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Australia Iphone Transportation Apple

Botched Repair Likely Cause of Combusting iPhone After Flight 181

Posted by Soulskill
from the you're-probably-just-puncturing-the-battery-wrong dept.
aesoteric writes "The combustion of an Apple iPhone 4 after a regional flight in Australia was likely caused by a botched repair of the handset by an unauthorized repairer, according to air safety investigators in the U.S. and Australia. A small metal screw had been misplaced in the battery bay of the handset. The screw punctured the battery casing and caused an internal short circuit, making the iPhone emit dense smoke (PDF)."
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Botched Repair Likely Cause of Combusting iPhone After Flight

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  • Waiting for facts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Overly Critical Guy (663429) * on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:41AM (#39891029)

    After reading the snarky comments in the previous story about "holding it wrong", "it's an iPhone so it's a feature", and "ban all phones without removable batteries", it's interesting to see what happens if you wait for investigative facts to come out. But where would be the fun in that? Slashdot's comment section is more about cathartic bashing than insightful commentary. Of course, now we'll see accusations that Apple bribed the ATSB or fake-posts from pretend-battery-engineers telling us how the story is wrong or some other similar silliness...

    • Re:Waiting for facts (Score:5, Informative)

      by alphatel (1450715) * on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:44AM (#39891059)
      That's not the worst of it. The real outcome is that TSA will now ban all electronic devices as deadly terrorist weapons.
      • by ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:45AM (#39891083)

        Not to mention that someone fruity could lobby for laws that outlaw third party repairs as a result...

        • by TheMeuge (645043)

          Why wait for facts? Ban!

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2012 @01:35PM (#39892727)

            Why wait for a law?

            There are several federal agencies that can make something effectively illegal simply by editing a list, and publishing it. We had to amend the constitution of make alcohol illegal, but drugs float from schedule to schedule at the whim of the FDA. The ATF, does the same thing. Neither offer, nor will when asked, a shred of evidence behind their reasoning.

            • by Ihmhi (1206036)

              I don't think the Founding Fathers really anticipated the level of collusion that exists between the different branches of government. The ultimate check on government power is the people not taking any of their shit, and we fucked that up pretty righteously.

              If you tried to pull any of the things that government departments do on a weekly basis here 200 or so years ago there would have been a goddamned rebellion.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by phayes (202222)

          Meh, only the conspiracy minded think that they would want to.

          Having an iphone go up in smoke because an insufficiently trained tech botched the repair is great publicity for having your repairs done by certified repairmen.

        • by noh8rz3 (2593935)

          Not to mention that someone fruity could lobby for laws that outlaw third party repairs as a result...

          Why bring homosexuality into this? Troll!

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by boristdog (133725)

            Why bring homosexuality into this? Troll!

            Yeah, it's already an Apple thread!

            DOUBLE TROLL!

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          why not go full conspiracy on it and say that it was a 3rd party repair by apple to ban 3rd party repairs ;).

          if the stupid thing had a removable battery in the first place it wouldn't have been damaged in the repair.

          • Hanlon's razor is sufficient for the original failure. I just see an opening for the corporations to capitalize on the situation.

      • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

        by NixieBunny (859050)
        The TSA won't do that. The TSA won't do anything to prevent business travelers from bringing their phones or laptops on board, since they would soon go out of business if they had to.

        The fact that they allow lithium-ion batteries on board at all is rather startling from a safety perspective, considering how easy it is to make them emit smoke. In fact, you are only allowed to bring these batteries into the passenger compartment, NOT the cargo compartment, so that a flight attendant may extinguish the fire.
      • by Savage-Rabbit (308260) on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:50AM (#39891151)

        That's not the worst of it. The real outcome is that TSA will now ban all electronic devices as deadly terrorist weapons.

        Obligatory: http://xkcd.com/651/ [xkcd.com]

      • Re:Waiting for facts (Score:5, Informative)

        by Overly Critical Guy (663429) * on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:55AM (#39891225)

        Not to worry. They're far too busy feeling up 3-year olds and grannies to do anything about deadly weapons of any sort.

    • by poptix (78287) on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:46AM (#39891097) Homepage

      The facts don't really matter, "You're holding it wrong" is still relevant and funny.

