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Apple Blames 'External Forces' For Exploding iPhones 383

Shome writes "Apple has stated that there is no evidence that recent iPhone explosions reported by users are connected to overheating of batteries. It may be stated that French consumer affairs authorities have started their own investigation on the reported explosions, some of which have caused minor injuries to the users, and are studying the phone's safety features. The Inquirer runs a piece that blames Apple for blaming its customers. 'This mysterious force is not God, or a rival religion, nor does it require any metaphysics to understand. An "external force" is just Apple's term for the black shirted people who believe that everything that Apple makes is wonderful. It is what other companies call their "customers," writes Nick Farrell.'"
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Apple Blames 'External Forces' For Exploding iPhones

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:12AM (#29261115)

    Some idiots SIT on their phones. And they expect a thin glass+electronics+thin metal/plastic shell to NOT break?

    Come on.

  • Ya know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dazedNconfuzed ( 154242 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:14AM (#29261135)

    Sometimes it is the customer's fault.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:15AM (#29261153) Homepage Journal

    Sure, it may be "external forces" like accidently dropped phones, high- or low humidities or temperatures, or what-not, but if the iPhone explosion rate is higher than competitive phones, you have to ask yourself why iPhones are so fragile.

    Come on Apple, find the cause and unless it's customers deliberately abusing their phones, fix it.

  • by snl2587 ( 1177409 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:20AM (#29261237)

    Of course you shouldn't expect it not to break. But an explosion? That's unacceptable.

  • Not quite (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dissy ( 172727 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:21AM (#29261245)

    An "external force" is just Apple's term for the black shirted people who believe that everything that Apple makes is wonderful. It is what other companies call their 'customers'." writes Nick Farrell.'

    No, an "external force" is an end user putting the device in an oven at 350 degrees, or driving a nail through the battery.

    Both are actions that no manufacturer should be held responsible short of specifically stating one can do such a thing when you can't.

    "External forces" do exist, no matter how much you hate one company or another.

    While I wouldn't trust Apples own investigation into which end of the spectrum the problem lies, just because you hate Apple does not mean that other end of the spectrum does not exist.

    I am not making any claims to which end of things the exploding batteries from Apple falls under. I would tend to suspect only a very small percentage of complaints are from end users abusing their products, and most likely the batteries actually are failing under normal use, but I have no more data to go on than anyone else.

    But to claim that it is not physically possible for an end user to abuse their device, and state that 100% of all such failures can not be the cause of anything other than Apple, is just stupid and dishonest.

    Of course this is an Apple story, so I will just sit back and wait for the Troll mods and accusations of 'blaming users' or 'defending Apple' or some other crap I haven't done...

  • Re:Track record (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:29AM (#29261355)

    To be fair, those batteries were made by Sony.

  • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:29AM (#29261365) Homepage

    The real problem is in their determination. "External Forces" can be quite a few things. Including the two items you mention. However, if you're talking about someone sitting on the phone being one of them (mentioned earlier in this thread...) or perhaps talking "too long" on the phone such that the battery gets " warm " (Which most of the smartphones seem to get that way easily- and it's not the SoC doing it...), you're talking a different story. Which is it? Apple's not saying, which is where some of my concern lies. "External Forces" is a cop-out response. Spell it out as to why they exploded. If you're unwilling to do so, you're covering up something. Dell did. Sony did. Apple even did on their laptops on the Li-Ion batteries there. So why the evasiveness here?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:30AM (#29261393)
    When they start banning them from cross-country flights, I'll be concerned.
  • "External Forces" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rehtonAesoohC ( 954490 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:32AM (#29261427) Journal
    I think we can all agree that given the number of iPhones/iPods that are out there, somewhere, some moron said "Hey y'all, watch this!" before he poured gasoline on the phone and lit it on fire... Yes, we can agree on THAT as an "External Force."

    However, in this instance, it seems that Apple is more than happy to classify these "External Forces" as normal phone usage! What's that? You talked on the phone for more than an hour? We are sorry, Apple cannot be held responsible for these external forces which are beyond our control.

