person meetings, and so on.

      Similarly, I may not consider the current crop of alternative phones viable for my situation and usage. Throw out a number, say, because the screen is too small, throw out all the Apple products because I want Android, throw out what’s left because they’re underpowered given my expanded usage.

      I’m not saying all those things are TRUE, I’m just pointing out that one person’s “viable” is another’s “no way”.

      As we often talk about here, it really does just boil down to risk management, which in turn should boil down to be based on realistic risk assessment. This is how I assess my situation, and how I choose to manage the risk.

      For now.

    • I am no expert in logic/argument/fallacies, but I have a strong suspicion that the fact that I choose to do something regardless of the risk I incur is not a good reason to do other things that are also known to be risky…… (Wondering if you’ve got a fire extinguisher next to your nightstand…. :-) )

      I don’t know if an article on how to choose smart phones is within your thinking about what Ask Leo should look like. I, for one, would welcome it.

      My iphone 5c is my very first smart phone. I have wanted to bash its little brains out against a rock on many occasions, and am eager to get a phone I like much better, but am very unsure how to figure out what that might be………. (I will go check out the links Douglas provided in a comment farther upstream…..)

      • FWIW: “I choose to do something regardless of the risk” is not what I did. I carefully weighed the risk / benefit and came to a conclusion. Put another way, risk is not binary – it’s all about playing odds. I believe the odds are in my favor. Could I still lose? Of of course. But then it’s apparently more likely (higher odds) that I could also lose driving to the grocery store tomorrow.

        • Sorry, I meant “Having regarded the risk, I choose to proceed despite the risk” rather than “regardless of the risk.” And I still hope you had a fire extinguisher next to your nightstand while your Note was on it. :-) Nothing wrong with hedging our bets when we decide to take a risk…..

  3. I believe there is risk on all cell phones, as they get very hot when using them for an extended period of time. I love the MotoG that I just got. I had bad reception with my iphone 5, and I tried a cheaper Galaxy, but they both dropped many calls. My MotoG has been very successful. Love it, and my husband got the same kind.

  4. Although I don’t use the full capability of the Note the inbuilt pen is priceless and had I purchased a 7, I too would be reluctant to let it go, given the odds. I agree that the media are very mountains out of molehills and economical with the truth, if it doesn’t enhance their story direction. However as you say we live in a litigation society, every mishap must be someone else’s fault.
    Looks like I’m going to be stuck with upgrading to a 5.

  5. You know, it’s just a matter of time before another phone, or product for that matter, has the same problem. We are really pushing the battery technology right now, and especially now that waterproofing is all the rage, there is no airflow whatsoever anymore around parts that heat up. So you’ve got your battery emitting heat next to the main processor that does the same, as do the memory chips etc. It’s almost inevitable that we’re seeing heat issues.

    On a different note Leo (sorry to put this here), you’re clearly of Dutch heritage, I was curious if you’re a first or higher generation American?

    Albert (1st gen :) )

    • My parents were both born in Holland, I was born in Canada. I spoke only Dutch until I was three. :-)

      And, indeed, I agree with your comments – we’ll see this scenario again.

  6. I work at a product testing lab. We don’t test batteries, but out of curiosity I looked up some of the testing requirements last Christmas when there was an issue with so called hover-boards. Part of the testing included barometric chamber testing to simulate high altitudes. I would speculate that in addition to the higher cost if there is an issue, the chance of an issue occurring is probably increased. Passengers are in pressurized cabins, so maybe not, but if it was stored in checked luggage, who knows.

      • Checked luggage areas are usually pressurised because it is more structurally efficient to have a circular (or nearly circular) fuselage pressurised than a segment created by the floor.

        Irrespective of the above I like the underlying concept that is portrayed in this article; you cannot be risk free, you should understand and choose to accept (or reject) the risk. Nice work Leo.

