Galaxy Note 4 batteries recalled, but Samsung's not to blame

A recall on some batteries found in Note 4 devices echoes last year's Note 7 recall, but the circumstances are quite different.

Gordon Gottsegen CNET contributor
Gordon Gottsegen is a tech writer who has experience working at publications like Wired. He loves testing out new gadgets and complaining about them. He is the ghost of all failed Kickstarters.
Gordon Gottsegen
2 min read

Faulty batteries in the Note 7 resulted in explosions and a big blow to Samsung's reputation.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall Wednesday on certain Galaxy Note 4 batteries. 

These batteries have a tendency to overheat, which poses risk of burns and fire hazards, according to the US commission. 

It doesn't take much to see the parallels between this and last year's Galaxy Note 7 recall. Last year there were multiple reports of Note 7 devices bursting into flames leading to two separate product recalls. The culprit: faulty batteries.

Since then, Samsung has vowed to make safer batteries and has even instituted an eight-point battery check. This is crucial because Samsung is set to unveil the Galaxy Note 7 successor, the Galaxy Note 8, on August 23.

Our first question: How this could have happened just now, when the Galaxy Note 4 is a three-year-old phone? Well, it's actually not Samsung's fault. The affected batteries were found in refurbished Note 4s distributed by FedEx Supply Chain as replacement phones for an AT&T insurance program. 

A Samsung spokesperson told CNET that the program was managed independently of Samsung and that the affected batteries are not genuine Samsung products. Some of these batteries were determined to be counterfeit, which may account for the dangerous anomalies leading to overheating.

Although the original Note 4 is from 2014, the affected batteries were distributed between December 2016 and April 2017.

"FedEx Supply Chain has recalled a batch of lithium batteries that were installed in mobile devices," the company said in a statement, "As some of the batteries may be counterfeit. We are closely engaged with our customer to make sure all of these lithium batteries are safely and quickly returned, and will replace those lithium batteries free of charge for consumers."

AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The good news is that this recall is relatively small. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 10,200 batteries are affected by the recall, which is much smaller than the 3 million recalled Note 7 devices. Another big difference between the recalls is that the Note 4 features a removable battery, making it much easier to deal with than the internal Note 7 battery.

If you received a replacement Note 4 from the AT&T insurance program or suspect you are using an affected device, turn off your phone immediately. FedEx Supply Chain will give affected customers a safe replacement battery and a box to send in the recalled ones. For more information visit the recall's website or call FedEx Supply Chain at 800-338-0163 during business hours.

First published, Aug. 17, 12:19 p.m. PT.
Update, 12:56 p.m. PT: Adds FedEx comment. 

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