STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Samsung has announced a global recall for its latest smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7. The Korean phone giant concluded that was smarter than waiting for more of them to catch fire. NPR's Elise Hu is covering this story in Seoul. Elise, remind us. What is the Galaxy Note 7?
ELISE HU, BYLINE: Well, this is a large-screen device known as a phablet, since it's big enough to be closer to the size of a tablet.
INSKEEP: But also a phone, so phablet - OK, I get it. And what happens to it?
HU: Well, the battery of some of these devices is catching fire in some instances. Samsung says it knows of at least 35 cases of fires of the 1 million Galaxy Note 7s that it has sold. Samsung has shipped about 2.5 million of these devices to 10 countries now.
So all shipments and unsold products are getting recalled except for those in China, notably, because the battery supplier for those Galaxy Notes was different. And customers who already have these devices in hand can take them in for a replacement in all 10 countries where they have been sold.
INSKEEP: All 10 countries - does that include the United States?
HU: Yes, it does, of course.
INSKEEP: How big a deal is the Note 7 to Samsung?
HU: It is a big deal. There's no figures yet on how much this particular recall is going to cost. But there was a hastily arranged press conference here in Seoul this afternoon. And a Samsung executive said the loss is, quote, "big enough to make my heart ache."
This is also a symbolic loss for Samsung because it's competing globally in mobile devices. And it had really put its hopes on this Galaxy line to drive the recovery of its mobile business. As we've talked about on MORNING EDITION, of course, Samsung has really been struggling with phones on the high end against Apple, which is coming out with its next generation phones next week.
And then it's been struggling on the low end against Chinese phone makers like Xiaomi. And so this flagship Galaxy line was really supposed to help the company's bottom line.
INSKEEP: One other thing, Elise. Is Samsung sure they know why the phones are catching fire? Because you do hear these recalls where they end up having to recall the recall 'cause they hadn't really fixed the problem.
HU: They are reasonably confident that the battery is the problem. And that's why the sales are going to continue in China - because the battery supplier seems to be at issue here. These explosions or fires have been happening to phones that have been plugged in while charging in most cases.
INSKEEP: NPR's Elise Hu is in Seoul. Thanks very much.
HU: You bet.