UPDATE 10/10/2016 7:00 PM PST - Samsung released a statement that urges its customers to power down and stop using the Note 7 (including replacements). There have been reports that Samsung has halted production, but those remain unconfirmed at this time. We've included the official statement at the end of the article.
Some tech sites do unboxing articles/videos, but today I find myself in the odd position of doing a reboxing article covering the Samsung Galaxy Note 7's return packaging. One of the most interesting aspects of the recall is the thermonuclear-proof box that Samsung sent over to contain its exploding progeny.
I recently purchased a brand spanking new Samsung Note 7 to replace my aging, yet very trustworthy, Note 3. Samsung, you are likely aware, has issued a global recall of its Note 7 phones due to "flammability" issues. Some have characterized what happens to the Note 7's battery as "exploding," which is an interesting new feature that might be useful in a self-defense situation. Unfortunately, there is no pin you can pull or button you can press to activate the feature. Instead, recharging the little ticking time bomb activates the feature, so a global recall was a must.
The Inert Beginnings
Samsung initially issued the recall without the assistance of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (which would have barred continued sales), so I was aware that they were still shipping the new (but flawed) units. Sure enough, my phone shipped even though Samsung had already issued the global recall notice. The Note 7 arrived at my home without further fanfare (10:23 AM, 9/1/16), and lo and behold, a friendly recall notice landed in my inbox the next day (6:24 PM, 9/2/2016).
September 7 found the first of many, many emails in my inbox declaring that I could get my replacement. Apparently, my Blue Coral model was out of stock, so I waited patiently whilst charging my phone in a metal bowl (finally, a use for that old dusty Christmas tin in my garage). In the meantime, T-Mobile pushed out an irritating firmware update that flashed an ominous warning on my screen every time I charged the device.
My replacement phone finally shipped on September 29, and it arrived on October 3. Samsung sent the full retail package, and I even got a new dose of the accessories, including the headphones, chargers, stylus tips, and so on. Samsung sent over a terse reminder that I had to return the old phone promptly or they would charge me for the new phone, which is understandable, as the company shipped the phone before it received my old one (a nice touch).
A few days later, an interesting box fluttered down onto my doorstep.
The Return Box Arrives
The box contained another box, along with a pair of blue gloves and a few forms outlining the return process. Samsung's soothing letter provided a sincere-looking apology (well, it says it's sincere), and an idiot-proof picture guide to repacking and returning the phone.
The inner box (which you return the phone in) has a flame resistant ceramic fiber paper lining, so Samsung provided the blue gloves so that users who are sensitive to such things would not suffer some type of reaction.
The Flamethrower-Proof Box Within The Box
The box within the box is the most interesting. It's sturdy and has a ceramic fiber lining that is about a quarter-inch thick and covers the entire interior surface. The outside of the box has a number of ominous-looking caution signs that warn the contents are of the explosive variety.
The return package arrived via next-day airmail, but the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) strictly prohibits the returned Note 7 from traveling on an aircraft, as noted on the box. Funny that; we had just journeyed together to Seoul without issue (and not by ground or boat).
The DOT also affixed five pages of serious-looking documents to the return box. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration weighed in and outlined all of the various perils of Samsung's Note 7, and it also lists just about every regulation known to man associated with anything of the lithium-ion persuasion. The note gives us a "special permit" to ship said hazardous materials back to Samsung.
The flameproof box has another small box inside that you nestle your old phone into, and off it goes. Of course, you should make sure to delete all of the data off your old device before shipping it off, which Samsung didn’t "note" in the picture story.
Interestingly, the thick ceramic-clad flaps do not line up as a normal box would, and there is a big overlap that leaves quite the gap, even after taping (pictured). The picture guide doesn't mention that the box will not seal very well, so I just taped mine to match the pre-taped bottom (while visualizing flames shooting from the gap).
The box has a prepaid label addressed to a Paul Walker in Coppell, Texas. Samsung didn't provide return instructions beyond the picture of a big brown UPS truck, so I guess I will be off to UPS on Monday to return the Note 7 back to the Samsung mothership (armory?).
A Hopeless Fanboy
My experience with the RMA process is from Samsung itself (I ordered my phone from them), so I'm not sure if all vendors use the same process. In all, it is a rather easy and simple return process, but you can opt just to get a refund instead. There are unconfirmed reports of a few of the replacement Note 7s setting themselves afire, so I might have the pleasure of repeating this process in the future.
It is notable that other competing phones with lithium-ion batteries have been reported to suffer from spontaneous combustion, but I can't remember any other company recalling their phones. In my opinion, Samsung is doing the right thing while others haven't, and the company is suffering a massive backlash when we should applaud it for doing the right thing. Of course, that likely isn't a popular opinion.
In either case, my experience with the Note 7 has been resoundingly positive (it’s fast and responsive and has a great camera), so I will use it for a few years. However, I will miss the ability to use it to start a campfire or as a signal flare (you never know when you will find yourself in a survival situation). I still have 320GB of storage in the palm of my hand, along with a fancy new green battery icon. What more could a storage guy want?
We are working with relevant regulatory bodies to investigate the recently reported cases involving the Galaxy Note7. Because consumers’ safety remains our top priority, Samsung will ask all carrier and retail partners globally to stop sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note7 while the investigation is taking place.We remain committed to working diligently with appropriate regulatory authorities to take all necessary steps to resolve the situation. Consumers with either an original Galaxy Note7 or replacement Galaxy Note7 device should power down and stop using the device and take advantage of the remedies available.