OK, this is getting serious.

I've been covering the epic Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone disaster including the news about how the company discontinued the product for good. (If you own the last Note 6 device, hang onto it for posterity.) The problems have to do with a battery that can overheat, catch on fire, or even explode, which is causing more than physical damage--it is hurting the Samsung brand.

No company in recent memory has suffered through quite the same ordeal, one that seems to make headlines on a daily basis. I would not be surprised if Samsung exited the smartphone business altogether after this and went back to making laptops and televisions.

Now, the federal government is involved.

This past week, the FAA announced that there could be a hefty fine if you bring the Note 7 on an airplane, power it up, and use it onboard the aircraft. By "hefty" I mean to the tune of $179,933 per infraction. (Meaning, using it on multiple flights.)

One colleague suggested that the fine is only the beginning, that there could be criminal charges if the FAA decides you were using the Note 7 maliciously with an intent to cause harm. I could also see serious problems if someone brought the phone on a plane and it caused a fire or even put people in danger (or worse). If you bring the Note 7 on a plane by mistake, that likely won't matter given the incredible amount of news coverage about the dangers.

I've heard from a few people who tell me they plan to keep using the Note 7 even though they know about the problems. They like the speed, the design, and the (major irony alert here) long battery life. They know about the dangers, but they like the phone. One reason they are not too alarmed is that, out of 2.5 million devices, there are only 35 documented problems. (I'm guessing there are many other unreported cases.) Still, those documented problems are not trivial.

One report suggested that the Galaxy Note line would be not discontinued after all, only the Note 7 phone itself. In fact, current Note 7 users can return the phone and choose an upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy S8 or Galaxy Note 8 next year. My prediction is that the Note brand is so tarnished that there will never be a follow-up, even if Samsung somehow proves the battery won't catch on fire. I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Another report suggests the reason the Note 7 battery overheated was due to a bulge in the battery. The same report also suggested there could have been a problem with the circuitry on the battery or a software issue.

I wouldn't be surprised if the software was faulty, since modern phones manage how the battery operates and how quickly you can charge up. With a phone like the new Google Pixel, it's interesting to watch the phone charge. It can power up in 15 minutes and add seven hours of usage time. It's almost abrupt.

My advice is to return the Note 7 if you still have one. Also, I'd triple-check your luggage if you own one and think it might be stuffed in a side pouch of your laptop bag.

Published on: Oct 24, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.