      • Especially still relevant since Nintendo has adopted the same rationale toward the horrible hand-numbing controls of a recent game.

        • by erroneus (253617)

          Indeed. The "hand" which is an instrument the vast majority of us are born with have a known range of sizes, functionalities and physical properties. It is known how the hand is used when interacting with other objects. So when the design of an object is not completely suitable for comfortable use by a hand, then you have to blame the design of the object not the hand since we all know the ubiquitous hand came long, long before and will persist long, long after.

          It's immeasurably arrogant to think your de

      • by Dishevel (1105119) on Friday May 04, 2012 @12:35PM (#39891769)

        I used to hold it wrong ... Till I took an arrow to the knee.

        Sorry.

        • by timster (32400)

          In Soviet Russia, Oog the open-source caveman holds you wrong, in all caps. I think that about covers it

          Not sorry.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:50AM (#39891153)

      Seems to vindicate the "ban all phones without removable batteries" position, though. If the batteries were designed to be replaced by the end user, this wouldn't have happened.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by msauve (701917)
        The repair was for a broken screen, not a battery replacement. Your claim is a non-sequitur.
        • Battery and screen (Score:2, Informative)

          by DrYak (748999)

          No, it DOES make sense.

          A user replaceable battery is in a separate compartment as the rest of the electronics (you only need to remove a back cover, which reveals a battery compartment. You don't need to disassemble the whole electronics to change the battery). The point is to avoid the end-user messing with other non replaceable parts when playing with the battery. But in that way, the battery is also isolated from the rest of the phone, thus a botched screen repair isn't very likely to let a loose screw g

          • by msauve (701917)
            Nope. The claim was that this incident would have been prevented if the phone had a replaceable battery. That's nonsense - the cause was a shoddy repair.

            If you want to play "what if," then in some other case, if someone has a phone with a replaceable battery, there's also a much greater chance that they would carry a spare, and have that get shorted out or punctured. Or have a screw left loose inside after a repair, ready to cause a short, with similar results.
            • by arose (644256)
              He explained how this precise problem would be avoided in a good user-removable battery design (and there is no reason to postulate that Apple would botch it), you just repeated yourself. I'll call this in GPs favor.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by erroneus (253617)

        I simply concur with this. For a wide variety of reasons, the move to make the battery not replaceable was an act of pure selfishness on the part of the designer. I'm not going to blame only Apple for this, but any electronic device maker who is guilty of this behavior. Apple was NOT the first to commit this sin. Among the many things I have owned with a Sony label on them, I owned a Sony Clie' when PalmOS was a fun and useful thing to have. It was a superior device with vivid color, expandable storage

        • by m.ducharme (1082683) on Friday May 04, 2012 @01:14PM (#39892385)

          Just to add a counter-factual point to your anecdote, I recall some time ago being in the market for a music player. the iPods at the time were white, second or third gen I guess, and of course the non-replaceable battery issue was as live then as it seems to be now. So I shopped around, and bought an iRiver. nice player, good capacity, user-serviceable battery.

          3 years or so later, when the time came around to replace the battery, I went online to order a replacement only to find that the battery I needed, with a specific shape and plug, had been discontinued, and there was no way I could get a new one, branded or after-market.

          Since then, I haven't been fussed about the non-replaceable battery issue, really.

          • My Archos Jukebox might have been bulky and an unfashionable colour, but it ran on AA cells. You don't get much more replaceable than that.

          • This. I have a couple of camera's that are now useless for the same reason - I can't find replacements for their custom batteries anymore.

            The problem is less one of "user replaceable batteries" than it is of "unique batteries". OTOH, with battery technology evolving as fast as it is... I'm not sure there's a clear fix for the problem.

            • The problem is less one of "user replaceable batteries" than it is of "unique batteries". OTOH, with battery technology evolving as fast as it is... I'm not sure there's a clear fix for the problem.

              Sure there is. Don't buy anything that uses unique batteries or proprietary storage media.

              Use the free market, instead of being abused by it.

