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EE recalls 500,000 of its free Power Bar battery packs — after one exploded

Batteries inside our phones aren’t getting any bigger, and with ever more powerful devices available, standby times aren’t increasing, making it a challenge to keep them up and running throughout the day. UK network EE came up with an ingenious solution to the problem, but unfortunate events have stopped the promotion in its tracks.

Updated on 12-17-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in news EE is recalling all the Power Bars

Important recall details for all Power Bars

After what was a successful launch — EE regularly ran out of Power Bar stock — the network was forced to issue a limited recall in August, after reports of the Power Bars exploding, and in late December announced it was recalling all the Power Bars regardless of serial number.

The December announcement stated: “We are recalling all EE Power Bars. This is just a precaution, but we want to make sure all our customers are safe. If you have a Power Bar, you should stop using it straight away and hand it in to one of our stores.”

In return, EE will give eligible customers a £20 voucher to redeem against accessories from EE’s own online store. It says the reason for the recall is a small number of Bars have overheated and may cause a fire risk.

Power Bar RecallBack in August, the reason was much the same. EE recalled Power Bars from certain batches, saying it had seen, “a very small number of incidents where Power Bars have overheated and could pose a fire safety risk.” The batches affected have the model number E1-06 stamped on the side of the device, and there may have been up to 500,000 of them in circulation.

The most widely reported incident prior to the recall was of a student from Scotland, who was awoken by her charging Power Bar exploding, and setting her bed on fire. She suffered from severe burns.

How did the Power Bar promotion work?

Prior to the recall, we checked out the EE Power Bar, and here’s what we thought of it. It’s a cylindrical external battery pack that plugs into your phone ready to boost the battery when it’s needed. Nothing unusual there, except not only is the Power Bar absolutely free, but you can take one without any energy left back into a store, and they’ll swap it over for a charged one. As many times as you like. That’s a pretty amazing deal, and one we’d like to see all networks adopt.

Related: 20 of the juiciest battery packs you can buy for your smartphone right now

Decorated in EE’s bright color scheme, the Power Bar won’t take up much more room in a bag than a regular charger, and it’s lightweight enough to carry in a pocket if you want. A 2,600mAh battery is inside, which will give a 75 percent charge to a phone such as the LG G3, and near enough a full charge on an iPhone 6. Press the single button on the front to start charging your phone, and that’s it.

Use the power inside, then swap it for a charged one

It’s hard to believe the Power Bar is free, but sure enough, texting the word Power to EE gets you a special code in return, and this can be redeemed in an EE store for the Power Bar. It took less than a minute for the code to arrive, and about the same time for the EE sales person to hand over the battery pack. It came three quarters charged, which is plenty for an emergency.

I could have charged my phone, handed the Power Bar back to EE, and got another charged one in exchange on the same day. Alternatively, it can be charged up using an included USB cable and a normal phone charger. If you’re an iPhone user, you will need to carry around a Lightning cable to use it. The offer is open to any EE subscriber, whether on Pay As You Go or a contract.

In the light of the recall, any future promotion from EE — or any other network watching from afar — involving charger packs seems unlikely, unless it can guarantee it won’t turn into a PR disaster. EE operates more than 550 retail stores in the UK, and has recently been acquired by British Telecom in a $19 million deal.

Previous updates:

Updated on 08-06-2015 by Andy Boxall: Added in news of a recall of the EE Power Bar, following reports of exploding chargers

Article originally published on 04-17-2015