Going Up in Smoke

Going Up in Smoke

Smartphones are exploding into flames. This guy was fortunate. It burnt a hole in his pocket and the phone dropped out before it burned into him. Many similar stories emerged of phones exploding, some in the middle of the night. Samsung Galaxy Note 7? No, in these cases it was an iPhone 6.

“iPhone owner Yvette Estrada says that her iPhone 6 Plus exploded in the middle of the night, spontaneously bursting into flames. ‘I heard a sizzling, then we heard the pop and the whole fire was coming out of the screen,’ Estrada told ABC30 late last week.”

“The explosion started a small fire, and her husband acted quickly by throwing the phone into the sink. The firefighters arrived around 3:00 AM to discover ‘ash, debris, and a melted phone.’ The phone got so hot that it damaged the dresser, a pair of glasses and two Apple Watch stands.”

The Samsung case differs in scale and frequency, but it really doesn’t matter which phone burns you. Once is one too many. So why are smartphones catching fire? That’s a bit of a mystery. It seems logical it’s a battery problem, but there is a difference between cause and incidence. Only the battery has the power to ignite, but what causes it to do so? Is it the design of the phone itself? With each iteration the vendors go for higher-resolution screens, faster processors, greater data throughout while at the same time keeping the phone as compact as possible. Is it the rush-to-market that leads vendors to cut corners? To be too ambitious? Or is it that the materials used cannot support the increasing functionality of the phones? Or are users partly responsible for allowing their phones to over-heat? The jury is out. However to safeguard oneself from the risks of an exploding smartphone, here is some simple sensible advice to users: [1]

  1. Do not let your phone or its battery be subjected to extreme heat. leaving it in a parked car that is under the hot Sun. Don’t microwave it either.
  2. Don’t overwork your device. If it heats up, allow for it to cool down before continuing to use it.
  3. For your own safety, leave the phone charging far away from where you sleep and not charging overnight.
  4. Don’t use knock-offs (batteries, chargers etc). Accessories that are not authorized by the smartphone manufacturer for use with their smartphones could cause harm to your phone or to you. (The rule of thumb is, if you won’t let your loved ones use it, don’t use it yourself.)
  5. Do not mix water with electronics. Just don’t.
  6. Do not mix gin martini with electronics. Just don’t. It really destroys the taste. (That bit is added as a cautionary afterthought).

burnt jeans

burnt phone

[1] For a litany of incidents going back years, see https://www.hongkiat.com/blog/smartphone-explosions-cases-causes/

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