This week, Samsung permanently ceased production of the Galaxy Note7 in the latest chapter of the fiery flagship's unfortunate tale. The ill-fated handset was ultimately doomed after a series of incidents in which replacement units that were sent to some customers - following an earlier recall of the first batch of devices - also caught fire, despite the company's assurances that the newer handsets were safe to use. One such incident occurred on a passenger airliner a few days ago, causing its evacuation.
As news of those latest incidents spread - amid claims that the company knew of a problem with its replacements, but kept quiet about it - the Galaxy Note7's end was inevitable. Samsung advised all owners of the device, including the replacements, to switch them off and return them without delay. But having sold around 2.5 million units, that raises the obvious question of what exactly will happen to all those recalled handsets.
Samsung isn't taking any more chances. The company told Motherboard today that it won't be refurbishing or repairing any of them; instead, it said: "We have a process in place to safely dispose of the phones", although it offered no further explanation as to how it actually plans to do so.
As Motherboard notes, aside from the immense financial burden that Samsung will have to bear, there is also a high environmental cost to consider. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers estimated in 2013 that it took around 165 pounds of raw mined materials to make the 'average' phone, and it seems likely that that figure may be even higher on a large, advanced handset like the Galaxy Note7.
Massive inefficiencies in smartphone recycling processes make the cost of recovering those materials prohibitive - both financially, and in terms of the time and energy involved in doing so. It is generally far more cost-efficient to refurbish and resell a device - even when it's years old - than to try and extract any significant value from the raw materials used in its construction.
Kyle Wiens, CEO of device teardown specialists iFixit, pointed out that many of the materials used in phone production are rare or difficult to source, including some that are "very expensive in terms of the environmental impact, but also in the lives they impact to mine them. Having to say without any of them having been used at all that they have to go straight to the recycler is really sad."