AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint willing to kill off Galaxy Note 7

The carriers, unlike Verizon Wireless, will release a software update after the holidays to make Samsung's device unusable.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
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."
Shara Tibken
3 min read

AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint are working with Samsung to kill off your Galaxy Note 7. But they're going to let you enjoy Christmas first.

The wireless carriers on Friday said they will issue software updates from Samsung that will prevent Note 7 devices from charging and will "eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices." Samsung earlier in the day announced plans for the update to make sure the remaining seven percent of Note 7 owners turn in their phones.

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.

"We always want to do the right thing and make sure our customers are safe, so on December 27 we will roll out Samsung's latest software update, which is designed to stop all remaining Note 7 devices from charging," T-Mobile said in a statement provided to CNET. "T-Mobile customers who still have a Note 7 should immediately power down and stop using the device, and bring it back to a T-Mobile store for a full refund and a replacement device."

Watch this: Samsung's Note 7 refuses to die on Verizon

And Sprint said, "Customer safety is our highest priority. Sprint customers with Samsung Galaxy Note 7 should immediately power off the device and discontinue using it. Sprint is honoring the replacement of all Sprint Samsung Note 7 devices to any other device, regardless where or when it was purchased, condition and return policy."

AT&T on Friday started sending text messages to customers to let them know about the update. The SMS said, "As of 1/5/2017, Samsung's software update to prevent the Galaxy Note 7 battery from recharging will be pushed to your Note 7. The battery will no longer recharge. This Note 7 was recalled and is banned on all flights in both checked and carry-on luggage. Your safety is our priority, please return your Note 7 to the place you purchased for an exchange. For more details go to att.com/note7."

Verizon Wireless, the biggest carrier in the US, earlier Friday said it won't issue Samsung's software update because it could harm consumers.

"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 company said in a statement. "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 a statement that "this software update is intended to remove the remaining Note 7 devices from the market to ensure the safety of our customers." In the US, 93 percent of recalled Note 7 devices have been returned to the carriers and Samsung.

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 in September. But then some replacement units started having the same problem. That caused Samsung to issue a second recall in mid-October and permanently stop production of the device. It's offering Note 7 owners $100 to exchange the device for another Samsung phone.

In November, Samsung said it would start limiting the Note 7's charging abilities in the US, preventing the devices from charging beyond 60 percent. It also issued a reminder pop-up notification every time a consumer charged, rebooted or turned on the screen of their Note 7 device.

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.

Update at 1:55 p.m. PT to add Samsung statement.
Update at 2:15 p.m. PT
to add Sprint statement and info about AT&T.