  7. I recently acquired a Motorola (Now owned by LG) Z Force Droid. I am not familiar with the Samsung Note 7’s features so can’t speak about comparison. What I *can* say is, this is an amazing phone. I believe it has the highest pixel integrated camera out there (21 megapixels on the back camera) and has some cool add-ons one can get, like a JBL sound panel that clips on the back, or a (reportedly professional grade) camera, also attached via magnet to the back. I chose an added battery on the back. I’ve seen no speed problems at all with it. Does bluetooth well, WiFi well, both connecting to and being a hotspot, cast to share to a TV, ad nauseum. I think phones in general are approaching critical mass. What else can be crammed into them that’s useful? I believe the best feature any of them has is the off switch…

  8. Well done, Leo
    If I were defending the lawsuit against the I-7 for damages, personal injury, I would call you as an expert witness.

  9. We all take risks all day long, quite often without thinking. Get out of bed and go to the toilet – could get bitten by a lobster that crawled up the sewer pipes or get ate by starving dust mites! More likely you’ll step some Legos left out by Junior. Mr. Leo evaluated the risks involve with keeping his Galaxy 7 and accepted them. Maybe part of the thinking was, “This one hasn’t blown up yet and I’ve been using it for a while.” I can see the logic involved. My circular saw hasn’t burst into flames, hasn’t tried to eat me and, hopefully, I won’t step on it when I get up to pee at 4am. We evaluate the odds and make our choices. Here’s my chip, deal me in.

  10. It is interesting to note that not only are Samsung phones having these issues, but Cnet reports that the iPhones are having much the same problems.

  11. Stupid: You don’t have to drive, you don’t have to use this phone, it seems the second best phone you have ever used would be just fine, and possibly save your family the remote possibility of injury or worse.

    • If the odds of an accident driving to return the phone are higher than the phone catching fire, then it appears that it might be safer to keep the phone and not risk driving to return it :-)

      • “…. then it appears that it might be safer to keep the phone and not risk driving to return it.” – No, it doesn’t appear that way at all. The cockamamie math behind that absurd claim is seriously flawed.

      • People come to this site to get good advice and to keep informed about current technology.
        You are very correct that we need to make our own choices in life.
        But users come here to get Leo’s opinion, and people who read his column will in fact follow in his footsteps and regard his opinion as the proper course of action.

        As a closing note: I do not understand why he even published this?


        • Leo pointed out the probability of a phone catching fire and why he’s willing to live with those odds. As H Davis said you are free to make your own choice. Driving a car is much more dangerous, yet most people do it every day. My personal reaction to the recall of the Note 7 was, Maybe I can get one cheap.

        • I completely agree. The bottom line is that it’s not worth putting your and your family’s lives at risk over a phone – no matter how nice it may be. Sure, the odds of any particular Note exploding may be small – it’s only happened to a hundred or so devices so far – but it’s inevitable that others will explode, and the next one to go up in smoke could be yours. There’s also a number of other issues that people should also consider – for example, whether devices will be more likely to catch fire as they age and the possible legal ramifications should a device injure somebody else or damage their property.

          Sometimes it’s worth playing the odds; sometimes it isn’t. And this is very clearly a case where it isn’t.

          “As a closing note: I do not understand why he even published this?” – Nor do I. It’s entirely Leo’s choice whether or not to keeping on using a Note, but encouraging others to do so – which is what this article is doing – is really quite irresponsible. Reprehensible, even. I certainly hope that people will not be influenced in any, way shape or form by this article and will instead take the advice of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and Samsung to “Power down immediately.”

  12. The critical piece of info is do they explode more when charging or when using. If the former, what type of charger. If the latter, was the phone abused, e.g., dropped.

    I would want to know that in my assessment.

    • Hi, Robert R! The question is a bit more complicated than the options you have cited. Things like cell phones and tablets require a significant amount of power over a relatively long period of time. As a result, manufacturers need batteries using chemistry that produces power over a long time. That chemistry requires close monitoring of charge and discharge cycles. The lithium ion batteries meeting those requirements use a chemistry that is a bit unwilling to accept non-monitored use. Those batteries contain circuitry in the battery case. That circuitry communicates with circuitry in the device. As an example, typically such a battery will charge relatively quickly for the first 90% of charge, but must be throttled back a lot for the last 10% of charge. And if you don’t throttle back? The forced high rate of charge will result in an overheated condition. The battery may burst and/or, yes, burst into flame. I’m not saying that is what causes the Galaxy Note fires. The reason may be due to bad circuitry in the device, bad circuitry in the battery, miscommunication between device and battery, or simply a bad design.

