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Samsung recall raises smartphone safety concerns

If you own a Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, power it down immediately and visit Samsung's website to see if your phone might have a defective battery. The recall of 1 million smartphones announced last week was prompted by over 100 reports of phones overheating and bursting into flames, resulting in burns, property damage and even house and car fires.

As CNET reports, other brands and models have exploded in recent years, including iPhones, so no smartphone is 100 percent safe. Yet the sheer number of explosions in a short period of time has made the Note 7 seem particularly dangerous.

The root of the problem

Regardless of the model, most smartphone fires have to do with their lithium ion batteries, which contain an extremely flammable liquid. This chemistry allows for the small, light batteries consumers increasingly expect from their smartphones. But it also means that small short circuits can lead to huge disasters. Is the convenience worth the - admittedly tiny - risk?

What makes Note 7 notable

While all smartphones pose at least a small risk, it looks like a manufacturing error in the Note 7 made the battery much more likely to short-circuit than other similar batteries are. Scientists have multiple theories about the mechanics behind this, and Samsung and government experts are continuing to investigate.

Meanwhile, if your Galaxy Note 7 is part of the recall, you can exchange it for a new Note 7 approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, exchange it for a different Samsung model or receive a refund to buy the replacement of your choosing. All customers making exchanges under the program will also receive a $25 gift card or credit, according to Samsung.

While a smartphone fire is still unlikely, even from a Note 7, the recall is a good wake-up call to keep a watchful eye on smartphones of all stripes.

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