It’s been a rough month for Li-ion smartphone batteries. I’ve chronicled the unfortunate events Samsung has experienced with its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone in prior posts: Samsung is Just the Latest and The Cost of Battery Failure. The October 24 issue of The Wall Street Journal provides the latest update in its article, “The Fatal Mistake That Doomed Samsung’s Galaxy Note.”

Fear: Samsung Incident Triggers a Wide-Ranging Inquiry into Li-ion Batteries

The WSJ article provides the best, most detailed description I’ve read of what transpired at Samsung from its recognizing an opportunity to overtake the Apple iPhone cachet—Samsung skipped the Galaxy Note 6 nomenclature and went directly from 5 to 7 so that it could position itself directly against the iPhone 7—through the aftermath of discontinuing the product. The latest update on the cost to Samsung is that “investors have shaved off roughly $20 billion in Samsung’s market value. The company has said the recall would cost it $5 billion or more, including lost sales.”

U.S. senators Bill Nelson, of Florida, and Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, have now asked for more details about Samsung’s communication with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and its handling of the phone crisis. Last week, at the urging of CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye, the agency approved a proposal for a wide-ranging inquiry into lithium-ion and related batteries. “There are few things in life I’m reasonably confident of predicting; one of those is…we’re going to have yet another issue of lithium ion batteries catching fire” from a range of devices, said CPSC commissioner Robert Adler. “This is just a massive problem.”

Loathing: Battery Life is Still the Biggest Dislike of Smartphone Users

According to an article in Business Insider, ”There’s one thing everyone really wants from their smartphones,” the modern smartphone is perpetually improving with faster chipsets, better cameras, sharper displays and more refined software. But the one thing there’ll never be enough of is battery life. According to a recent survey, longer battery life was easily the most desired feature for U.S. smartphone users. As the graph below shows, things like water resistance and shatterproof screens are wanted, too, but they got less than half as much interest as longer battery life.


The catch-22 of conventional Li-ion battery design and production is that it can no longer provide the energy capacity that consumers want in their mobile devices. But try to pack more energy into a Li-ion battery to satisfy consumers, and you increase the chance of thermal runaway and a resulting explosion or fire. It’s a lose-lose proposition.