Gadgets for humans

Samsung may distribute an update to brick the Note 7 next week [Update: Confirmed]


It looks like it may finally be the end of the road for the Galaxy Note 7. If an image obtained by The Verge is anything to go by, Samsung’s preparing to distribute a firmware update for the US Cellular-branded model of the handset to prevent it from charging; rendering it useless once the battery runs flat.

“As of December 15, Samsung will modify the software to prevent the Galaxy Note 7 from charging. The phone will no longer work,” reads a text that an owner received from US Cellular on Thursday, December 8. However, there have been no other reports of customers receiving similar messages.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to determine the validity of the information. We’ve reached out to the carrier for comment — as has The Verge — but are still waiting to hear back. The idea of remotely disabling all Note 7 devices still in circulation doesn’t seem too far-fetched, though.

Over the course of the past few weeks, Samsung has partnered with operators in Australia, Canada and New Zealand to end network access and limit the maximum charge of the battery for customers in possession of a Note 7, which led many to speculate that the firm would ultimately kill the units at a later date.

It’s believed that the owners in the United States were the most reluctant to comply with the second recall and return their Note 7 in exchange for another device or a full cash refund — so it makes sense for Samsung to activate the kill switch in the region first, then move on to other countries.

At this stage, it’s unclear whether other major US operators are planning to disable their variants of the Note 7. As noted by The Verge, AT&T, Verizon and other service providers have rolled out updates in the past to disable features on the unit. For this reason, we think it’s safe to assume that they’ll be a part of this too.

Once the upgrade has been sent out, the Note 7 will be completely unusable. Samsung’s still offering customers the opportunity to return the phone or exchange it for another handset (and receive the difference in price credited to their account) — and it’s expected to continue to do so until all units are safely returned.

Just in case you need a refresher on the debacle: Samsung first recalled the Note 7 in mid-September after it was discovered that multiple units had burst into flames. It then replaced all devices with ‘safe’ models. However, in mid-October it was forced to recall them too after it was revealed that they were prone to overheating.

Update 11:30 AM ET: Samsung has confirmed that it is planning on disabling the Note 7’s charging ability with an update to its Note 7 recall page.

Though the company says 93 percent of the phones have been returned in the US so far, it’s going to make like a whole lot harder for owners of the last few devices:

To further increase participation, a software update will be released starting on December 19th that will prevent U.S. Galaxy Note7 devices from charging and will eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices.

Published December 9, 2016 — 10:40 UTC