SAN JOSE, Calif. – A computer company based in Brazil is suing Intel Corp., claiming its SoFia SoC caused smartphones to overheat, catch fire and explode. Qbex Computadores SA filed suit June 12 in San Jose District Court claiming up to $100 million in damages.
In its complaint, Qbex claims it received 35,000 customer complaints and 4,000 lawsuits in Brazil due to design errors found in the SoFia SoC by an independent review it plans to release later. Qbex “is now known as the brand of exploding and defective smartphones,” it said.
Intel initially declined to comment on the complaint, a copy of which a Qbex attorney sent to EE Times. Intel co-developed the SoFia SoCs with China’s RockChip but discontinued it in April 2016 as part of a reorg of its struggling mobile business group.
Later, an Intel spokeswoman said, “We are reviewing the allegations in the complaint and we will investigate them thoroughly. However, we have no evidence to suggest that the overheating issues Qbex alleges were caused by our product.”
Qbex got its start as an electronics assembler in 2003. It rose to annual sales of $85 million, selling as many as 600,000 desktop PCs in 2012. It moved into tablets and in 2015 sold Brazil’s second most popular system next to the Samsung Galaxy, the complaint said.
In June 2015, Qbex struck a deal with Intel to assemble and sell smartphones using on the SoFia SoC and other components provided by a group of four contract manufacturers in China. It had also considered a smartphone deal with Qualcomm.
At one point Qbex shifted more than 90 percent of its assembly operations to SoFia smartphones and hired 200 people to support the business. It sold a total of 235,074 units between October 2015 and December 2016 before ending the business amid rapidly rising customer complaints.
Qbex charged Intel and its contract manufacturers failed to inform it of design problems with SoFia. It also charged Intel tried to sell it as many as 1.25 million SoFia chips in May 2016, after it discontinued the business.
Ultimately Qbex hired as many as 216 people just to deal with complains and suits regarding the handsets and agreed to exchange 18,000 units.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times