A few new reports of cell phone injuries have sparked a (or another) new debate over the safety of the widely-used technology, especially after the family of a 23-year-old Chinese woman, Ma Ailun, attributed her untimely death last week to electrocution from answering a call while her iPhone 5 was charging. Horror stories of burns and explosions comes in waves, but considering how carefree we can be with our smartphones, sleeping with them charging near our beds and passing them off to toddlers to pass the time, should mobile phone users be worried?
Fred Smilansky told his local news affiliate last month that he woke up one morning to find his cellphone that had been charging overnight had actually exploded. “I saw the phone was like in pieces,” Smilansky said. “The battery inside actually expanded to the point that the screen popped out, the buttons popped out and I was kind of concerned because can you imagine if this happens when you’re on the phone, by your ear, or in your pocket?”
“…You have a 0.00000053 percent chance of being shocked or experiencing a problem. In other words, you have a 1 in 1.875 million chance.” – DigitalTrends.com
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has received dozens of reports of exploding cellphones, according to CBS New York. And Smilansky’s fears aren’t too far fetched, since many users have, infact, reported explosions while toting their phone in their pockets, or being surprised while talking on the phone. “[I’ve] definitely seen this kind of thing before,” cellphone technician Jake Earp told the station. The problem, said Earp, is that the lithium batteries commonly used in many phones can expand if overcharged. “Gases inside the battery start to expand,” Earp explained. “It will actually push the motherboard right out of the phone and sometimes break the back.”
The CPSC advises that consumers only use chargers or batteries compatible with your phone make and model. The agency cautions against cheap knock-offs and counterfeit accessories, and says to do not expose your phone to excessive heat. “While there have been some problems with legitimate, brand name batteries, experts say there is a much greater chance a poorly made, counterfeit battery will lack safety devices to detect the overheating or overcharging that can cause explosions.”
DigitialTrends.com recommends saferproducts.gov as a tool for concerned smartphone owners, “…where you can personally report product safety concerns. But you can do more than just report incidents; you can search or track any report ever made on a product, and see the action taken by the CPSC as a result of the report.”
But DigitalTrends also takes the time to note that the odds of your mobile device exploding or electrocuting you or a loved one are much like getting struck by lightening, and that these oddities are the exception not the rule. “Assuming there are 1000 cases of smartphone fires or shocks each year (only 40 have been reported on safterproducts.gov) and Gartner’s projection of 1.875 billion mobile phones sold in 2013 is correct, you have a 0.00000053 percent chance of being shocked or experiencing a problem. In other words, you have a 1 in 1.875 million chance.” Have you ever had a scary experience with your cell phone? Have reports of injury, and allegedly death, inspired you to change how you use your phone? — Casandra Armour