This Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016, photo shows a damaged Samsung Galaxy Note 7 on a table in Richmond, Va., after it caught fire earlier in the day.
Photograph by Shawn L. Minter — AP
By Aaron Pressman
December 9, 2016

Samsung said on Friday it would be giving any remaining Galaxy Note 7 owners an early Christmas un-present. Although 93% of U.S. owners have returned their phones, which have dangerously unstable batteries, Samsung wants to prompt the reluctant minority to abandon their devices as well.

Starting on December 19, Samsung will issue software updates to all remaining Note 7 devices that will render them incapable of recharging and eliminate their ability to work as mobile devices.

“Consumer safety remains our highest priority and we’ve had overwhelming participation in the U.S. Note 7 refund and exchange program so far,” Samsung said in a statement. The new software update is to “further increase participation.”

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However, Verizon, the largest wireless carrier, said it did not plan to send the update to its customers. “Verizon will not be taking part in this update because of the added risk this could pose to Galaxy Note7 users that do not have another device to switch to,” the company said in a statement. “We do not want to make it impossible to contact family, first responders or medical professionals in an emergency situation.”

T-Mobile, the third-largest carrier, said it would roll out the update on December 27. 

Anyone who bought a Note 7, which has a 5.7- inch screen and comes with a stylus, can return the device to the store or carrier where they bought it and exchange it for a different model or get a refund. Samsung is offering a $100 bill credit to customers who exchange a Note 7 for another Samsung smartphone. Customers who want a refund or opt for another brand qualify for a $25 credit.

The Note 7 went on sale in August but was quickly beset by reports of batteries smoking and catching fire. On September 2, Samsung said it was voluntarily recalling 2.5 million of the devices that had been shipped up to that point. Two weeks later, the Consumer Product Safety Commission formally issued a recall for 1 million Note 7 phones sold in the United States. And after battery problems cropped up even in some of replacement Note 7 devices, Samsung said on October 11 it was killing off the entire product

Last month, the company took out full page ads in many newspapers to apologize for the incident. “An important tenet of our mission is to offer best-in-class safety and quality,” Gregory Lee, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America, wrote. “Recently, we fell short on this promise. For this we are truly sorry.”

(Update: Added T-Mobile and Verizon statements on Dec.9, 2016)

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