    "But, it's a phone!" you'll reply. What's that, you turned the device on? We are sorry, Apple cannot be held responsible for these external forces beyond our control.

    Clearly, I am being sarcastic, but in all honesty, Apple could admit to some culpability in this instance... As other posters have mentioned, it's not like Apple was not already involved in a Recall of Batteries Used in Previous iBook and PowerBook Computers Due To Fire Hazard [cpsc.gov]

    Did I stress the part about FIRE HAZARD enough there?
  • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Major Blud ( 789630 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:33AM (#29261457) Homepage
    Agreed. My wife works at an Apple retail store. You wouldn't believe the number of people who get their phone wet, and then deny doing so. A guy brought his 12 year old daughters phone into the store (why a 12 year old needs an iPhone is a different story all together). This phone obviously had water-damage, but the father denied it till the end...even after my wife managed to get the daughter to fess up after asking her a few questions. Even though the daughter admitted to dropping her phone in a vat of gatorade, the father still believed that this was not their problem and insisted that this was a hardware fault. In another case, a woman was talking on her phone in front of the store....in the rain. After taking it in, my wife looked at it and informed her of the obvious water damage. This lady completely denied ever having this phone come into contact with water, even after my wife stated that she just saw her using it in the rain. This lady stormed out of the store, and immediately called someone on the phone....while standing in the rain again. A guy I work with dropped his phone in the ocean and it immediately quit working. He made an appointment, went to the store, and was completely honest about what happened with the sales rep (not my wife). They comped his replacement phone for him. Moral of the story is, if you're honest and polite, you may get more help than if you go into the store and whine, complain, lie, and curse at the top of your lungs, which is probably happening in most of these exploding battery scenarios.
  • Not really. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Auroch ( 1403671 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:39AM (#29261537)
    For apple products, when the mantra is "It just works" ... and the software is built on a very small number of in-house designed products, it shouldn't be the customer's fault.

    Take windows (or linux) - if you can't get something to work correctly, or the wrong drivers/settings fry your hard drive from parking the head incorrectly (or whatever), then you can blame the customer. But when apple designs the product, from start to finish, it should very rarely be the customer's fault, especially when in normal usage.

    Normal usage, you ask? In my world, normal usage means occasionally (very infrequently) leaving a laptop on inside a case, and expecting it *not* to fry because of poor thermal design. It also involves getting the occasional splash of liquid on my gadgets. And, you know, keeping my phone in my pants, where it will heat up if it isn't designed properly.

    Normal usage is *not* exploding batteries, exceptionally short lived LCDs or GPUs that don't live long unless the fan is on full speed, all the time. And when these thing occur, I expect (and have always received) good support from my hardware vendor.

    And no, I do not buy apple. Sure, they have great warranty service... if you buy the applecare. But I can get that sort of extended warranty from almost any vendor - The difference? Those vendors don't have retail locations like apple.
  • Re:Track record (Score:3, Insightful)

    by andymadigan ( 792996 ) <amadiganNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:40AM (#29261547)
    They were sold by Apple. This is sold by Apple, is there any reason to believe there couldn't ever be another batch of bad batteries? Is there any reason to believe Apple improved their testing to deal with higher-than-clean-room environments?
  • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shimbo ( 100005 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:41AM (#29261557)

    This lady completely denied ever having this phone come into contact with water, even after my wife stated that she just saw her using it in the rain.

    That sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Maybe Apple world is full of shiny, happy people and it never rains there; in my book, if you can't use a phone just because it happens to be raining, it's defective.

  • by Slur ( 61510 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:42AM (#29261591) Homepage Journal

    ...for being a complete dick. Not everyone who owns an Apple product is a black-shirted zealot, and it's obnoxious to paint all of a company's customers with such a broad brush. Nick is just feeding the trolls by echoing the same stupid tropes that unoriginal people endlessly repeat in forums and comment sections all over the web.

