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Finally, Samsung opens up, fingers battery fault on Galaxy Note 7 fires

After months of studies and production checks, Smartphone giant Samsung has blamed faulty batteries for the fires that hit its flagship Galaxy Note 7 device last year, as it sought to draw a line under a damaging scandal.

The South Korean company was forced to discontinue the smartphone, originally intended to compete with Apple’s iPhone, after a chaotic recall that saw replacement devices also catching fire.

The debacle cost the company billions of dollars in lost profit and reputation.

Internal and independent investigations “concluded that batteries were found to be the cause of the Note 7 incidents”, Samsung said in a statement on Monday.

The head of its mobile business, Koh Dong-jin bowing before hundreds of reporters and cameramen at a press conference yesterday said “We sincerely apologise for the discomfort and concern we have caused to our customers”.

“We wanted to increase the battery capacity as much as possible. Our battery suppliers, in order to meet our needs, applied new designs and manufacturing technologies. Conclusively speaking, the cause of the Galaxy Note 7 burning incident was in the batteries.”

While apologizing for the defect and the recall of Galaxy 7 in 2016, Dong-jin said in September 2016, Samsung announced a recall of the oversized Galaxy Note 7 after several devices exploded or caught fire, with the company blaming batteries from a supplier.

When replacement phones – with batteries from another firm – also started to combust, the company decided to kill off the Note 7 for good.

In total, 3.1 million devices were recalled, as authorities around the world banned the device from use on planes and even from being placed in checked luggage. The cost of the recall is estimated at $5.3bn.

Samsung has since embarked on a campaign to restore its battered reputation, issuing repeated apologies and putting full-page advertisements in US newspapers, admitting it “fell short” on its promises.

Analysts said Samsung was looking to move on through the announcement, which did not implicate other devices.

Tom Kang, research director at Counterpoint Technology, told AFP news agency said “Consumers tend to be forgiving the first time,” arguing that “if it happens again; it will leave a lasting mark on Samsung’s quality and brand image”.

Samsung had concentrated on innovative design, thinness and battery capacity rather than safety, he said.

Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from South Korea’s capital, Seoul, said the “key test of consumer confidence” will come with this year’s launch of its next flagship handset: Galaxy S8.

The expected unveiling of the new phone at next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, has reportedly been delayed to ensure it had no safety problems.

*Additional reports from Aljazeera.com