Older Samsung phones could be hiding a dangerous battery problem

A photo of the Galaxy Z Fold 2
(Image credit: Future)

Stories of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 exploding were rife during 2016, and it seems like the issues that plagued the Note 7’s battery might be present, in some form or another, in a host of other Samsung models even from this decade. 

That's according to British YouTuber Mrwhosetheboss (aka Arun Rupesh Maini) discovered that an issue with Samsung phone batteries swelling among his huge collection of phones, all of which are stored in the same way and at the same temperature. While older iPhones, Google and Asus phones seemed perfectly fine, Mrwhosetheboss found that a range of Samsung phones appeared to have batteries at various stages of swelling. 

Some were visibly destroyed and damaged, but more worryingly, others were only found to have distorted after close inspection, including Samsung phones as recently released as the Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Galaxy S20 FE, both of which are only some two years old.

This is serious stuff as charging a damaged or swollen battery could be incredibly dangerous, with a risk of fire and harmful chemicals leaking. If you have a Samsung device that's around two generations old, then look out for a ‘popped’ appearance, with the back of the phone no longer aligning with the rest.

Battery swelling is generally caused by the degradation of the electrolyte in Lithium-ion batteries, which over time can reduce a batteries capacity for holding a charge and can see the electrolyte decompose and produce gas as a byproduct inside the battery thus causing it to swell. The swelling can cause the battery to strain a device's chassis and break through it, causing secondary damage to, say, a phone or laptop. 

At this stage, charging a battery can be dangerous as the electrolyte wouldn't be able to effectively facilitate the transfer of electrons between the positive and negative terminals of the battery, which would likely lead to a rapid build up of heat and potential risk of fire or even an explosion. 

Now Lithium-ion battery swelling is not unheard of across most phone brands but Arun and his friends in the tech industry have noticed Samsung phones were by far the most likely to malfunction, to the point where he now feels obligated to dispose of them in fireproof sleeves. 

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 review battery life

(Image credit: Future)

And you don't need to panic if you have say a Samsung Galaxy S10, as Arun and fellow YouTuber JerryRigEverything note that Samsung has a lot of protections in place to prevent swollen batteries from bursting. Nevertheless, we don't advise you try and charge a battery that has swollen significantly, and even those that may have swollen a little are effectively on borrowed time.

Samsung told us that it's looking into the the reported battery swelling issues and should be able to comment in more detail before too long. And Arun did note that his Samsung devices were collected for further research by the company and Samsung has yet to shed any more light on how that is going.

In our own experience, we've not encountered any battery swelling with our Samsung devices. This could be down to how we use them, with managing editor Roland Moore-Colyer regularly using multiple Samsung phones at once. Perhaps it's the storing or infrequent use of these Samsung phones that could be the issue.

Experts suggest storing old and irregularly used devices at around 50% charge as opposed to flat or fully charged.

With the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S23 looking set to be very similar to its predecessors, this could be a cause of concern for the South Korean giant and those who tend to hang on to their phones for a while. But given we've not heard about Galaxy S20, Galaxy S21, or Galaxy S22 batteries from swelling, perhaps future Samsung phones will be in the clear.

Again, if you have older Samsung phones in storage, we suggest you take a look at them to make sure their batteries are fine and decide whether they need a bit of a charge to be on the safe side.

So if you have a bunch of old devices lying around, or just want to keep your current phone topped up safely, our guide on the best portable chargers is a great place to start. And if you are searching for a Samsung alternative, why not look at the OnePlus 10 Pro which we compared directly to the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Andy Sansom
Trainee Writer

Andy is Tom’s Guide’s Trainee Writer, which means that he currently writes about pretty much everything we cover. He has previously worked in copywriting and content writing both freelance and for a leading business magazine. His interests include gaming, music and sports- particularly Formula One, football and badminton. Andy’s degree is in Creative Writing and he enjoys writing his own screenplays and submitting them to competitions in an attempt to justify three years of studying.