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Exploding iPods and iPhones Prompt Investigations

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By Brian Kumnick on September 01, 2009 11:45 AM

It's a headline straight out of a local news teaser: Could your iPhone explode in your face? But as sensational as it sounds, it has a kernel of truth: more and more reports of exploding iPhones and burning iPods are popping up of late.

The iPhone reports, which have trickled in mostly from the U.K. and Europe, typically allege that the iPhone's screen cracks with explosive force. Some users have reported that they've been injured by flying glass shards as a result. This follows a spate of reports from the U.S. of burning iPods, in which overheating lithium-ion batteries are believed to be to blame.

The connection between the major malfunctions of two flagship Apple products, if any, is not totally clear, but, prodded by a European Union investigation, Apple has reluctantly acknowledged the complaints it is receiving.
Apple also threw in a rebuke of sorts to its injured customers, claiming that its investigations so far indicate that the exploding iPhones are the result of screens that initially crack when users drop their phones.

Blaming clumsy users is obviously not a great customer-relations tactic, and it's not likely to get Apple off the legal hook either. Most of the time, products are expected to not cause harm to consumers who are using them in foreseeable ways, and the occasional dropped phone is a foreseeable event, the kind of thing a manufacturer needs to plan for. Obviously, it shouldn't result in explosions, flames, and flying glass bits.

But it remains to be seen whether there is a real trend here, and whether screen cracks caused by dropping really are the culprit. If so, though, it may be back to the drawing board for Apple, to figure out how to put newer, hardier screens on the iPhone and iPod.

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