It turns out you can't keep a bad phone down. With the launch of the highly anticipated Galaxy S8 approaching, Samsung announced plans today (March 27) to offer refurbished Galaxy Note 7s as part of an effort to minimize that discontinued handset's environmental impact.
Specifically, Samsung released a statement (opens in new tab) that it plans to recycle parts of the Note 7 to be used as refurbished or rental phones in some markets. It plans to remove the parts of the phablet that can be reused while extracting precious metals used in the phone's components — that includes copper, nickel, gold and silver — in what it called an eco-friendly way.
If you've forgotten about the Note 7 — and Samsung probably hopes you have — that big-screen phone launched last August to much fanfare. It quickly became apparent that there was a problem with the Note 7, though, as some consumers reported that the phone was catching fire. Samsung recalled the Note 7 in September, issued a new version that claimed to fix the problem and then faced a new spate of reports involving exploding phones.
By October, Samsung had discontinued the product altogether. As for the remaining Note 7s out in the wild, Samsung has issued a series of software updates aimed at disabling them, the most recent of which came out last week.
Samsung subsequently blamed the battery for the explosions, citing specific design and assembly problems that it's vowed to fix in future phones. With the flaws in the Note 7 identified, then, that left Samsung with a tricky problem to solve: what to do with the roughly 3 million Note 7s it's retrieved. The company had been under pressure from environmental groups, with Greenpeace interrupting Samsung's press event at last month's Mobile World Congress with a protest about the Note 7.
Reusing Note 7 parts in refurbished phones seemingly settles that question. Greenpeace said in a blog post that it would "make sure Samsung takes into account the voice of millions of our supporters and abides by its commitment."
Samsung's statement about its plans for phones with reclaimed Note 7 parts was notably vague about when and where those phones would show up. Samsung would only say that refurbished phones would only be available "where applicable," suggesting that it would work with regulatory authorities and carriers in different markets while also considering demand for the phones. "The markets and release dates will be determined accordingly," Samsung said.
In other words, don't expect a new-and-improved Galaxy Note 7 sales push. This sounds like Samsung is trying to salvage some useable parts, while its main focus will continue to be on developing new flagships. That includes the Galaxy S8, which will be unveiled later this week, as well as a new version of the Note, which Samsung has said will likely arrive later this year.