By Lee Min-hyung
Samsung Electronics has begun a software update to cap the battery charging capacity of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone at 15 percent, in a desperate bid to retrieve all remaining handsets here.
This is the latest in a series of countermeasures to kill the ill-fated handset due to lingering safety concerns over its reported battery fires.
Since late last year, the firm prevented unreturned Note 7 devices from charging and connecting to mobile networks in Australia and Canada.
The company, however, did not adopt the relatively hard-line measures in the Korean market, as its return rate here remains lower than overseas markets.
"For each marketplace, we adopt different measures to retrieve the handset, as we have to conduct a thorough discussion with regulatory bodies and mobile carriers for each country," a Samsung Electronics spokeswoman said. "In Korea, more than 95 percent of Note 7 users have so far returned their devices."
But the company still remains in dilemma over its policy here, as the latest software update is not mandatory for Korean users. Currently, the company cannot force users to update their devices via the software update, leading some remaining customers to continue to use the handset.
"For now, no specific measures have been drawn to resolve the issue," said the official. "We can only encourage existing Note 7 users to return their devices by notifying them of the software update."
The much-hyped handset made its global debut in mid-August. Korea was the second-largest market in terms of its sales volume of some 550,000, following some 1.9 million in the U.S.
In the U.S. market, the company has agreed with the country's major mobile carriers ― including AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile ― over the measure to kill the device. Verizon previously rejected the Samsung request, as the firm was of the position that this could cause problems in the case of emergencies. But starting Jan. 5, the company also joined the move, restricting Note 7 users there from charging their handsets at all.
For Korea, the company started restricting the Note 7 battery from charging over 60 percent. The measure took effect to some extent, helping raise the return rate here above 90 percent. But concerns that continuing reports over its possible fires can tarnish the firm's brand image, the company has decided to tighten charging to 15 percent.