HONG KONG — Samsung’s fire-prone smartphone that sparked a global crisis is making a comeback.
The world’s largest smartphone maker says it’s resurrecting the Galaxy Note 7 by selling a cheaper, refurbished version in South Korea starting Friday.
Understandably, Samsung has chosen to change the name of the phone, whose initial incarnation it had to recall and kill off after a some customers reported their devices burst into flames.
The revamped phone is called the Galaxy Note FE, short for Fan Edition. And for those who need a bit of convincing to buy a new version of a device that became synonymous with spontaneous combustion, Samsung has thrown in a few perks.
Most important, the Note FE will come with lower capacity batteries that have undergone the company’s latest safety test. Earlier this year, Samsung blamed poorly designed and manufactured batteries for the overheating problems that caused some of the Note 7 phones to catch fire.
The rejiggered phone will sell for 699,600 won ($610), about 30% less than the original Note 7. It also comes with updated software and Bixby, Samsung’s new artificial intelligence assistant.
But Note 7 fans outside South Korea will have to wait to get their hands on the new devices. Samsung says it hasn’t made a decision yet on selling the Note FE in other countries. The company has said in the past it has no plans to sell refurbished Note 7 devices in the United States.
Samsung is touting the devices, which are made from unused Note 7 phones and spare parts, as an “eco-friendly” project to avoid waste. It came under pressure from Greenpeace last year to provide detailed information on how it would dispose of the millions of recalled devices.
The Note FE should also help the Samsung recoup some of the financial losses resulting from the fiasco, which wiped out billions in profit.
But with a limited run of 400,000 devices to start, it’s “a drop in the ocean, considering Samsung sells a few million of the phone every time a new version launches,” said Kiranjeet Kaur, an analyst with research firm IDC.
The company has shown resilience following the Note 7 debacle, reporting bumper profits of nearly $9 billion for the first quarter of 2017, a jump of almost 50% from a year ago.
A successful launch of the Note FE would help show Samsung has successfully resolved the problems that bedeviled the Note 7. For the initial recall last year, Samsung offered replacement devices that some customers said also caught fire, deepening the company’s crisis.
But if anything goes wrong with the revamped version, “this could just be called a suicide attempt by Samsung,” Kauer said.
The smartphone giant is already taking some heat on social media over its name choice, with some users suggesting FE stands for “Fiery Explosion.”