Can Your Portable Device Really Explode?

Can Your Portable Device Really Explode?

Mobile phones, mp3 players, laptops, tablets, e-readers. The variety and number of mobile electronic devices in a household that need charging is increasing all the time. While original charger replacements are much more expensive than their cheaper Chinese knockoffs found in almost every store these days, saving money from buying cheap counterfeit chargers may be a serious mistake that could mean risking your life.

There have been many incidents across Canada, and really all over the world of people burning themselves from an overheated device, of mobile devices like iPhones and iPads catching on fire and exploding along with tales of people waking up in the middle of the night only to find smoke or fire billowing from their bedroom. There is even an incident of a a 23-year-old woman from China who died because she got electrocuted by picking up her iPhone while it was plugged in and charging.

Most of the time is comes down to cheap counterfeit chargers since they pose the real safety hazard as well as a hazard to your phone. So, for example, you can buy a charger that looks just like an Apple charger for about $2, on eBay or Amazon, or even at your local gas station but it is important to know that 2 dollar charger is really nothing like an official Apple charger internally. Many of these cheap chargers ignore safety standards when they are manufactured and since they can have hundreds of volts of electricity flowing through it internally, many cheap knockoffs don’t have the proper insulation or suitable fuses during a power surge. So, you’re putting your $900 phone, and more importantly yourself, at risk if you choose to use a cheaper non-generic charger.

For some of the cheaper chargers people buy that look just like say the original Apple charger well, for the untrained eye these fake chargers are sometimes hard to spot. So a good rule of thumb to determine genuine Apple chargers is to look for “Designed by Apple in California.” printed somewhere on the charger. With that in mind, I’ve even seen Chinese knockoffs that attempted to have this printed but spelled incorrectly. So check the spelling as well.

Now, all that said, there are circumstances where a faulty battery can cause a phone to heat up, melt or even an explode. It looks like Lithium Ion are the most popular type of battery found in most electronics these days and while it holds 6 times more of the charge than the older types and they are great for portable devices, they are volatile and can cause the device to explode. So, in the past there are examples of big box stores doing recalls on electronics due to faulty batteries.

I wouldn’t say it’s a common problem but it does happen. If you look at the number of devices worldwide, with the world market saturated with so many mobile devices, phones being the largest mobile product consumed by people, you’re going to see some faulty batteries causing overheating or possibility explosions and your going to get many people trying to save money by purchasing cheap unbranded chargers. And when disaster strikes, it’s when usually when we least expect it resulting in third degree burns, house fires, or even death. Though, I’d say I’d lend more credence to faulty and cheap counterfeit chargers causing more issues instead since the manufactures of these products never really adhere to industry safety standards. Right now, counterfeit electronics it’s a multi-billion dollar industry.

For the most part, I think you always hear of it happening to an Apple device because the market is so saturated with their devices as it seems to be the device of choice with the younger generation but it can really happen to any electronic device plugged into a socket. For instance, back in 2007 seven-year-old Connor O’Keefe, from South-East London, died playing with his Game Boy — he had been using a cheap, unbranded charger his family had bought on holiday in Thailand. And because of that cheap charger, he was electrocuted and found dead in his hotel room. Tests revealed the charger had ‘serious defects’ and was the reason for his death.

With that in mind though, starting back in 2013, Apple created a USB Power Adapter Take Back Program for people who thought they purchased an authentic power adapter but ended up getting a counterfeit or third party power adapter and if you go to you can find much more information.

To avoid having a phone overhead or explode the first thing you need to keep in mind is not to overcharge your device. To be completely sure and safe, when your device is fully charged, disconnect it and turn off or unplug the charging unit. Also, too, never cover your charger when it is in use since most chargers, especially older laptop power chargers give off small amounts of heat that may build up over time if they are covered. Never use a charger if it shows any signs of damage or appears to be not working properly.  Overnight charging is another concern that people need to be aware of as well. To avoid any potential fire hazards people should not leave any of their portable devices charging while unattended overnight.  Make sure the device and charger is authentic or comes from a reputable dealer.

Be careful exposing the device to heat, cold, or water. Mixing the electronics in a device, especially the battery with any three of these elements can cause the device to fail and possibility overheat or explode. Finally, I really think in this situation, you would need to adhere to the old saying “you get what you pay for”. Even though genuine chargers for each specific device are going to be more expensive compared to knock-offs found online, it will be worth it as it could potentially save your life someday.

If the phone or device is getting hot, to the point where you can’t hold or touch it, that is a sure warning sign that something is going wrong and you should not use the device, especially if it’s a phone that you hold close to your head. Phones do get warm with extended use but if you find it’s warmer than usual, then bring it in for service. Also, if the phone is not keeping its charge that could also be a sign that the battery or electronics in the device is defective. Now I know that on occasion software updates or crashed hanging apps can affect battery life but if you do a reboot or factory reset and still notice significant battery drainage, you might want it get it serviced before something more serious happens.

CBS interview on why phones explode




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