    A decent writer - editorial or otherwise - should discuss the merits and facts of the situation without bringing in useless and alienating invective. He may get a few yuks from the dumb crowd and incite a colorful flame war in the comment section, but he certainly won't gain any deep or lasting respect as a journalist. But I suppose this is just a temporary thing until he gets a job he actually cares about or finishes that sci-fi novel he's been working on.

    Oh, now look, I'm doing it too. Dammit!

  • Re:Ya know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kral_Blbec ( 1201285 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:43AM (#29261613)
    Considering the cost of making a disc is virtually nil, and you could have taken your disc in to prove it was damaged while in use, I think you had a perfectly good reason to exchange it for a new one. It's not an excuse, its a valid exchange. Damaged software is cheap and easy to replace. The only squabble is potential pirating when exchanging a functional disc. Obviously not functional means no worries about that.
  • Re:Not quite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Major Blud ( 789630 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:44AM (#29261625) Homepage
    Touche'. I have used my iPhone in the rain a few times, and the moisture sensors have still never been tripped; I guess the point I was trying to make is that you can't trust users anymore than you can trust Apple's PR department.
  • Re:Not quite (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:47AM (#29261671)

    Apple's not saying, which is where some of my concern lies.

    Probably because the investigation's not done yet, so a full report would be jumping to a conclusion, and if there is any legal culpability here, Apple would pretty much be required to shut up until the trial(s) are over.

    "External Forces" is a cop-out response.

    It's an incomplete response, and implies that they're not done investigating, or that the failures had little else in common.

    Spell it out as to why they exploded.

    You're assuming they exploded. Apple is saying that the glass cracks are not going the right way. It's like the old mystery novel thing where someone claims their house was broken into, but all the shattered glass is on the ground outside the window, and the person claiming the break-in was lying to cover up something else.

    If you're unwilling to do so, you're covering up something. Dell did. Sony did. Apple even did on their laptops on the Li-Ion batteries there. So why the evasiveness here?

    Ah, the "you have nothing to hide if you're innocent" fallacy. I seem to remember Apple getting accused of cover-ups before they nailed down the laptop battery problem, too.

    The thing that makes me wonder is that I haven't seen anyone cite this incident as evidence of the superiority of removable batteries. Where are they?

  • by Kral_Blbec ( 1201285 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:54AM (#29261761)
    In Microsoft's defense (dangerous here I know) the vast majority of Vista problems HAVE been resolved months if not years ago. Further, most of those were hardware issues (nVidia..) and sloppy programming of other programs and thus NOT Microsofts fault. The single biggest obstacle it faces now are uninformed customers who heard "their computer guy" tell them two years ago that vista = evil and now refuse to listen to anything otherwise.

    Sure there are some that still have problems, but most of them would have problems on a computer no matter the OS. Vista as it is today and during the mojave ads is actually very nice.

    Microsoft acknowledged their problems (even though they weren't actually at fault), resolved them, and then tried to inform consumers that they had been fixed. Apple is rather just saying its not our fault to begin with.
  • Re:Track record (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:57AM (#29261789) Homepage

    I actually see the Sony-battery recall as being a reason to believe Apple on this one. With the Sony recall, they realized that there was a problem with their batteries; they were worried that it was going to bite them in the ass; and they issued a recall. That's responsible to the public and to the stock-holders. In this case, they looked into it and decided that there was no recall necessary. The fact that they issued a massively expensive recall before and aren't doing the same thing now tells me that they believe what they're saying.

    Note: I'm not an Apple fanboi. To my knowledge, I do not nor have I ever owned an Apple product.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:13PM (#29262035) Journal


    I wonder what explanation Apple's engineers have for the laptops that spontaneously smoked & sizzled? I think it's clear the flaw lies in the Lithium battery not the user, and Apple should simply SAY that rather than deny it. Like so: "Dell recently started it's corporate blog called dellone2one.com. One of posts is dedicated to Dell's infamous "flaming notebook" from Osaka. Dell thinks that it was a fault in a lithium ion battery cell, which caused laptop to burn.

