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Replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Phones Catch Fire

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Meanwhile, Samsung just can't get it right. After reports that its Galaxy Note 7 was literally catching fire, the company moved to give customers replacement phones. Well, now it turns out some of those phones are having similar problems. And tonight Samsung announced they are halting all sales of those devices. NPR's Aarti Shahani reports.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: Inside the world of consumer tech where people know products go buggy all the time, the Note 7 fail is an epic fail.

PATRICK MOORHEAD: This is actually an unprecedented situation.

SHAHANI: Patrick Moorhead is an analyst with Moor Insights, and he's seen a lot of recalls over the decades.

MOORHEAD: And I've never seen anything like this.

SHAHANI: When the first round of Note 7 phones caught on fire, he thought Samsung was being proactive. Here in the U.S., phone carriers trusted the company to handle it. Samsung didn't wait for regulators to force its hand and issued a voluntary recall with a presumably easy fix - replace faulty batteries.

MOORHEAD: There were two battery manufacturers. One battery manufacturer was good. The other battery manufacturer was not good.

SHAHANI: So take the good, and toss out the bad. But...

MOORHEAD: It doesn't appear as if that worked. Something else appears to have gone wrong here.

SHAHANI: Given that there are replacement phones catching on fire. So the plot thickens, and Moorhead says the really troubling part for Samsung's leaders is they may not know what the issue is.

MOORHEAD: And I think that what everybody must be asking is, wait a second; you know, Samsung, you do hundreds and millions of phones. Did you lose the recipe here?

SHAHANI: Samsung is being squishy on the details. The company says in a statement that, quote, "we are readjusting our supply," end quote, without specifying if its supply of batteries or another phone part. The company will not confirm reports that they've suspended all production of the Note 7. Analyst Carolina Milanesi thinks that might be a good idea and poses a rhetorical question.

CAROLINA MILANESI: Do they call it a day, and there's not going to be a Note 7 in the market, and they just, you know, do their holiday season with what they have?

SHAHANI: This is a key point. The Note 7 was not made to be a big moneymaker. It's made to build the brand, justify Samsung's high price tags across products. Trying to fix the Note 7 and failing to fix it gives the story a longer shelf life. Milanesi says one player who really stands to benefit here, by the way, is not the phone maker Apple but Google.

MILANESI: Oh, it's perfect timing for Google.

SHAHANI: Which is coming out with its own phone called Pixel. Milanesi says consumers who use Android probably won't switch over to Apple, which has a completely different operating system. But she could definitely see a Samsung buyer switching to Google.

MILANESI: Obviously they didn't come out with a phone because they wanted to hurt Samsung, but indirectly they are hurting.

SHAHANI: The Consumer Products Safety Commission is urging all Note 7 users to stop using their device and is investigating what went wrong. Aarti Shahani, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.