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Samsung to conclude battery as cause of Note 7 fire

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By Yoon Sung-won

Samsung Electronics will release the investigation results over the cause of the Galaxy Note 7's fire problems, Jan. 23, according to industry sources Monday.

Although the company has tested multiple possible causes from the smartphone's design to its software for the last three months, expectations are that the world's largest smartphone maker will maintain that flaws in the battery cell's internal structure are the major cause.

Samsung Electronics' mobile business chief Koh Dong-jin is likely to reveal the results, as he announced the launch of the Note 7 and its global recall and discontinuance.

"We plan to announce the cause of the Galaxy Note 7's fire problem," a source from Samsung Electronics said, adding the major cause was the "battery cell."

Since October last year, Samsung Electronics has mounted the investigation and pledged to reveal the cause of the fire regardless of discontinuing the handset. This has been seen as a move to restore customer confidence to some extent before launching its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S8, this year.

After the launch of the Note 7 in August, Samsung Electronics halted selling the smartphone in September due to the unexpected fire problem. The first batch of Note 7s, available in the market at the time of the first selling suspension, used batteries made by Samsung SDI. Samsung Electronics had said the cause was the battery cell.

Afterwards, Samsung Electronics stopped using Samsung SDI-made batteries and started using ones made by China's ATL. But the fire problems continued to be reported around the globe, forcing the company to discontinue manufacturing and sales of the Note 7 worldwide.

According to industry sources, the Samsung Electronics' investigation has failed to specify the conditions that cause the fire. This has made the company acknowledge that the fire problem is caused by flaws in the battery, not the whole handset.

Samsung Electronics has introduced new features such as iris recognition, waterproofing and dust proofing for the Note 7 and this elevated the density of components inside the handset.

The company also used a 3,500mAh battery, which has a significantly larger capacity compared to the Note 5's 3,000mAh. But even with the increase in battery capacity, the company applied the same battery process verification.

"It is possible that the adoption of outdated battery process verifications for new battery structures caused unexpected flaws, which consequently led to fire problem," an industry insider said.

Meanwhile, Samsung Electronics has separately requested a third-party investigation from the U.S. safety consulting and certification company UL for the Note 7 fire problems. In Korea, the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards (KATS) has delegated another investigation to the Korea Testing Laboratory (KTL).

Samsung Electronics' upcoming announcement will be based on its own investigation as well as on one by the Illinois-based safety certification company as the two separate investigation results pointed to the battery cells as the main cause of the fire problem.

KATS said the investigation by KTL is still underway regardless of what Samsung Electronics has to say in its announcement.

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