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Broken Promises: My frustration with the Samsung Note 20 Ultra exploding battery

To say I was angry when Samsung South Africa refused to repair and take responsibility of my pricey Galaxy Note 20 Ultra which fell apart after 24 months due to a manufacturing battery defect would be an understatement. I'm appalled, writes Daniel Mnguni.

The Story, from an appalled Samsung fanatic, (Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G user) in South Africa

By Daniel Mnguni

Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: “Power phone description to empower your work.Samsung used this description to introduce their new flagship smartphone back in 2020. The tech company employs a multifaceted marketing strategy to promote their new smartphones, which usually encompass major product launch events like the “Unpacked,” advertising campaigns with billboards at airports like the OR Tambo International, influencer and celebrity endorsements through activations in malls like Sandton City, in addition to significant retail and online presence. Whether you are a tech enthusiast or not, you will sense the excitement surrounding Samsung’s new smartphones with every resulting new launch.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll understand why I then decided to spend R29,999 at TakeALot for my new phone that was I truly believed was not only “built to empower your business”, but was designed with an enthusiastic start-up entrepreneur like myself in mind.

In all honesty, the phone did not disappoint. With my line of work as a real estate agent and a contributing writer with NOWinSA, the phone really made my life and work easy. I didn’t need to carry a camera to cover a story, I knew I could take quality pictures and videos day or night without worrying about my battery and the quality of images and videos.

All of a sudden, things changed. Within days, my phone’s back cover started popping out as if the battery had turned into self-raising flour. In a flash, the back cover got fully detached from the phone, giving the impression that the phone would explode at any attempt to charge it. This experience was very scary for me, prompting me to investigate if this issue was unique to me, or it’s happening to many others. After scouring the internet, ut turned out this was unfortunately a common occurence with the Galaxy Note line: below are my findings.

“Within days, my phone’s back cover started popping out as if the battery had turned into self-raising flour.” – Daniel Mnguni

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was recalled in September 2016 due to reports of battery overheating and fires. The recall was initiated after the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a formal recall of the device, citing a serious burn hazard to consumers.

The recall involved approximately 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 smartphones sold before September 15, 2016. As a result of these incidents, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and many airlines advised passengers not to turn on or charge the phone on planes, and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission told people to stop using the phone.

To investigate further, I took this issue to Twitter, and I came across a well-known content creator Arun Maini (@Mrwhosetheboss), who has over 18.9 million YouTube subscribers and has created a viral video titled ‘Samsung Phones are Blowing Up-Here’s Why‘ after three of his Samsung phone batteries (from his Galaxy flagship collection) blew up because of the UK heatwave at the time (June 2022). The video, understandably so, went on to garner over 7.3 million YouTube views at the time of writing this article.

Other X users has since shared their own similar encounters, with another (@xeetechcare) noting that three of his phones (Note 10+, Z fold 2 and S20) had blown up. “It never happened to any other phones in the collection no matter how old. Only Samsung devices,” the message reads.

As I researched further, it turned out it’s an all too familiar occurrence across the globe, even for exorbitant phones like the Z Fold 2 – which today (June 2024) fetches a staggering R41, 000 to R47, 000.

To understand how huge a problem this has become, check out this tweet (now X) from Aussie filmmaker and content creator Sam Beckman as he shared his frustration with an expanding Z Fold 2 battery. “Sad that my old Galaxy Z Fold 2 has joined the club of Samsung Phones having issues with expanding batteries. This has been sitting out, on display for a while (i.e. not in a box), but alas, it’s gone 😭,” he shared.

Tech reviewer Alvin, who goes by @sondesix on X, cautioned Samsung’s reluctance to investigate the matter, saying: “If Samsung doesn’t want to investigate this issue, they are in big trouble,” adding “I know that any brand can have the same issue where the battery expands to the point that the back cover of the phone gets loose, but it is much worse on Samsungs,” Alvin shared referencing Beckman’s viral YouTube post.

Or Fiona (as seen in the above X post) with her relatively new Galaxy S23 Ultra, which reportedly blew up hardly six months after purchase.

Or Zaryab Khan who found 11 phones in his extensive collection with swollen batteries, including an S20 FE, “and all of them were Samsung phones,” he says.

With this boggling findings in mind, I reached out to Samsung South Africa, presented my case, and wrote a formal complaint letter to address my issues and frustrations with my now useless S20 Ultra.

They responded to me with the following message: “We have carefully reviewed your case, including the details of the purchase and the issues you described. We understand your concerns and the impact this issue has had on your professional life. However, as per our warranty policy, the warranty period for your device is 24 months from the date of purchase.”

In addition, they stated: “We are unable to provide a complimentary inspection, repair, or replacement for your device under the warranty terms. Any repairs or services required for your Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra would need to be carried out at your own cost.”

Conclusion: Samsung’s Broken Promises

While to my understanding, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra battery – like many Galaxy flagships – is expected to last for years without problems, it’s sad that in some cases as noted earlier this may not be the case, and Samsung appears not to be taking this issue serious – even after so many well-documented complaints across the world.

Common occurrence: imagine spending R30, 000 to R40,000 on a new phone only for it to fall apart few months down the line?

It’s one thing to be expected to replace a battery every 12 months – and even less for some users – for such a pricey gadget, and another for a reputable tech company like Samsung to turn a blind eye on the issue, more-so given the potential health and safety hazard it poses.

Once again, imagine spending R40,000 on a new phone (the Z Fold), only for it to fall apart after 24 months due to a manufacturing defect, and the manufacturer chooses not to take responsibility.

As ‘@MrWhosetheboss’ argued, it is worrying that it’s mainly Samsung phone batteries that are swelling than any other brands. For an example, my partner uses an iPhone 8, which was bought as back as 2017. Although it is charged up to 10 times a day, it’s still in tact and functions fairly well. However, what I fail to understand is why would Samsung, a company that sells as many as 226.6 million units (with a global market share of 19.4% as per IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, January 15, 2024), hasn’t done anything about this.

Based on these staggering findings, I shutter to think about the number of units that will get to experience this battery issue at some point or the other if left unattended. Many would remember Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphones exploding due to lithium-ion battery defect, putting consumers at the risk of potentially catastrophic fire events – before they were subsequently withdrawn in 2017.

Before the worst can happen, one can only hope Samsung will take this issue – and its customers seriously – and do something about it.

Editor's Desk
Editor's Desk
Curated by editor-in-chief, Tankiso Komane, this special collection of articles from the Editor's Desk unpacks topics of the day, including commentary, in-depth analysis and partner content.
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