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

    by MobileTatsu-NJG ( 946591 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:33AM (#29261445)

    Sometimes it is the customer's fault.

    Boy is that true. I have an XBOX 360 I don't play very often. I dusted it off when Ghostbusters came out. Up until I got this game, I had the system sitting vertical. When I hooked it up for GB, I had it laying flat. While playing the game, the fan noise was really bad, worse than it was when I had played it months before. I wondered if rotating it vertically would reduce the fan noise. So, I picked it up, turned it, and *SCREECH*. I pulled the disc out and it had a nice circular scratch on it. Yes, I was that stupid.

    My friends didn't understand why I bought another copy of the game instead of taking it back. They all had suggestions for the excuses I could use and all that. Given the cost of the game, I probably could have gotten mad at Microsoft, and people would have rallied behind me. "Well the system should have been designed better! I never scratched a disc moving my laptop or dvd player!!" I didn't feel right about that, though. It was my fault.

    This post is semi-off-topic, so I figure I'll at least share a little bit of useful info. After I scratched this game, I thoguht it'd be worth trying to recover the disc. I bought a MadCatz DVD repair kit from GameStop. It worked. My scratched copy of Ghostbusters was restored (at least partially, I haven't attempted an installed) and it made one of my old DVDs playable again. It wasn't the fastest thing in the world to do, but it could have saved me $60.

  • by lorenzo.boccaccia ( 1263310 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:33AM (#29261461)
    you're talking about episodes, not rate, the rate figure is not so high because there are more iphone out there than other smartphones and because those are the shiny gadget of the week so more reports comes to the news. for the actual rate you have to divide the episodes by the sold units

    some perspective from 2007: [] - Nokia issued a product advisory for its BL-5C battery. The problem: The battery, which may affect as many as 46 million devices, could explode. what's the rate of that, compared to 5/10/100 thousand episodes?
  • Re:Track record (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Colonel Korn ( 1258968 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:36AM (#29261505)

    To be fair, those batteries were made by Sony.

    Apple doesn't make anything itself. What's the point?

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

    by ukyoCE ( 106879 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @11:46AM (#29261661) Journal

    It's hard to tell, but I believe the OP was being sarcastic. The point is that Apple DID recall millions of Powerbook batteries that were exploding. Therefore they have a history of admitting and recalling when there IS a legitimate problem with a product.

    People damage their cell phones and ipods all the time. My cell phone is covered with scratches because I put it in my pocket with my keys. Only an idiot would blame the manufacturer for getting scratched by sharp metal objects. Yet when it comes to Apple, you see news article after news article because, surprise! Apple products can be damaged by mistreatment.

  • Re:Track record (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nossie ( 753694 ) <.teN.tnempoleveD4. .ta. .eivraHnaI.> on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:04PM (#29261887)

    which part of the device did Apple actually make?

    batteries by sony...
    hdisks by hitachie and western digital...
    motherboards by asus and foxcomm ...

    where do you draw the line? The only thing apple can take responsibility for recently is the PA semiconductor acquisition they made recently and those PPC chips havent been used in apples devices yet.

    Sorry I'm still just pissed off like fuck my 64bit VT enabled laptop with 64bit chipset has a fucking 32bit EFI firmware that apple seems to have no intention of updating!

    FUCK YOU APPLE! /rant

    I think I'm going to buy a mac mini to replace my G4 cube ... not sure the best time to buy tho :-|

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:31PM (#29262369) Homepage

    When something like this happened in the auto industry with the Ford Pinto [], there were lawsuits, recalls, scandals, and the demise of the brand. The Ford Pinto would occasionally catch fire if hit from the rear by the "external force" of another vehicle. The gas tank could be pushed into the differential, causing a leak and explosion. There were only 27 such incidents, out of millions of Pintos built.

    The situation is very similar. The iPhone has a lot of energy stored in a fragile container, and damage to that container can release the energy and cause a fire or explosion. Such devices must be engineered to fail in a safe way when damaged, just as cars are. (Cars very seldom blow up in collisions, despite what one sees in movies).

    The computer and phone industries aren't used to being held to the safety standards of the auto industry. Legally, though, they have the same responsibilities. Apple is now finding that out.

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

    by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:33PM (#29262403) Journal

    Yup. I watched one iPhone 3G nearly split completely in two when a coworker's kids were fighting over who got to play the next game on it. Shattered the screen, cracked the case, and luckilly the battery came out whole or it most likely would have ruptured being an older LiIon. Those kids spend 6 months of chores working that one off...

    I've also had several coworkers drop their phones on concrete and driveways, and in many cases even without marring the outside of the phone, the screen shatters in much the way it appears in the images provided by apple. Cracks seeming to ceom from the center, though the device landed on edge. none of their batteries blew out.

