It has been almost two months since Samsung killed the Galaxy Note 7 after recalling the device twice. The Korean company is still investigating what caused the Note 7 batteries to explode, and the company is expected to come out with an official statement by the end of December. It looks like outside experts have been quicker at identifying the problem than engineers who designed the phablets.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7
Image source: Samsung.com (Screenshot)

‘Aggressive design’ caused the Note 7 to explode

Hardware experts at Instrumental cracked open a Galaxy Note 7 to figure out the cause of explosions. An aggressive design was found to be the culprit. Instrumental said that Samsung used a pair of polymer layers drenched in electrolytes to separate the positive layer of lithium cobalt oxide with the negative layer made of graphite. When the positive and negative layers come in contact, they cause the electrolytes to heat up and catch fire.

In its attempt to design a ridiculously slim phablet, Samsung compressed the battery while packing as much capacity as possible. The pressure caused the “separator” layer of electrolytes to get damaged easily. Also, the battery tends to swell a little due to pressure created by pushing on the back cover. For instance, placing the smartphone in your back pocket and sitting on a chair could cause the battery to swell slightly.

Samsung knew about the risks of Galaxy Note 7 explosions

The worse thing is, claims Instrumental, that Samsung engineers knew all along about the risks of employing a highly compressed battery design. They still “took a deliberate step towards danger.” The Korean company was trying hard to be innovative. It rushed the launch of Galaxy Note 7 to gain a competitive edge over Apple’s iPhone 7.

Instrumental’s claims corroborate with a statement from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC said a few months ago that the Galaxy Note 7’s battery was “too big for its compartment and the tight space pinched the battery.” Even if the Note 7s didn’t catch fire soon after the launch, the phone’s aggressive design would have caused it to swell massively anyway, believe Instrumental experts.

Samsung deliberately chose to shoot itself in the foot

The design flaws could easily have been detected in tests. Most smartphone vendors rely on third-party firms for safety testing. But Samsung broke the protocol by testing the Galaxy Note 7 in-house. The Korean company’s existing test infrastructure and process failed them, said Instrumental.

On its part, Samsung initially blamed batteries supplied by its sister firm Samsung SDI for explosions. But the company was left red-faced when supposedly safe Galaxy Note 7 units with batteries from another supplier also started catching fire. Samsung ran full-page ads in major US newspapers to apologize to its customers for the debacle.