A Samsung Smartphone That Was Supposed to Not Explode Just Caused a Southwest Flight to Evacuate

Caution: Battery may explode at any moment.

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A passenger’s Galaxy Note 7 began emitting plumes of smoke on an airplane Wednesday morning, forcing the Southwest Airlines flight to evacuate while still at the gate.

Here’s the thing: The passenger bought his Note 7 after the exploding smartphones had been recalled.

Brian Green told the Verge that he had just picked up the phone on Sept. 21. This is bad news for Samsung, which recalled the Galaxy Note 7 in September after several instances in which the phone’s battery exploded. A week after the recall announcement on Sept. 2, Samsung instructed customers with affected phones to power down their phones immediately and replace them with a purportedly safer version, and the Federal Aviation Administration warned passengers not to use or charge their Note 7 phones while in flight or stow them in their carry-on luggage.


But following this incident, it seems possible that the battery issue might not be quite fixed—or that the company is still distributing older models that have the problem.

The Verge reports:

Green said that he had powered down the phone as requested by the flight crew and put it in his pocket when it began smoking. He dropped it on the floor of the plane and a “thick grey-green angry smoke” was pouring out of the device. Green’s colleague went back onto the plane to retrieve some personal belongings and said that the phone had burned through the carpet and scorched the subfloor of the plane.

The Verge reported that Green had already replaced his phone with an iPhone 7, which was released Sept. 7, just days before Samsung’s recall. Samsung did not respond to the Verge, nor to a request for comment from Slate.*


Exploding batteries are hardly a new phenomenon. As Matthew N. Eisler recently wrote in Slate, lithium-ion batteries, which are used in the Galaxy Note 7 and most other wireless devices, have been exploding since the 1990s. In 2006, Sony recalled 9.6 million batteries; just this year, the International Civil Aviation Organization issued a ban on shipping lithium-ion batteries as cargo on passenger aircrafts. In his piece, Eisler suggested that the exploding batteries could in part be a result of the U.S.’s lack of uniform safety protocols, specifically regarding how the chemically precarious batteries are transported and disposed.

“Scientists are working on safer alternatives, but we should expect many more unpleasant surprises from the existing technology in the interim,” Eisler ominously predicted after the Samsung recall.

Clearly he was right.

* Update, 4:28 p.m. A Samsung representative emailed the following statement about the phone incident:

Until we are able to retrieve the device, we cannot confirm that this incident involves the new Note7. We are working with the authorities and Southwest now to recover the device and confirm the cause. Once we have examined the device we will have more information to share.