    • Point of order - I can replace the battery on my Galaxy Nexus - which is thinner than an iPhone 4 without any tools - and thus no risk to puncturing the battery.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tyr07 (2300912)

      The new iphone 4S. 4x the magic smoke when let out.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      A brilliant first post. I wish others would do that. Unfortunately, though it gave me cause to pause and think before reacting, I still arrived at the conclusion that "non-removable batteries are a bad idea" not just because Apple did it, but because others have tried it before Apple did. That practice killed the Sony Clie'. It hasn't killed iPhone yet because people replace their iPhones with other newer iPhones before the battery goes bad most of the time and others don't yet mind being enslaved to Ap

      • My iPod Mini had a non-removable battery. The replacement battery cost £3.95, and it took about 15 minutes to dissassemble, swap the battery, and reassemble.
    • by Caerdwyn (829058)
      Haters have a very serious problem with truth. It's as simple as that. (It's part of why they're haters)
    • by morgauxo (974071)
      It takes a certified tech to change a battery without starting a fire??? Yeah, no snarky comments deserved there...
    • by Tharsman (1364603)

      Slashdot's comment section is more about cathartic bashing than insightful commentary.p>

      You are reading it wrong. :P

  • by CmdrPorno (115048) on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:47AM (#39891099)

    The report says the shop that performed the repair was not an authorized Apple repair shop, and shows the device as having the old, dangerous standard Philips screws. Now we know why Apple has been so adamant about switching from regular Philips screws to five-sided screws--with the five sided, tamper-resistant screws, there is no chance that an unauthorized repair facility would be able to create an explosive condition by leaving a screw inside the iPhone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Shit, better hide this [amazon.com] from unauthorized repair facilities!

  • by MrShaggy (683273) <chris.andersonNO@SPAMhush.com> on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:49AM (#39891137) Journal

    I guess the old saying 'don't let the smoke out' is true.

  • by gelfling (6534) on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:54AM (#39891203) Homepage Journal

    I wonder, and so what?

    • by Laebshade (643478)

      I worked for a small PC repair shop that became authorized by Apple to perform repairs. The person repairing the Macs had to take a lengthy test to ensure they were competent in Apple product repair. We then became an Apple authorized repair center and would receive pre-paid shipping boxes with the replacement parts to send the old parts free of charge. We also got a significant reimbursement for time spent performing the repairs.

      That is what they mean by 'authorized', either an official Apple store or a

  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:55AM (#39891219)

    With the amount of energy they are squeezing into modern batteries, they are becoming almost as dangerous as a small diesel tank inside your phone or laptop. A random short can lead to a sudden release of all that trapped energy.

    • Except that they don't explode, they burn. Lots of energy, but it can't be released fast enough to actually "explode". While the same is true of liquid fuels, if you can vaporize or aerosolize those fuels, they can become explosive. See "internal combustion engine" or "fuel-air bomb" for examples. They can be dangerous, but they're not as dangerous as a fuel tank can be.

      • by RichMan (8097)

        Simply place some nice accelerant, or substance that releases lethal gas when burned, in the battery, make it look like a factory battery and you have nice attack vector the idiots at the TSA should have eliminated 10 years ago.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Yeah that's why I said diesel tank. They don't explode, but instead burn like a battery.

  • by macraig (621737) <mark DOT a DOT craig AT gmail DOT com> on Friday May 04, 2012 @11:57AM (#39891235)

    First rule of any tech repair, 'authorized' or not:

    1. Always have a method to account for every screw and part removed!

    I'm not authorized to service my own laptops, one of them has been disassembled literally dozens of times, and yet this scenario is very unlikely to happen to me. I have sets of interlocking parts compartments that I have labelled specifically for teardowns of each laptop; the screws are grouped by progressive steps or layers of the teardown, and further by size in some instances. This is critical even for someone performing the same teardown every day, as no one is perfect, but it's especially critical for those first or one-time teardowns.

    This screw got misplaced not because the guy was 'unauthorized' but rather because he was careless and foolish. Just because a person is indeed authorized (or degreed) is no exemption from carelessness and foolishness.

    • by sexconker (1179573) on Friday May 04, 2012 @12:05PM (#39891341)

      First rule of any tech repair, 'authorized' or not:

      1. Always have a method to account for every screw and part removed!

      I'm not authorized to service my own laptops, one of them has been disassembled literally dozens of times, and yet this scenario is very unlikely to happen to me. I have sets of interlocking parts compartments that I have labelled specifically for teardowns of each laptop; the screws are grouped by progressive steps or layers of the teardown, and further by size in some instances. This is critical even for someone performing the same teardown every day, as no one is perfect, but it's especially critical for those first or one-time teardowns.

