Samsung Galaxy Note 7's network cutoff set in New Zealand

Some diehards are refusing to give up their recalled phones, leading Samsung to take drastic steps.

Katie Collins Senior European Correspondent
Katie a UK-based news reporter and features writer. Officially, she is CNET's European correspondent, covering tech policy and Big Tech in the EU and UK. Unofficially, she serves as CNET's Taylor Swift correspondent. You can also find her writing about tech for good, ethics and human rights, the climate crisis, robots, travel and digital culture. She was once described a "living synth" by London's Evening Standard for having a microchip injected into her hand.
Katie Collins
3 min read
Josh Miller

Samsung is taking drastic steps to encourage people still hanging onto recalled Galaxy Note 7 phones to relinquish them.

The company teamed up with carriers in New Zealand to announce Friday that it will cut off access to wireless networks for customers still using their Galaxy Note 7 devices. Starting November 18, customers still using the Note 7 will no longer be able to connect to any New Zealand mobile network to make calls, use data or send SMS messages.

"Numerous attempts by all providers have been made to contact owners and ask them to bring the phones in for replacement or refund. This action should further aid the return of the remaining handsets," Geoff Thorn, CEO of New Zealand Telecommunications Forum, said in a statement.

The dangerous phone was recalled twice before Samsung discontinued it altogether last month, following multiple incidents of the device overheating and catching fire, purportedly due to problems with the battery. Samsung has contacted customers warning them to return their phones and also has pushed out an update to limit the charge of the battery. The hope was that the update would help avoid further incidents while giving customers a new incentive to return their phones. Cutting off access to networks is a last resort.

Carriers across the world have been working with Samsung to aid in the recall, but it's not clear if the network cutoff in New Zealand will be used in other countries. To do so requires the cooperation of all local carriers.

"Samsung has recently limited the battery capacity of Note 7 devices to 60 percent and we are investigating all options to further limit use of the device in the future," said a Samsung spokeswoman in the UK. "Samsung is taking these steps in the interests of customer safety, which is our top priority."

A spokeswoman for the company in the US added: "We're considering many options to ensure that all remaining Note 7 devices in customers' hands get returned as smoothly as possible."

The majority of Note 7 owners who are O2 customers have returned their phones, said a spokesman for British network O2, which has worked with Samsung on the recall. "A small number of customer remain outstanding on deciding on what they would like to do," the spokesman added.

Note 7 rebels are holding their ground

There is a small group of Note 7 owners who have no intention of handing their phones back -- and they are organizing.

The Note7 Rebels/Never Give In group on Facebook has attracted 740 members since California-based Jay Ringgold started it on October 12. "The reasoning behind me keeping it is that there isn't a comparable phone of its kind and there was only 100 cases out of 3 million phones produced that had the fire issue," Ringgold said via email.

Even after the second recall, Ringgold has been determined to keep his phone. He knew there would be others who felt the same, so he started the Facebook group. But if other countries follow in the footsteps of New Zealand and phones are cut off at network level, the remaining Note 7 owners may have little choice but to hand in their devices.

"Sadly if every country does that, it's game over for us," one member of the group said on the Facebook page.

"If they cut mine off from the mobile network I am happy to use mine as a tablet as long as Wi-Fi is still working," said another.

The irony at the heart of the tussle is that group members are fervent Samsung fans.

"We still feel that Samsung is still a good brand, they just had a bad moment in the tech world," said Ringgold. However, they may be willing to reach a truce with the company.

"If Samsung offered the Rebels a free Note 8 when it comes out along with giving us a Galaxy S7 Edge until the Note 8 comes out then we would return our phones," he said. "But as of now it's not worth it."