Report: Samsung Not Following Standard CTIA Battery-Testing Protocol

For more than a decade, the wireless group CTIA has operated independent battery-testing facilities for smartphones. A Wall Street Journal report reveals that Samsung, unlike most other smartphone companies, is testing its batteries internally—a notable point in the midst of an unprecedented recall of the company's flagship phone.

As it turns out, Samsung’s exploding phone problem has a tie to the association space.

On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Samsung isn’t following a standard protocol for battery testing recommended by the wireless trade group CTIA. That failure is getting fresh scrutiny due to the company’s decision to pull the Galaxy Note 7 from the market after a series of explosions were reported involving the devices.

Traditionally, smartphone manufacturers put their batteries up for testing in third-party labs, to see if the devices follow Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) compliance standards. Industrywide, 28 such labs are certified by CTIA for this purpose. But Samsung has apparently been doing testing in its own lab since 2009—the only major smartphone manufacturer to do so. This, according to experts quoted by the Journal, may be considered problematic, as it introduces potential conflict-of-interest issues.

But not everyone quoted in the story agreed with this assessment: Eddie Forouzan, an IEEE committee member involved in setting the battery standard, raised concern with Samsung’s self-testing, but the chair of that committee, Jason Howard, suggested the problem wasn’t related to the battery-testing process, and that Samsung’s approach was understandable out of an interest of protecting trade secrets and speeding up product releases.

“On the outside that might make people nervous that a company is self certifying, but that’s common practice on a lot of standards,” Howard said.

Nonetheless, the current crisis has members of CTIA talking about what could be done to prevent similar incidents in the future. Last week, engineers from the trade group’s certification labs met up in Atlanta, where the Samsung incident was a main point of discussion.

The Samsung recall represents the biggest crisis regarding phone batteries since the trade group established the certification process more than a decade ago.

“We’ve certified over 1,500 batteries,” CTIA CTO Tom Sawanobori explained in comments to the Journal. “This is the first time we’ve had an issue.”

(Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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