    "Dell's engineering teams are working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission and a third-party failure analysis lab to determine the root cause of this failure and to ensure we take all appropriate measures to help prevent a recurrence", says post. LINK: http://laptoping.com/wp-content/flaming_laptop.jpg [laptoping.com] LINK: http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/laptops/sony-beancounters-tremble-as-own-vaio-batteries-come-home-to-roost-208031.php [gizmodo.com] LINK: http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/laptops/gizmodo-reader-witnesses-ibm-laptop-catch-fire-at-lax-201115.php [gizmodo.com]

    I'm glad all my laptops use NiMH, since it's been around quite a big longer (almost 20 years) and the bugs have been removed. I'm sure Lithium batteries will be a great product to own... circa 2020.

  • by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:16PM (#29262079) Journal

    It's actually extremely LOW compared to other phones, and further, "external force" is NOT a manufacturers concern. You're suggesting somehow that if a rash of people go around sitting on their G1s that Google should recall them???

    There have been "in the single digits" reported cases of iPhones and iTouch COMBINED "exploding" There are over 80Million of these devices in circulation. Further, each and every case thus far has either been proven to be false (many of the supposed "exploding phones" did not even HAVE rup[tured batteries after examination), or the phones have not been turned over for examination and no explanation of why not is being provided (likely because they realized Apple called their bluff when they tried to cheat the warranty).

    5 or 10 out of 40 million, not to mention the over 100 million additional iPods in circulation that also use a LiIon battery, is by no means in risk. in most states, your odds of winning a $1M plus lottery is higher then being the victim of an exploding device, let alone actually being HURT by one. More, the 3GS and all the new apple laptops do not USE LiIon batteries... They use LiPo, which is not subject to outgassing, cascade failure, or other hazards from being dropped, and the primary cause of LiIon failure (shorting), is not a problem with LiPo as they can handle the electric dispursion at extremely high rates without catching fire... They're basically safer than any other form of battery in circulation.

  • by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:30PM (#29262335)
    I often put my cell phone (not an iPhone) in my back pocket, depending what I am wearing when I go out - and in my opinion, if a manufacturer can not design a cell phone to withstand normal use by normal people, they should not be the business of manufacturing cell phones.
  • Re:Ya know... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Achromatic1978 ( 916097 ) <robert@c[ ]mablue.net ['hro' in gap]> on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:37PM (#29262457)

    Come to find out later, it was an acknowledged issue, and they deny it as long as possible to get it out of warranty.

    In Apple's defense

    Wow. Just wow. "You guys tried to screw me over and deny a valid warranty claim, but in your defense.

    There are no words ...

  • by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:43PM (#29262547) Homepage

    > NO evidence of the battery, or the glass itself, being a fault has been shown in any of these cases.

    Indeed, even the posters of the images did not make that claim, at least not with the images.

    The idea that the battery had anything to do with it was created in the BBG story, by a writer that clearly didn't understand the issue and simply conflated to different stories into one.

  • Apple has it wrong (Score:2, Insightful)

    by brkello ( 642429 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:47PM (#29262601)
    If it is exploding, it is obviously due to internal forces.
  • Re:Ya know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:49PM (#29262637)

    I don't think you've thought through the end-to-end cost of providng a replacement. It's not just the material cost of pressing the disc.

    If the retailer trades on a "no questions asked" return policy or something like that, then there's nothing wrong with taking advantage of it in a case like this; but otherwise, it's not reasonable to expect the retailer to absorb costs by treating end-user destruction of the product as a "valid return".

    What GP could have done to minimize the cost of getting a replacement, was to deal further up the supply chain. Perhaps the manufacturer has a replacement program. You still shouldn't expect it to be free - there are still costs involving shipment, not to mention paying someone to process your request - but it may well be cheaper than buying a new copy at retail.

    And if the manufacturer doesn't offer such a program? Well, they're under no obligation as far as I can tell.

