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Exploding iPhones take two more victims: Here’s how to avoid joining them

Though the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Underwriter Laboratories (UL) both assured us last summer that phones are quite safe, some people still can’t catch a break. We’ve learned of two more instances of iPhones going up in smoke, both thanks to their batteries malfunctioning. 

Back pocket burn: In Maine an 8th grader was burned by her iPhone 5C when it started to overheat in her back pocket. She sat down in her seat when she heard a pop, and the phone started to heat up. The student had to take off her pants when the phone started emitting smoke, causing minor burns. It’s believed that the pressure of her sitting on the phone caused battery to short and malfunction. The Fire Marshall is reportedly investigating. It’s an incident he’s never seen before.

Thankfully the afflicted student is alright, though it does bring to light the issue of putting our expensive (and fragile) electronics in our back pockets. When we last spoke with the CPSC’s Communications Director Scott Wolfson, he warned that putting unnecessary pressure on smartphones significantly raises the risk of a phone’s battery shorting and exploding.

iphone-3gs-battery-balloonBallooning battery: The second incident took places in Czech Republic, where two people report to TUAW that their iPhone 3GSes didn’t explode, but instead ballooned up, causing the casings of their phones to split open. The lithium ion battery inside each device expanded to more than twice its original size. Apple is reportedly investigating the incidents.

How to prevent an exploding iPhone battery

There are three main things that cause a smartphone’s battery to malfunction:

  • Overheating
  • Overcharging
  • Applying large amounts of pressure to the device

All of these things can dramatically raise the chances of a smartphone’s battery shorting, which causes it to swell up, overheat, and eventually explode. Still, this is a rare incident, and only a few hundred cases are known among the hundreds of millions of smartphones in the world, so don’t get paranoid. The biggest recommendations we have is to use the official charger with your phone, don’t leave it plugged in for days, and keep your smartphone out of your back pocket, for heaven’s sake. Don’t sit on your $300-$800 pocket computer. Yes, every teenager in the world, we’re talking to you.

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