Why it matters to you
The Note 7 isn’t dead yet. Samsung is considering selling refurbished units of the ill-fated phone in select markets later this year.
Update: Added ETNews report regarding an early July launch in South Korea.
Samsung is not one to let recalled phones go to waste — even fire-prone ones. The smartphone maker announced it is investigating ways to recycle the Galaxy Note 7 in an environmentally conscious way, which may include selling refurbished versions of the previously recalled device. Here is everything we have heard about the plan.
Where and when will it be sold?
Samsung hasn’t stated where it wants to release a refurbished Note 7, but we would be willing to bet the answer is something like, “Anywhere that will take them.” Rumors have covered a potential release in South Korea, India, and Vietnam. A spokesperson for Samsung India denied the reports a refurbished Note 7 would be sold there.
According to a report from ETNews by way of Android Authority, Samsung is planning a July 7 release for the refurbished Note 7 in South Korea and will call the device the Galaxy Note FE. The phablet will reportedly also feature Bixby, the company’s new virtual assistant. ETNews says Samsung was planning a late June release but wanted to increase production substantially, pushing launch into early July.
South Korea may be Samsung’s test market for the re-released Note 7 and for refurbished phones in general, ETNews previously reported. It would be the first time Samsung has sold a refurbished phone in its home country, and the report states it doesn’t require government approval to do so. However, it would still need to pass safety checks with authorities.
A June release in South Korea is possible, helping Samsung bridge the gap between the release of the Galaxy S8 and any subsequent release of the rumored Galaxy Note 8, likely to come in September or soon afterwards. The period is traditionally quiet for smartphone sales in South Korea, according to ETNews.
Before this, South Korea’s Electronic Times said Samsung will begin selling refurbished Note 7 phones in its home country in July or August, and aims to sell between 400,000 and 500,000.
What will change?
If Samsung is to sell the Note 7 again, the most obvious change it will have to make is to stop it catching fire. To do this, the battery will be reduced in capacity from 3,500mAh to 3,200mAh, according to a report from ETNews. It echoes previous information leaked in April, when images of a Galaxy Note 7 phone with a smaller battery were published online. The Note 7’s battery was squeezed into the original device, which was one of the primary causes of the fires, so a smaller cell should avoid this.
The name may be changed to the Galaxy Note 7 R, with the R presumably standing for refurbished (or recall, if we’re feeling sarcastic), says ETNews and several other sources. The same report, which initially said the Note 7 R will go on sale in South Korea this June, also added the device will cost the local equivalent of $620. That’s at least $200 less than the Note 7 cost when it first went on sale. It’s also less than the newly released Galaxy S8.
Rumors had previously spread about the plan, but Samsung confirmed its intention in a statement released at the end of March 2017. It said some of its existing Note 7s would be “considered to be used as refurbished or rental phones,” while others would be subjected to recycling processes that will extract metals like copper, nickel, gold, and silver from the phone’s components. “The objective of introducing refurbished devices is solely to reduce and minimize any environmental impact,” the company said.
It’s not about to unleash millions of refurbished phones immediately though. Samsung says it will work with local authorities and carriers in markets where it intends to sell the devices, ensuring not only that there is demand, but also the new Note 7 phones pass regulatory checks. This is time consuming, and will affect any eventual release date.
Environmental activists have urged Samsung to recycle the millions of Note 7 devices consumers returned after the recall. It’s a hot enough topic that members of Greenpeace interrupted a Samsung news conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to get the message across.
In a statement, the activist group said it welcomed Samsung’s decision to recycle some phones, and urged the company to carry out its plans in a “verifiable” manner. “Samsung’s announcement is the first step to show its effort to set a new path for recycling smartphones starting with Note 7s,” Greenpeace wrote in a blog post. “Greenpeace will make sure Samsung takes into account the voice of millions of our supporters and abides by its commitment.”
The Galaxy Note 7 R, or any refurbished model of the Note 7 phone, hasn’t been officially announced. We’ll keep you updated here regarding rumors and news.