Samsung permanently stops production of Galaxy Note 7 over fire fears
Samsung has halted sales and production of Galaxy Note 7 smartphones amid reports of more fire risks in replacement devices.
The drastic decision came after South Korean safety officials said they suspect a new defect in the replacement phones that may not be related to its batteries.
A Samsung spokesman said: “For the benefit of consumers’ safety, we have stopped sales and exchanges of the Galaxy Note 7 and have consequently decided to permanently stop production.”
The company had more than $18 billion (£14.6 billion) wiped off its market value as shares in Samsung Electronics closed down 8% in Seoul.
In an earlier statement, the company asked all consumers using either an original or replacement Note 7 smartphone to stop using their device and power it down.
"We would have not taken this measure if it had looked like the problems could be easily resolved," said Oh Yu-cheon, a senior official at the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards. "The improved product does not have the same defect. That's why we think there is a new defect."
Samsung is considering permanently halting sales of the device, Reuters has reported.
When did the problems start?
In September, reports surfaced of exploding handsets, and the technology giant was forced to recall many of the phones.
The company blamed a "rare manufacturing defect", but later insisted the issue was fixed.
Yet the handsets are still being reported to be an issue, even after Samsung replaced the faulty ones with new ones.
Last week passengers were forced to evacuate from a plane after a device that was issued as a replacement started to emit smoke.
Officials from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission said they are investigating at least five fire or overheating incidents since the formal recall was announced on September 15.
What is causing the fires?
The company blamed faulty batteries for the problem, but said in September that it was "confident" it had completely overcome the problem and was ready to launch the device.
However, concerns were raised over further defects beyond the battery cell, following several reports in the US of phones catching fire that showed the green battery icon Samsung added to replacement phones to mark them as safe.
Samsung has not said which of its two battery suppliers made the faulty batteries in the earlier Note 7s or clarified whose batteries are used in which Note 7 smartphones.
The company has not indicated if it knows what caused the latest problems.
Big blow for Samsung
The UK release date for the £740 smartphone had been moved to October 28 following the recall of dozens of reports of devices overheating worldwide.
The company said 45,000 Note 7s had been sold in Europe through the pre-order campaign - the majority in the UK - and more than 75% had since been replaced with either a Note 7 or another Samsung handset.
The Note 7 is not Samsung's most popular device - the company sells far more units of its Galaxy S7 phones than the more expensive Note 7.
But analysts say the issue could hurt the company's reputation and overall standing with consumers.
In September, Samsung saw £11 billion wiped off its market value when it first recalled the handset intended to take on Apple's iPhone 7 plus.