      The question you asked is appropriate, but there are more factors to look at. I can see where Samsung may not be able to answer that question, based on a dozen or so instances.

  13. Thank you, Leo! Do you know how rare it is that a person understands odds…much less expressing an opinion based on odds in a major forum…and even more impressive, being a willingness to live by the odds, understanding them? I am impressed.

    • Odds and statistics are not well understood in general. Sadly the press, politicians, and many others are all too ready to take advantage of that.

  14. I too purchased a Note 7 and also got a replacement phone. Like you, I absolutely loved this phone. However, I decided to return the replacement phone. I never had any issue with the battery or overheating. I decided that since it has been discontinued and we were told not to use the phone but to turn it in for another phone; liability for what might happen would fall only on me. What insurance company would cover injuries, a house, a car, or other improbable but possible issues with something I was not supposed to have. Were it a phone not recalled, some coverage for such things would be more probable. That liability is what led me to give the phone up.
    Waiting for Note 8.

  15. Winston Churchill (before he became a “Sir”) once said:
    “There are three types of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics”.
    The chances of any particular Note 7 bursting into flames are exactly 1:1, i.e. 50% yes and 50% no.
    So much for statistics.
    Until you have identified precisely why some have burned themselves up and others not, there is no basis upon which you can base any odds.

    It is an interesting phenomenon and I would dearly love to poke my nose into the Samsung laboratories which have been given the task of dealing with it.

    Blessed be

    Karma Singh

    • I teach statistics and find that argument flawed. In many cases statistics are misused, but without statistics, we would still be in the ark ages with respect to scientific knowledge (well probably in a thousand years, people will call or time period a dark age). Modern scientific principles were almost all determined by statistical analyses. If out of 3,000,000 (hypothetical ballpark figure) 50 caught fire. The chances aren’t 50% my phone will catch fire. The number is closer to 1 in 60,000. If the author of the article Leo was referring to calculated that the odds of having an accident while driving returning your phone were higher than your phone catching fire and his math is correct, than you’re better off keeping the phone. Of course, there are other factors with the phone, analogous to seat belts, driving speed, distance etc., to increase or decrease the odds of a fire, but the ballpark figures still apply.

      • Now imagine a one horse town in the outback, with a population of 2, and one day one of them decided to cross the road and got run over by a truck, The press could say that 50% of the town was killed in a massive car accident. Lol

      • Mark

        I sorry, but I am not impressed by what you do or think you know.

        I do have a question though.

        Be it you or I, do you believe that we get to a point where are only concern is to mold our answers to our opinion and keep going down that rabbit hole till hell freezes over?

        Because, I believe you are there.

    • “The chances of any particular Note 7 bursting into flames are exactly 1:1, i.e. 50% yes and 50% no.” – Um…. no.

      We have a HUGE sample size – millions of phones versus, say, a hundred in flames. The odds are clearly not 50/50. The only thing missing from the statement is the timeframe. (“odds of bursting into flames within X time”.) That is a more complicated analysis for which we don’t have sufficient data.

      • You rightly say, “we don’t have sufficient data” however, as it stands, I am inclined to agree with Karma Singh.
        e.g. From a pile of 1,000,000 phones you select one. What are the odds it will self destruct? As far as we can tell, at present, it may or may not self destruct; so 50/50 but subject to modification. Same applies to the other 999,999.


