Samsung Corp. has issued a voluntary recall of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphones after reported incidents of the phone bursting into flame while charging. Yet I’m not afraid to hold the device up next to my head. Why?

Disclaimer: doesnt endorse playing smartphone explosion roulette with a recalled Note 7 device.
Disclaimer: doesn’t endorse playing smartphone explosion roulette with a recalled Note 7 device.

Well, the odds of it actually blowing up just aren’t very good. According to Samsung, there have been 35 reported “incidents” of the phone resulting from the battery cell issue so far. That’s out of the 2.5 million devices shipped to the market within days of the launch. Given those numbers, the odds of having a Note 7 that would later burst into flames is about 71,429 to one.

Here are some odd things that are more likely to happen to you than your Note 7 exploding:

  • Being struck by lightning in your lifetime. According to the National Weather Service in the U.S., if you live 80 years, your chances of being struck by lightning in your lifetime is 13,000 to one.
  • Being killed in a workplace accident. A British study conducted by the government in 2014 found there were 25,000 serious workplace accidents resulting in 300 people killed in the U.K. That’s odds of 43,500 to one.
  • Winning an Oscar. All those technical categories you don’t pay attention to add up, with odds of 11,500 to one.
  • You get rich on Antiques Roadshow. Maybe you should dust off that old heirloom? 60,000 to one.

And here are some things that are almost as likely to happen to you:

  • Being bitten by an alligator and dying. According to Amram Shapiro’s The Book of Odds are 105,600 to one.
  • Dying from a hornet, wasp, or bee sting. Book of Odds places this at 79,842 to one.
  • Dating a supermodel. (Well, they have to date someone) – 88,000 to one.

Of course, there are many things less likely to happen to you than the Note 7 explosion:

  • Being crushed to death by a meteorite. Estimated at 700,000 to one by astronomer Alan Harris.
  • Winning a slot machine jackpot. Placed at about 16.8 million to one by the California Lottery.

While the odds aren’t good that you own a Note 7 that will explode due to a battery cell defect, Samsung is still on the hook to recall the devices because there are so many of them distributed. If it didn’t take any action to fix the defective batteries before shipping more devices, there’s no telling what sort of liabilities it could face for the damages caused. But it’s clearly enough the manufacturer is willing to take a more than $1 billion hit to replace the phones.

For example, Australian reddit user Crushader documented the explosion of a new Note 7 while staying in a hotel room. (Their device is seen in the photo at the top of this story). This explosion resulted in a bill of more than $1,800 AUD for damages to the room, which Samsung has offered to reimburse.

The odds of a device exploding may also be too high for the Federal Aviation Administration, Gizmodo reports, as the U.S. airline regulator is exploring whether it will ban the devices from being carried on board flights. If Samsung asks the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to get involved, that will likely spur the FAA to put the ban in place.


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