      This screw got misplaced not because the guy was 'unauthorized' but rather because he was careless and foolish. Just because a person is indeed authorized (or degreed) is no exemption from carelessness and foolishness.

      Little plastic compartments?
      In my day we used an egg carton.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        In my day we used an egg carton.

        A piece of masking tape on the benchtop, sticky side up.

      • by macraig (621737)

        That'll work! I once used them in a pinch to organize my mineral collection. Ain't nuthin' wrong with repurposing whatcha already got; I just happened to acquire something a bit more specialized [meritline.com].

      • by krakelohm (830589)
        On the occasion I am ripping apart a laptop I use a sheet of sticky paper from a lint roller & a sharpie. Each pile of screws is from a different step and the sharpie labels each pile. Easy pleasy.
        • by macraig (621737)

          Your elbow could lay waste to your plan. My elbow has no effect on mine!

          • by Obfuscant (592200)
            You need to see a doctor since it seems your elbow keeps leaving the rest of your body and wreaking havoc on your electronics bench. Mine stays right where it belongs, and I don't let it run free to cause problems for innocent bystanders. Unlike that fellow "World Peace" of the NBA who coldcocked an opposing player "by accident" with his.
    • Given that every time you take something apart and put it back together you always have parts left over (and it usually still works), if you take something apart and put it back together enough times you will eventually have two of them.
    • by phorm (591458)

      I usually take a picture of the device (several if there are "layers" to the disassembly) and print it off.
      Then I poke the screws into the picture in the same place as they were removed from the laptop/phone.

      That way, I not only keep track of how many screws I have, but at which stage and location they go back into the device. Result=no forgotten/lost screws, and a good template for the next time I have to disassemble.

      • by macraig (621737)

        Not bad, but I'd worry about the screws dislodging from the sheets, etc. I like my labelled locking compartments because they can fall off the desk and no harm done (*if* I keep them closed, which I do). I like the way your method combines a visual workflow with parts storage, though.

        • by phorm (591458)

          Not bad, but I'd worry about the screws dislodging from the sheets, etc

          If they're really tiny, I often tape them in place. If the head is big enough, they usually stick fine just poking into the page.
          IIRC, I taped them for the last iPhone I opened up, but laptop screws were a bit bigger and didn't need tape.

  • by pinkfalcon (215531) on Friday May 04, 2012 @12:02PM (#39891309)

    This also re-opens the argument that if Apple made the battery replaceable in the first place, then you wouldn't have to damage the phone to replace the battery.

  • by Henriok (6762) on Friday May 04, 2012 @12:04PM (#39891333)
    I think it's extremely pleasant to read a relevant follow up of a previous article. In this day and age where hysterical or sensational trolling is the main reason for publishing any news items, a calm and sensible follow up where the facts are laid bare is rare. Kudos to Slashdot.
  • by CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) on Friday May 04, 2012 @12:09PM (#39891393)
    Here is your mission should you choose to accept it. .... This iphone will self-destruct in 10 seconds. Have a nice day.
  • by tobiah (308208) on Friday May 04, 2012 @12:51PM (#39892049)

    When I tear down small devices/laptops I occasionally find a loose screw in there because the threads stripped. This is especially true of portable devices which get a good bit of jostling, and usually around the battery, which swells and shrinks.

  • Hey, I just had an epiphany: maybe this unauthorised service tech was the victim of too much football in his youth [slashdot.org]?

  • Why the emphasis on "unauthorized repairer"? If I become an Apple "genius", does that mean all screws automatically go in their right spots? Am I immune to mistakes?

  • The ATSB said the incident highlighted the dangers of using unauthorised repairers.

    And this also should highlight manufacturers trying to restrict the scope of authorized repairers.

  • "Authorized" and "Competent" are two completely different words, with completely different meanings. I want my electronics repaired by a "competent" repairer. I don't give a flip if they are "authorized."

  • by sjames (1099)

    In-flight incident caused by an Apple user with a screw loose.

An Ada exception is when a routine gets in trouble and says 'Beam me up, Scotty'.

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