The battery in your Samsung Note 7 phone might explode.

That's a serious problem, and one that has caused no small amount of consumer anxiety in recent weeks. One of the most comprehensive recalls in gadget history took place when the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone was found to overheat and could possibly explode, not once or twice in isolated cases but in several documented cases. Last month, Samsung said they were taking back at least 2.5 million phones. This month, there are new reports that the fix may not have worked, judging from a new case involving a replacement Note 7 that overheated in an airplane.

This is a troubling turn of events for several reasons. When a gadget can cause personal harm or even burn down your apartment, it creates a high level of consumer fear. Should I bring the phone with me to the office? Is it safe to store it in my laptop bag? Should I bring one on the plane? Can I leave it in the hot sun inside my car at the parking lot? We start to question whether the devices are really safe for normal use, and the fears are not unfounded or based solely on media hysteria. The phones actually do catch fire, which is why you can now use a Note 7 in the game Grand Theft Auto as an incendiary device, planted on other cars or thrown into a crowd.

It's troubling because of a pressing need with all have with our phones. They don't last that long. The new iPhone 7 Plus I'm testing lasts for about one day of normal use, but that means I'm still charging it every night. From what we've heard about the new Google Pixel phone, it will also last about a day, although you can recharge one for seven hours of use in 15 minutes. It means the Note 7 exploding battery problem is bigger than one South Korean company. It's a setback for the industry because now consumers see the devices as possibly unsafe or even dangerous.

I can imagine the kind of PR nightmare this has caused.

The Note 7 is now the phone that everyone thinks about when it comes to Samsung as a smartphone brand. Previous models, which I've tested countless times, were perfectly safe, but even as a reviewer I've decided to avoid the phone until I know it has been fixed properly and won't cause any problems.

The question you might ask is--what should you do about it?

For now, the most critical action step is to contact your local carrier and make sure you turn in your Note 7 if you own one and go through the recall process.

Another good step is to keep up to date about phone battery problems. There were reports of an iPhone 7 that caught fire, but so far it has not been substantiated. You can always check with the retail store where you purchased your phone and ask if there are any issues.

And, safety first. I never leave my smartphone in the car, ever. It is too easy to forget about it when the weather turns hot or, even on a cold day, the sun shines directly onto the phone. It's also smart to think about how long you're charging your phone. I tend to charge at night, but if you leave your phone on a USB charger for days on end, it could overheat. The iPhone will let you know when it has overheated and will stop working, so look for those warnings.

One last tip: It's a good idea to keep your phone at room temperature as much as possible. Avoid letting it get overly hot or overly cold. This applies to any phone. Short stints in the hot sun at a park or tucked in your backpack in winter can be detrimental.

Published on: Oct 6, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.