Stephen Ellison

Samsung Note 7 Troubles Mount With Defective Replacement Phones

Samsung Electronics seemed to have its smartphone troubles under control - until authorities had to evacuate a Southwest Airlines flight in Kentucky last week for an incident that involved a replacement phone.

The reason: Authorities said a Samsung smartphone started smoking and making "popping" noises, just moments after its owner had boarded the plane and turned off the device.

Passenger Brian Green, 43, says the device was a Galaxy Note 7 he had picked up from an authorized AT&T retailer Sept. 21 as a replacement for another Note 7 phone he returned when Samsung announced a global recall a week earlier. The recall came after a series of incidents last month in which Note 7 batteries overheated or caught fire. But Samsung had promised that the replacement models were safe.

Reports of more replacement phones catching fire are trickling in, and the South Korean tech giant faces more scrutiny after earlier criticism for being slow to react and sending confusing signals in the first days of the recall.

"They're in a really tricky spot," said Ben Bajarin, a tech industry analyst with the Creative Strategies research firm. "There's such a stigma around this device now that it's hard to see how sales can do well going forward."

Consider Green's reaction: "I really liked the device. It had a lot of nice features," he told The Associated Press in an interview Friday. But after the incident on the plane, he bought a new iPhone 7 from Apple, rather than take his chances with yet another Samsung Note. "At this point, I don't want to mess with it anymore."

Authorities haven't confirmed what model of Samsung phone was involved in last week's incident. A spokeswoman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission said Friday that her agency is still investigating and had no further information.

AT&T, one of the nation's largest phone retailers, said Sunday that it will stop giving customers the replacement phones.

"We're no longer exchanging new Note 7s at this time, pending further investigation of these reported incidents," A&T said in a statement.

AT&T encouraged customers with Note 7 phones to exchange them for other products. The company says it hasn't sold Note 7 phones since the initial recall was announced.

Verizon, another major seller of smartphones, said it doesn't have any Note 7 phones but they are on back order. Sprint said customers can exchange their replacement Note 7 phones for any other device while the situation is being investigated.

The Galaxy Note 7, which sells for $850 to $890, competes in the high-end smartphone market with Apple, which recently released a new iPhone 7, and other premium brands such as Google's new Pixel phones.

Samsung says it has recalled about 2.5 million Note 7 devices around the world since problems emerged last month. Analysts estimated the recall would cost the South Korean tech giant as much as $1.8 billion.

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