Samsung's exploding Galaxy Note 7 saga takes a pause

After word that Note 7 replacement models may also suffer from battery flaws, Samsung said it is "temporarily adjusting" the production schedule to ensure a safer phone.

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Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
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Watch this: Toxic Galaxy Note 7 can't be trusted, production suspended
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Samsung's Note 7 may face a second recall.

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The Galaxy Note 7's days may be numbered.

Samsung said Monday it is "temporarily adjusting the Galaxy Note 7 production schedule in order to take further steps to ensure quality and safety matters."

There's no word on how long the adjustment would take.

The comments come following reports that Samsung had stopped production in cooperation with safety regulators from South Korea, China and the US.

The move, however, could spell an end to the short, controversial and explosive life of the Note 7, which launched as one of the best-reviewed Android phones ever made but quickly became an unprecedented nightmare for Samsung. This incident could hurt the company's credibility with consumers for a long time.

Samsung saw this going so much differently.

The Note 7, which hit the market in mid-August, was expected to solidify Samsung's lead in the mobile market after a strong showing with its Galaxy S7. The company had just begun to regain its swagger after stumbling the previous year with lackluster products.

Then came the battery problems, which caused some units to overheat and catch fire. Samsung issued a global recall of the popular device last month. It worked with government agencies such as the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to get safe replacement units to owners of the phone. The company has said that more than half of its defective phones have been returned and that about 90 percent of people had chosen to trade their old Note 7 in for a new one.

Perhaps those owners should have switched phones entirely. There have been a handful of reports of overheating in replacement devices. One caused the evacuation of a Southwest Airlines flight last week; another hurt a teenage girl. US carrier partners, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile have stopped selling the Note 7 and are letting customers exchange their replacement Note 7 for a different phone entirely.

"We recognize that carrier partners have stopped sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note7 in response to reports of heat damage issues, and we respect their decision," the company said in a statement. "We are working diligently with authorities and third party experts and will share findings when we have completed the investigation. Even though there are a limited number of reports, we want to reassure customers that we are taking every report seriously."

If problems persist, what's likely up for Samsung next is a rare, second recall.

"If the replacement phones are truly having battery issues, Samsung should immediately discontinue the Note 7," Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Patrick Moorhead said. He added that the company should now be "focusing [on] selling...the Galaxy S7 line and on redesigning the [expected] Note 8" expected to launch next year.

The Note 7 issues come at the worst possible time for Samsung. Arch-rival Apple released last month its newest iPhones, while Google introduced last week its first Google-branded premium smartphone, the Pixel. Having not one, but two major recalls of a single device deals a blow to Samsung's finances as well while consumers rush into the arms of competitors.

"First, the lingering around the official recall, then the incidents with replacement devices that were supposed to have the battery issue rectified will leave a bitter taste in consumers' mouth for longer than first anticipated," said Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi.

First published October 9 at 7:12 p.m. PT.
Updated most recently on October 10 at 6:54 a.m.: With Samsung's comment and additional details and background.

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