When it comes to something as serious and potentially dangerous as an exploding smartphone, it’s essential that you know all the facts and understand the entire situation. No one wants to compromise their safety over a device.
So let’s cut to the chase: do you have to worry about your iPhone exploding? The answer is almost certainly no.
What happened to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?
There have been a few cases over the years of phones exploding, but they’ve never seemed anything more than random and isolated. Concerns about exploding phones rose substantially in 2017 after Samsung had so much trouble with its Galaxy Note 7 that the company pulled it. The US Federal Aviation Administration has even banned carrying the device on US flights. Even after Samsung’s official fix, the devices still can’t be brought on planes.
But what has happened? It was not spontaneous combustion. It was a problem with the battery of the device. There were actually two different problems with the batteries that were introduced during manufacturing. Both issues caused short circuits that ultimately caused the devices to catch fire.
The battery is the key here. In any case of an exploding smartphone or other device, the battery is most likely to blame. In fact, any device with a lithium-ion battery like those used by Samsung, Apple, and most other companies could explode under the right (albeit relatively unlikely) circumstances.
It is also important to understand what “explode” means. That word might make you think of a bomb-like explosion from a Hollywood movie. That’s not what happens with phones. While there is technically an explosion or short circuit, what actually happens is the battery catches fire or melts. So while a bad battery is dangerous, it’s not like shrapnel is flying all over the room.
Could my iPhone explode?
There have been reports over the years that iPhones have exploded. These cases were probably also caused by battery problems.
And here’s the good news: your iPhone exploding isn’t even remotely likely to happen. Sure, it’s theoretically possible for it to happen. And yes, when it happens it is an event that makes the news, but do you know someone who has happened to? Do you know anyone who knows someone to whom it has happened? The answer for almost everyone is no.
Because there is no centralized place to report these incidents, there is no official count of how many iPhones have exploded all the time. And there really is no way to create a master list of all iPhone batteries that have had catastrophic incidents. Instead, we just have to base our sense of the problem on news reports, and that’s not very reliable.
What is safe to say is that the number of iPhones whose batteries have exploded is minuscule compared to the total number sold at any one time. Remember, Apple has sold more than 1 billion iPhones. As we pointed out, there is no official list of these issues, but if it were something that even one person in a million experienced, it would be a huge scandal.
A comparison can be helpful in assessing the hazard. Your chances of being struck by lightning in a given year are one in a million. Exploding your iPhone battery is probably even less likely. If you don’t worry about lightning on a regular basis, you also don’t have to worry about your phone exploding.
What causes iPhones and other Smartphones to explode?
Explosions in iPhone and other smartphone batteries are usually caused by things like:
- Hardware failure: Although not very common, manufacturing defects in the device, especially those related to the battery, could cause an explosion.
- Overheating: Apple says that the iPhone should not get hotter than 113 degrees F (45 degrees C). If the phone gets hot and stays hot for a period of time, its internal hardware may be damaged (a temperature warning may appear on the phone screen). That damage could cause the iPhone battery to catch fire. You should be especially careful with phone cases that don’t allow adequate airflow, which can cause the iPhone to get too hot.
- Use of low-quality accessories: Many people go through many USB charging cables or lose the power adapter from the wall to recharge the phone. Many people also want to save money when buying refills and not buying official Apple products.
The problem of low-quality accessories is particularly important. The deeper you dig into the differences between official Apple-made and approved chargers and third-party knockoffs, the more it becomes clear that cheap chargers are a real threat to your phone.
For a great example of this, check out this teardown comparing an official $30 Apple charger to a $3 version. Look at the difference in quality and the number of components used by Apple. It is no wonder that the cheap and poor quality version causes problems.
Whenever you buy accessories for your iPhone, make sure they come from Apple or are MFi (Made for iPhone) certified by Apple.
Signs that your phone battery may have a problem
There aren’t many early warning signs that your iPhone is about to explode. Signs you are most likely to see include:
- A lump on the back of the phone. Before batteries explode, they often begin to bulge and swell.
- A hissing noise coming from near the battery.
- The phone gets very hot and does not cool down.
If your iPhone shows any of these signs, that’s bad. Do not connect it to a power source. Put it on a non-combustible surface for a while to make sure it doesn’t catch fire. Then take it directly to an Apple Store and have the experts inspect it.