    Bottom line: GP may not have considered all available options, but his (her?) attitude is correct. Expecting others to absorb the costs of your mistakes is just greedy.

  • Re:Ya know... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull ( 905905 ) <.marc.paradise. .at. .gmail.com.> on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:50PM (#29262651) Homepage Journal
    Whether the cost is $0.6 or $600 - the point is that it was his mistake, and so he pays the price. Why would the cost to you vs the cost to the merchant or manufacturer be a factor to consider when accepting the consequences of your actions? It's not the manufacturer's fault that he moved it while it was spinning - something common sense would say not to do. It was his own. I'm impressed that he accepted this, instead of trying to justify it in any way.
  • by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:03PM (#29262893) Journal

    Um, "single digit" number of devices submitted worldwide due to similarly claimed battery failures. Over 40 Million iPhones/iTouches sold since launch. Same LiIon based batteries in nearly every iPod sold since 2005, over another 110M units. New 3GS phones do not use LiIon, but LiPo, and are not subject to combustion or outgassing due to heat or short failures, and do not explode on impact (you actually have to put a HOLE in one to get a negative result, like cracking it in half by sitting on it).

    Less than 10 out of 150M is a VERY smnall number... In most states, odds of winning the states top lottery is better.

    Per this article, over 83 in a 2 year period, mostly Kyocera and LG:http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/cell_phone_batteries.html

    Sony recalled a massive line of batteries after ericson phones were blowing off all over the world, with nearly 100 cases reported of people being burned.

    Nokia in 2007 had over 100 reported cases of their devices causing burns.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/technologyNews/idUSHEL00572220070814 [reuters.com]

    The Blackberry Bold, which at the time had distributed as few at 5,000 units, had had more cases of battery failure (30 cases!) than apple has with 150 million LiIon powered devices in the field (RIM also declined a recall). Total, RIM has distributed only 21 million phones, and has already gone through 2 recalls for saftey issues.

  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:06PM (#29262937)

    Thanks for spreading more FUD and making a 3rd party vendor's firmware issues look like Apple's fault...

    I thought the whole argument for why Mac OS can only be used on Apple built computers was because that allowed Apple to control all of the hardware it ran on and avoid these types of problems?

  • by Mongoose Disciple ( 722373 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:27PM (#29263177)

    I eagerly agreed and walked out of the store with my new machine and my faith in Apple restored.

    Honest question: is this statement sarcastic?

    Because I think I'd have a lot more faith (or at least some) in Apple if you didn't have to escalate to management and argue them down about it, after buying a ludicrously expensive warranty.

  • Re:Ya know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JAlexoi ( 1085785 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:29PM (#29263221) Homepage
    But why would he have to pay up for the license, if he already has it?
    That is essentially the issue with "You do not buy the game, you buy the media and a license". He did not invalidate the license by scratching the media. Since "the media and a license" are two rather distinct items, as the suits say, why would he need to buy another license!?!?!?!?!?!
  • Re:Not quite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by webdog314 ( 960286 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:52PM (#29263589)

    And it should also function underwater to 50 meters! And in a vacuum! And double as an ice-scraper for my windshield!

    You want to use it in the rain, stand INSIDE the house, or, buy an expanding moisture shield... otherwise known as an UMBRELLA.

    Unless of course you were being sarcastic, in which case how the hell did you get modded "Insightful"?

  • by Waccoon ( 1186667 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @03:20AM (#29271009)

    Unfortunately, the system in the Seagate HDD was much more sensitive, or conflicted with Apple's own protection system built into the macbook, and it took SEAGATE a couple of weeks to develop a patch that Apple tested and then distributed.

    Yes, and the captain goes down with the ship.

    People pay a premium to get a premium product, not to be told that flaws and flukes are normal.

  • Re:Not quite (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikemcc ( 4795 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @10:37PM (#29281043)

    I look forward to the follow-up post that you write on your laptop while sitting outside during the next downpour.

We gave you an atomic bomb, what do you want, mermaids? -- I. I. Rabi to the Atomic Energy Commission