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AT&T and T-Mobile have halted all Samsung Note 7 distribution amid more reports of ‘safe’ models igniting

The move follows several incidents, including one smoking phone that caused a Southwest flight to be canceled. 

A Samsung Galaxy Note 7 replacement unit that caught fire in Virginia.
Shawn Minter via The Verge

It’s been more than a month since Samsung first issued a global recall of its Galaxy Note 7 phones and began replacing them as a result of a battery flaw that caused the devices to explode. As of today, at least five of those replacement phones have overheated or caught fire.

Now, AT&T — which originally said it would allow its customers to replace their Samsung devices with any other phone — will no longer offer replacement Galaxy Note 7s until the investigation into the overheating of the “safe” phones is complete.

“Based on recent reports, we’re no longer exchanging new Note 7s at this time, pending further investigation of these reported incidents,” an AT&T spokesperson said in a statement. “We still encourage customers with a recalled Note 7 to visit an AT&T location to exchange that device for another Samsung smartphone or other smartphone of their choice.”

T-Mobile continues to sell the replacement Note 7 to new and existing Note 7 customers, though it will offer refunds or another device to customers who decide they don't want their replacement Note 7. Update, 5 pm PT: T-Mobile has now decided it too will suspend all sales and exchanges of the Note 7. The carrier will also give any customers who return their Note 7 a $25 credit on their bill.)

Sprint is offering the replacement Note 7 as an option for original Note 7 customers but is also allowing customers to trade in replacement phones for another smartphone, as is Verizon. However, Verizon said it is back-ordered on replacement devices at this point, with no inventory available.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission — which originally certified the replacement phones for use in the recall — said it was investigating the replacement phones but has not said whether it still believes the devices are safe.

Just this morning, in fact, another replacement device caught fire in Virginia, mere days after a Note 7 device overheated on a Southwest Airlines plane, causing the airline to cancel the flight. Another phone caught fire on Tuesday in Kentucky and, as The Verge reported, Samsung said nothing about it.

Instead, the owner of the phone, Michael Klering, inadvertently received a text message from the Samsung representative who had reached out to him to retrieve the phone. The message, apparently intended for another Samsung employee, said, “Just now got this. I can try and slow him down if we think it will matter, or we just let him do what he keeps threatening to do and see if he does it.”

Here is the chronology of events thus far:

Sept. 2: Samsung halts all sales of the Galaxy Note 7 amid reports of 35 cases of battery-related issues.

Sept. 8: The Federal Aviation Administration strongly advises fliers not to use or charge phones aboard planes.

Sept. 9: Samsung begins working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to issue a formal recall.

Sept. 15: Samsung and the CPSC issue a formal recall after a total of 92 battery-related incidents. At this point, fewer than 15 percent of devices had been returned.

Sept. 20: Samsung begins working with carriers on a software update that will let users know if their unit is affected by the recall.

Oct. 4: A replacement phone catches fire in Kentucky, and Samsung doesn’t say anything.

Oct. 5: A replacement phone overheats and catches fire on a Southwest Airlines flight, and the CPSC begins an investigation into the incident.

Oct. 8: Another replacement phone catches fire in Minnesota.

Oct. 9: A replacement phone catches fire in Virginia. AT&T says it won’t replace customer phones with Galaxy Note 7s.

T-Mobile and Verizon also say they won’t distribute replacement Note 7s, pending the outcome of the CPSC and Samsung investigations.

Oct. 10: (updated Oct. 10 2:24 p.m.): Spring and Best Buy also say the companies will cease sales of replacement Galaxy Note 7 phones.

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