    I've also seen one coworker's device outgas in his car, marking up his dash, and he was lucky it didn't catch fire. Dumbass left it running in a parked car that was off, doors open and music blasting through the stereo, and apparently left the GPS enabled, parked it in the sun not far from a friend's backyard pool. 6-7 hours later, music stopped and smoke was billowing from his car. Do you think he blamed Apple? nope, he forked over $600 for a new phone though...

    I dropped my 2G about 50 times... The metal casing was all shot to shit, but it never cracked the screen. Eventually it failed due to a GPU firmware issue that effected a particular line of serial numbers and Apple replaced it for free. I had 4 scratches in the screen, dings and dents all over it, and they never questioned it;s condition (other than looking for the immersion litmus through the haedphone jack). I even dropped it once in a downpour and STEPPED ON IT, screen down on the concrete (how it got 2 of the scrathes). Damned things are frigging indestructible...

    My 3Gs and my wife's 3G (we got lucky on the trade-in, local apple store was out of 2Gs and instead of making us repeat a 4 hour round trip, they gave her a 3G as a replacement) and My 3GS have been dropped numerous times. 20 month old baby keeps snatching them from pockets ort tables and throwing them across the room. Not a scratch on either yet. Close firend, he's gone through 2 blackberries and a G1 in the last 10 months with a child doing exactly the same thing, though my living room is a hardwood floor and HIS IS CARPETED!

    The iPhone is one of the most solid devices I've seen yet, the screen is DAMNED hard to scratch, the defice is rugged, and it takes either a sgnificant, or repetitive shock to cause it damage. other phones fall apart being simply dropped the wrong way. if only "single digit" reports (which btw, is not a single countries total, but Apple's worldwide collection of returned devices accused of exploding) out of 50-150 million devices equippped with those betteries, then who are you to blame it on manufacturing, when not a single reported case has been linked to anything but abuse?

  • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:43PM (#29262553)
    From everything I've read, these 'explosions' (and I use that term generously) are the result of the iphone battery being shorted or in extreme cases, ruptured. I've never heard of a case of explosions because someone 'sat' on their iphone. Considering the millions of phones out there and the ease at which such 'sitting' test could be reproduced by ANY person with an iPhone I would have to take that with a grain of salt.

    Current good theories are that the battery itself gets short circuited since the iPhone is not designed with a user replaceable battery, it doesn't contain the usual shielding around the battery like a normal cell phone does. As a result, an extreme enough break in the casing that impacts the battery can cause it to let the magic smoke out.
  • by MartinSchou ( 1360093 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:46PM (#29262579)

    Localized for a global product doesn't mean it's not a problem.

    At one point, HP had an issue with a shipment of colour toner cartridges that essentially exploded when in use. Not leak toner, but to the extent that it would be able to easily leave the confines of the printer itself.

    This only happened in Scandinavia, didn't happen to any cartridges sold separately, and as far as I remember, it only happened to the cartridges that came with the printer, and only in a certain S/N rage.

    From what we were told in the trenches, it came down to how a shipment of printers had been stored on their way to the distribution centre - I think it was an issue with temperature or something. And to make things stranger, I had one customer on the phone who had bought four of these printers for the office at the same time and only one of them had done this.

    And it wasn't something that happened outside of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden either.

    Really odd things can happen during transport that will make your devices behave in unforeseen ways. Even in sporadic ways. Localized can easily mean that the issue is limited to a specific batch, that something non-standard is going on there (i.e. 245v@53Hz just to pull something odd out of thin air) or just localized phenomena

  • by jayme0227 ( 1558821 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:50PM (#29262657) Journal

    What you're saying is that sitting on your phones was something completely unpredictable by Apple and therefore Apple shouldn't be held responsible. This is completely ass-backwards. If Apple didn't know that people would put the phones in their pocket, then Apple is run by idiots. If Apple did know and didn't design the phone to withstand that sort of use, then Apple is run by idiots. Since I don't believe that Apple is run by a bunch of idiots, I have to dismiss these first two possibilities.

    What I believe is far more likely is that Apple just didn't do a good enough job. I don't fault them for this. They are putting out a serious piece of technology and to have a small oversight is completely acceptable. What I do not find acceptable, however, is that they can't own up to it and accept that their phones are indeed exploding where others do not seem to have the same problem. Instead of addressing and fixing the problem, they are just having a "blamestorming session," to steal a term. And this is only after trying to deny it and cover it up completely. That's bad. Very bad.

  • Re:normal for Apple (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Macman408 ( 1308925 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @12:56PM (#29262769)

    Go work doing warranty computer repair for a while... You'll become a cynic too. I've seen more than my fair share of laptops that just "suddenly stopped working" due to apparent spontaneous creation of red wine or cola within the case. The customers will go out of their way to clean the outside of the case, hoping that we won't notice the sticky residue that's coating the guts of the computer. There are many cases of cracked screens (both laptops and phones) that the customer legitimately did not see happen - but those are far more likely to be cases where the screen got cracked due to poor handling than due to manufacturing defects.

