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All major US carriers have agreed to brick remaining Note 7 devices

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It’s the end of the line for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 in the US. All major carriers have now announced plans to deploy an OTA update from Samsung that will forever disable the phone’s ability to charge its battery. When Samsung announced the update originally, Verizon issued a defiant statement about its refusal to brick the remaining Note 7s on its network. It has now relented, and will send the update in a few weeks.

If you haven’t been paying attention, the launch of the Note 7 in fall has been nothing short of a disaster for Samsung. After garnering almost universally positive reviews, the it became apparent the Note 7 was bursting into flames at a higher rate than you’d expect from simple manufacturing defects or damage to the batteries. Samsung launched a hasty exchange program, which it completely bungled by just using different batteries that also seemed prone to catch fire. A recent analysis by a third party suggests the battery didn’t have enough space in the frame to expand and contract during usage, which led to damage over time.

The company finally had to announce in mid-October that it was discontinuing the phone and encouraged all buyers to return or exchange the devices. It even offered $100 in credit toward a different Samsung phone for those who wanted to stick with the company. That was the carrot; the stick came in the form of several software updates that made the phone increasingly annoying to use. First there were nags about the exchange program, then the phone’s charge was limited to 60% (less energy to be released in the event of a fire). Now, the battery is being killed entirely.

note fire

The OTA update will make changes to the power control IC firmware, preventing the battery from storing power. That means that the battery will not recharge after it drains following the update. It will still work when connected to power, but the battery will be taken out of the loop, so to speak. Thus, you could still back up data on the Note 7 before getting rid of it.

T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T all agreed to push the battery-killing update as soon as it was announced, but Verizon said it didn’t want to inconvenience users during the holiday season. That’s particularly weird as several carriers weren’t even planning to push the update until January. Verizon was rightly derided for the statement, which ignores that customers have had months to exchange the device and all accessories at no cost. Anyone who hasn’t done it yet is just being stubborn.

The OTA will start rolling out on December 27th with T-Mobile. The next round will be on January 5th with AT&T and Verizon (now that it has agreed). Sprint will be the last to send out the update on January 8th. Samsung says that 93% of Note 7s have been returned, so very few people will be affected by the update. I’m sure they’ll all be very vocal about it, though.

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