        • Karma, BrianJM – you are mistaking POSSIBILITY for PROBABILITY. The possibility of me being the brother of President Obama is 50:50 , ie either I am or I am not. Those are the only possibilities. The probability of me being the brother of President Obama is somewhat less than 50:50 If there are are three billion people in the world, then the probability is 1: 3,000,000,000. With the phones, the possibility of self-destruction is 50:50, but the probability is the 1:60,000 (or whatever the number is).
          RISK is a product of PROBABILITY and IMPACT. If I were Leo I would reduce the impact (of what happens if the phone self destructs) by charging it overnight in my laundry (underneath the smoke detector), rather then by my bed; and by carrying it in my briefcase or leaving it on the desk, rather than carrying it in my pocket next to my skin. Note that these actions do not reduce the probability of self-destruction, but they reduce the impact and so reduce the risk. Choose a level of risk with which you are comfortable. If that means ditching the phone, so be it.

          • All of which tends to prove Winston Churchill’s other comment on this theme:
            “I don’t believe any statistics that I haven’t personally falsified.”

            Statistical probability is a substitute for knowledge. It can give you an indication of where the knowledge that you seek may lie but it can never be that knowledge itself. This is why statistical analysis can’t give you any hard, 100% reliable answers.
            In this case all that statistical analysis can tell you with any reliability is that the self-incineration of Note 7s is a rare event. It cannot, however, tell you anything about the probability of any particular Note 7 doing so becasuse the cause is not known – insufficient data – and so the probability of Leo’s ‘phone selecting this particular form of Hara Kiri remains 50/50.

            Blessed be

            Karma Singh

          • “Statistical probability is a substitute for knowledge.” Not really. Statistical probability is an important tool in gathering in gathering and analyzing data for scientific research. I’d say probably the most important tool, but I can’t back that up with statistical evidence. :-)

          • If I go by that 50% logic, the odds of my computer mouse catching (I put a lithium battery in it) fire are also 50%, even though it’s never happened to that model, because it’s not impossible. Now you have me worried :-(

  16. Sorry, Leo. I believe people come to your site for advice and insight (I know I do). In this case I believe your advice/insight is irresponsible. Based on your analysis, sounds like you’d advise people to go out and play golf in a thunderstorm, as the odds of being struck are 1 in a million. Sorry, in that case I don’t like the odds, and the same goes with the Note 7.

    • I agree with you. If you don’t like the odds, don’t use a Note 7. But, if the risk of an accident when returning it is higher, then you have a real dilemma.

  17. This is not about YOU getting an explosion The fact that there are so many of these phones out there is the point that maybe one person could die. Get it? If a million people blindly agree with you someone will have a phone on fire. Hope you can live with that.
    You are using the stats backwards. Glad all you care about is you.

    • Don’t forget the whole point of the article which is that Leo likes the phone. He’s just looking around for a suitable replacement and not panicking right away.

    • “If a million people blindly agree with you someone will have a phone on fire.” – Exactly. And that fire could well kill somebody. Or an entire family when their home is engulfed in a Note-caused fire.

      What should be made clear here is that Leo is not a materials chemist or a risk analyst and, is not qualified to assess the risk. Consequently, his opinion on this matter carries no weight whatsoever – or, rather, it carries no more weight than your opinion, my opinion or the opinion of any other unqualified Tom, Dick or Harriet. The unfortunate thing, however, is that some people will probably give his opinion more weight than it deserves and allow it to influence their decision – and doing so could cost them dearly.

      The people who are qualified to assess the risks in this case all have the exact same advice: stop using the Note and stop using it immediately. They’re the people who should be listened to; not Leo.

      The bottom line is that this article – which uses bogus and ill-informed homespun statistics to downplay the risks associated with the Note – may very well influence some people’s decision as to whether to keep using the device. And that’s both irresponsible and morally reprehensible.

      People should take the advice of those who are qualified to give it – and that’s not Leo.

  18. I do not care to comment on the risk aspect of this article although I have now got a Samsung smartphone and I love it.
    I would like to second Vicki in Michigan’s idea about articles on phones. I realize there are many different ones out there but any information about how they generally work and how they differ from a “regular” computer would be appreciated. If this is not possible perhaps you could direct us to basic sources of good information about smartphones.

    • Unclear. I *thought* that was only for the phones originally identified as problematic and not their replacements. I don’t know if they’ve made it stick for all phones including replacements. I guess I’ll find out on November 1, from what you’re saying. (And, no, I know of no way to bypass it.)

