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Samsung Galaxy Note 7 users’ phones are blowing up, literally

Watch: Car fire may have been caused by defective phone (Video: The Port St. Lucie Police Department)

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 was supposed to be the next jewel in the South Korean company's line of Android smartphones, touted for its bigger battery that could power the phone for an impressive nine hours.

The entire phone was, as the company advertised, "designed to be a key that opens the door to new experiences on the go."

Since its Aug. 19 release, the Note 7 has indeed become known for all of the above, though probably not in the way Samsung had hoped.

On Thursday, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of the new Samsung phones, saying that defective Note 7 batteries had been linked to "26 reports of burns and 55 reports of property damage, including fires in cars and a garage."

The mess around the Galaxy Note 7 recall is getting worse

The recall followed numerous recent reports, including one last Tuesday, when Port St. Lucie police officers responded to a report of a car on fire in a residential neighborhood in the southern Florida beach city. They found a vehicle "fully engulfed in flames."

The driver, who was unharmed, told police he had been charging his Samsung 7 phone when it burst into flames.

"[The] suggestion that the phone caused the fire has not been confirmed at this time as The Fire Marshall is continuing their investigation into the cause of the fire," the Port St. Lucie Police Department said in a statement.

In what is believed to be the first lawsuit related to the phone, a Florida man filed a claim against Samsung last Friday, alleging that his Galaxy Note 7 exploded and caused him severe burns on his right thigh and left thumb, Reuters reported.

In the lawsuit, Jonathan Strobel claimed that his Note 7 exploded in his front pants pocket while he was at a Costco on Sept. 9. The explosion was intense enough to burn through his pants and also severely burn his left thumb when he reached in to try to remove the phone, Reuters reported.

"He has a deep second-degree burn, roughly the size of the phone, on his right thigh," Strobel's attorney, Keith Pierro, told Reuters.

Such reports have continued to plague Samsung, which first issued a voluntary recall of its Galaxy Note 7 phones because of a "battery issue" on Sept. 2, offering to give replacement phones to customers who had bought the devices. The lithium-ion batteries in the phones could overheat and pose a safety risk, the company said after it had received a few dozen reports of Note 7 batteries catching on fire.

"To date (as of September 1) there have been 35 cases that have been reported globally and we are currently conducting a thorough inspection with our suppliers to identify possible affected batteries in the market," the company said in a statement. "However, because our customers’ safety is an absolute priority at Samsung, we have stopped sales of the Galaxy Note7."

According to the mobile analytics firm Apteligent, most owners of the phone were still using it almost two weeks after Samsung's voluntary recall began, although new sales had dropped off, The Washington Post reported Friday.

What you should know about the official Galaxy Note 7 recall

On Thursday, U.S. safety regulators ordered a nationwide recall of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, and Samsung updated its recall with increased urgency.

"Since the affected devices can overheat and pose a safety risk, if you own a Galaxy Note7, it is extremely important to stop using your device, power it down and immediately exchange it using our U.S. Note7 Exchange Program," the company said in another statement.

Issues with the Note 7 battery have become so widely known that they have been singled out in some airline boarding announcements.

Before Delta Flight 2557 took off from Norfolk to Atlanta early Friday morning, flight attendants advised passengers to place their phones in airplane mode. Those who had the Galaxy Note 7s, however, were advised to power them down completely.

"They made a specific point to mention that phone, and I thought that was really interesting," Robyn Sidersky, a passenger on the flight, told The Post. "I did know the issues going on, so it made sense."

Shortly after takeoff, Sidersky, who was sitting in row 35, said she heard a person screaming "Fire!" and saw smoke emanating from across the aisle in row 34. Soon, flight attendants evacuated about 20 passengers seated around the row and then used a fire extinguisher to douse the flames.

"It was really scary," said Sidersky, a reporter with the Virginian-Pilot. "I think that some people's first thought when there was smoke was [the engines] were on fire."

About 20 minutes later, passengers were told that the culprit was a spare lithium-ion battery apparently wedged between the window and middle seats, she said.

The airline confirmed that the incident took place on board its flight Friday.

"During ascent from Norfolk International Airport to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, the flight attendants of Delta flight 2557 observed smoke in the rear portion of the aircraft. They acted quickly to immediately dissipate the smoke," Delta spokesman Brian Kruse said in a statement. "It quickly became evident that the source of the smoke was from a spare battery not affixed to a device."

Kruse said the battery "did not appear" to be one from the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 but said the source and type of battery involved were being investigated.

The flight, with 143 passengers and five crew members on board, landed safely in Atlanta, Kruse said. As a goodwill gesture, Delta gave passengers aboard the flight 15,000 frequent-flier miles or a $150 travel voucher.

No one on board ever claimed the battery, Sidersky said.

"It’s unclear if it was someone who was on the plane or if it was just left between the seats," she said. "People were kind of angry about that."

One request was clear after the onboard battery fire, though: Flight attendants immediately asked all passengers to power down their phones, regardless of whether it was a Samsung or not. From what Sidersky could observe, everyone complied.

"Everybody around us was like, man, turn your phone off," she said.

Read more: 

Can you trust the lithium-ion battery in your pocket?

Consumer Product Safety Commission issues recall for Galaxy Note 7 because of fire risk