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Samsung software update will brick few Note 7s left in the wild

With 93 percent of all recalled Galaxy Note 7 devices returned in the US, Samsung is taking an even more dramatic step to bring in the rest.

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Samsung said Friday it's had overwhelming participation in the US refund and exchange program for the Galaxy Note 7 phone, "with more than 93 percent of all recalled devices returned." The company also said it's issuing an even more punishing software update to make sure the remaining Note 7 devices are returned.

Starting December 19, Samsung will begin distributing a software update that prevents the phones from charging and "will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices." The software update will be rolled out over 30 days.

Samsung doesn't want to see any more of these in the wild again.

Josh Miller/CNET

In September, Samsung issued a software update that capped the battery's recharge capacity at 60 percent.

"Together with our carrier partners, we will be notifying consumers through multiple touchpoints to encourage any remaining Galaxy Note 7 owners to participate in the program and to take advantage of the financial incentives available," the company said in a statement.

Samsung is encouraging anyone who has not yet returned their device to power it down and contact their carrier to obtain a refund or exchange, or visit its Note 7 recall website for more information. The company recalled the device earlier this year because the battery on some units overheated and caught fire. Samsung also permanently stopped production of the phone.

But leading US mobile carrier Verizon has decided not to push out the update, citing safety issues. Here's the statement it released:




"Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note 7 users that do not have another device to switch to," the statement read. "We will not push a software upgrade that will eliminate the ability for the Note 7 to work as a mobile device in the heart of the holiday travel season. We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation."

Samsung said in response to Verizon's plans that "this software update is intended to remove the remaining Note 7 devices from the market to ensure the safety of our customers."

The other major carriers in the US -- AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint -- said Friday that they plan to release the update. T-Mobile's update will come December 27, while AT&T will release the update on January 5. Sprint will push out the new software to its users on January 8.

In other markets around the globe, like New Zealand, Samsung already has cut off access to wireless networks for customers still using their Note 7 devices.

First published December 9, 8:20 a.m. PT.
Update, 9:36 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Verizon.
Update, 1:40 p.m. PT: Adds comment from T-Mobile.
Update, 2:25 p.m. PT: Adds information from AT&T and Sprint.