  19. I didn’t quote the article specifically for that very reason – it’s not a credible source. But it made me think. The orders of magnitude, to me, made sense. I used my own numbers for order of magnitude calculations. As they’re a matter of opinion, I stand by them.

  20. Since this article seems to be generating an above average amount of controversy and even animosity, I’ve attempted to clarify my position and intent in Update #2 above.

  21. Leo, I understand that you are willing to accept the risk and for arguments sake, let’s say is is a very small one. I still believe there are actions you can take to reduce that risk. I certainly would not be charging the phone at night while you are sleeping. If the phone caught fire at that time it could cause a house fire with dire consequences. Charge the phone in the safest area you can find and only while you are awake so you can monitor the process.

  22. Seems to me that there should be an APP for monitoring and logging phone temperature(s), with an automatic shutdown at a specific temperature.
    It might then be quite simple to see if, what, when, and why, the excess heat is generated.
    If there is no “thermometer” built-in, then a probe could possibly be added.
    But, maybe there is something like that already on Google’s Play Store.

    • There are such apps and most, if not all, phones already have built-in mechanisms that enable them to automatically shutdown if they become too hot. The thing is, however, that that may not help. Depending on the cause of the problem – which nobody, except possibly Samsung, knows at this point – it be that the phones start to produce extreme levels of heat so quickly as to make the automatic shutdown process useless.

  23. Others have raised questions on the statistics used, and this overlaps them somewhat, but I see a flaw in your conclusion. What we have seen is a product on the market for about 2 months, with some spectacular failures of a tiny percentage of the units (albeit many more than with the usual release of a new phone). The exact numbers are not important here. Your conclusion is based on those numbers and is valid as far as it goes.

    The problem is that the probability you present is based on the number of failures in roughly one month of service, if we assume the phones went into service at a more or less steady rate. It is not a valid predictor of future failure rates because we don’t know what the root cause is. If it is a defect of the “infant mortality” type – it either fails in a month or so, or doesn’t fail at all – your conclusion is valid. If, on the other hand, if the defect is one that gets worse with time – say, through the thermal cycling of charging – your conclusion is invalid since the probability of failure will rise with use.

    We will probably never know which kind of defect it is, unless Samsung tells us, since the bulk of the phones are out of service now – we will not have failure counts based on longer service or larger numbers. In the situation you describe, I too might hang on to the phone for a while, but if it was beside my bed at night it would be in a tin box sitting on a piece of drywall.

  24. The odds of the Note 7 having a burn issue are 0.008%.
    And on top of that just why is it that we no longer read any incidents of Note 7’s having issues…..while hundreds of thousands of the device are still used every day?

  25. Hi Leo,
    I am holding my Note7 V2.0 (EU Device, Samsung CPU) as well.
    As a EU User, we dont have any Explode or Burn case around. I dont believe, that because of Luck. I believe, there must has other reasons to cause that Problem on Note 7. Maybe CPU, overheating, Software, Cooling…
    My second reason: I only heard, that US-V2.0-Device (Note7) got overheated. Its temprature raise slowly and slowly, and CPU may has like 40%-60% Usage during this progress. There has but no such Report from EU. So I guess, there might has some relationship with CPU-Type or Components.

    Our EU Recall Policy is pretty bad. We won’t get anything extra, when we return the device. Samsung will only pay us for the original Samsung Accessories. Third parts Accessories won’t get paid.

    By the Way, My device works great. It’s cool, even during the charging.

  26. Hi Leo, there’s a recall due or ending date for the Samsung Note 7?
    My wife loves this smartphone, I love it too. All available smartphones are downgrades from the Note 7. Can we keep it until Samsung release the Galaxy S8 Edge or the Note 8 then exchange it?

  27. Has anyone tried flashing Note 5 rom on the Note 7?
    I still can’t find my micro to USB C adapter and our Telco won’t accept incomplete sets
    but my is working fine without the 60% battery limit I still want to use mine

    • Actually I mentioned elsewhere that my Note has been returned. I was waiting for something appropriate to replace it, and the Google Pixel XL does the job. :-)


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