    And Apple does occasionally own up to their (and their suppliers') mistakes, when there's a significant statistical outlier in terms of failures. Batteries, graphics chips, power supplies, power adapters... I even remember my parents' 15" Apple CRT being covered by an extended warranty in about 1995 because it had a tendency to start flickering yellow. But they don't do that every time somebody on the Internet makes a fuss - whether legitimate or not. Apple customers are ridiculously picky. Like those who complained about the mold lines on the G4 Cube's plastic. Or about misalignment of a laptop case by less than a millimeter. Or a hard drive that clicks slightly differently from what customers are used to hearing (which, admittedly can sometimes be a sign of failure, but can also just be the way it was designed).

  • Re:Ya know... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by flibuste ( 523578 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:11PM (#29263001)

    The fact that it is you who are responsible for the damage is actually arguable:

    • Nowhere in the documentation is it said that you should not flip the box while it is operating.
    • 99% of DVD readers can be flipped during operation: laptops, portable players, etc. all can be moved while the DVD is being read, so one is entitled to assume that yet another DVD reader should behave the same. But the almighty Box from M$ does not behave like any other consumer DVD product.

    To me it's not a customer error, it's a defective product OR an incomplete documentation.

  • by phayes ( 202222 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @01:29PM (#29263223) Homepage

    Some of the people who claim to have been victims of "Spontaneous Exploding iPhones" have refused to let Apple take a look at them to attempt to determine why. If the iPhone cannot be shown to have been damaged by an external shock prior to the accident, Apple promised to replace it, but these people are trying to get their insurance to cover the loss without investigating.

    A GP post asked "Why is the iPhone different from all the other phones". If you paid a little more attention to how the iPhone is constructed you'd learn that the iPhones battery is different from all those other phones as it is conformal, non removable & the iPhone itself is much thinner relative to it's relatively large surface area. The iPhone is thus certainly subject to different stresses than a "normal" battery pack.

  • by pelorus ( 463100 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @02:51PM (#29264499)

    People lie. Especially when the truth will cost them a couple of hundred. I've seen cracked LCD screens that 'just happened' and had nothing to do with leaving a set of keys on the keyboard while closing the lid. I've seen mould growing off a sticky brown-stained motherboard that smelled of coffee despite the user saying that they never spilled coffee on it. I've seen squashed iPods brought in for 'warranty' work because the end user didn't think that leaving the iPod in their jacket and then using the jacket for a goal post in a soccer match was any reason for concern.

    People lie. And people don't like their insurance to way out when they can moan constantly and get a new machine for free.

    I see no evidence that these 'explosions' occurred and I see plenty of evidence that people lie when they break their computers. Apple is politely saying "You broke it, you fix it" which is fair enough for any manufacturer.

  • by beelsebob ( 529313 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:02PM (#29264665)

    Notably as well, 2G and 3G phones are having this mysterious problem, not just 3GSes, but strangely, they all developed it within a week of the first report; none exploded for 2 years, then lots exploded all in one week. This doesn't sound likely.

    Also notably absent from any of the reports - no one seems to be saying they saw any smoke or flame, just that the screen cracked. Battery explosions are usually rather more exciting than that.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @03:45PM (#29265323) Homepage

    What you say is generally well known among the technical crowd. LiIon batteries are powerful and have contain dangerous potential. Apple engineers probably know this too.

    Here's the deal though. This is a consumer device called a phone. People expect to be able to treat it and deal with it just like all of their other phones. There are no warnings that the phone should treat their iPhones with extra care or that the consequences of mistreatment are exploding devices and potential injury. This would be the bare minimum we should expect as consumers.

    But LiIon batteries have failed and erupted into flame and explosion for longer than the iPhone or other iPod devices have existed. Not all of them are the result of physical damage -- some simply happen spontaneously and are likely due to very small defects in the batteries themselves.

    And I will agree that it is probably VERY hard to make an iPhone with a LiIon battery keeping it slim and all that without these risks. But what should a company do under those circumstances? Make it anyway and hope for the best??? Nope! Don't sell it!! Keep in mind, these are devices that are also routinely in the pockets of children. All the warning labels if they were to exist would not prevent a child from turning his phone into a grenade with or without "external forces" acting upon it.

    Even if all of these instances were the result of user mishandling, it still doesn't excuse Apple for putting these on the market. They should all be recalled until a solution for safety is created and dispatched.

  • Re:Not really. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by radmarshallb ( 1062354 ) on Monday August 31, 2009 @05:00PM (#29266401)

    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.

    How is Apple having retail locations a valid reason not to buy AppleCare or Apple products?

If it's not in the computer, it doesn't exist.