A Sydney, Australia man recently suffered third-degree burns on his upper thigh after his iPhone caught fire in his back pocket.
36-year-old Gareth Clear was mountain biking in the Manly Dam Reserve, located on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, Australia this past Sunday, when he fell from his bicycle in a minor crash. The crash didn’t alarm Clear nearly as much as what happened next – the impact of the crash allegedly pierced the lithium ion battery in his iPhone 6, causing the device to catch fire in his back pocket.
“I just saw smoke coming out of my back pocket,” Clear said in a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. “And then all of a sudden I felt this surging pain… a searing heat as the phone burnt through my riding shorts in a matter of seconds. I just remember looking at my leg and I had this black discharge all down my leg and this smell of phosphorus.”
While the fall itself was minor, Clear suffered third-degree burns as a result of the phone’s explosion. He was admitted to the burn unit of the Royal North Shore Hospital, where he underwent skin graft surgery to repair the burned area. Doctors at the hospital are keeping an eye on Clear to ensure the area doesn’t become infected, and the healing process will likely take several weeks. Clear doesn’t blame Apple for the accident, however – he sees the entire thing as a bit of a freak accident.
“It’s a bit random, the thing to be very specific about, the phone did hit the ground, it didn’t just spontaneously combust. It was a one in one million chance I hit a part of the phone which pierced the lithium battery and it exploded,” Clear said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. “I’ve had a mobile phone for 18 years of my life and for that thing to explode or short circuit and cause it to temporarily ignite. I could see the metal bending and all the lithium leaking out of the bottom end”
While Apple is reportedly investigating the incident, it isn’t the first case of a lithium ion battery catching fire. There were a rash of hoverboard fires earlier this year, due to overcharging or a sharp impact of the onboard lithium ion batteries. The incidents became so common that Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, and a host of other airlines have banned hoverboards on passenger flights. Obviously, phones aren’t immune to lithium-ion-fueled combustion, either. In 2014, a 14-year old girl in Maine had the iPhone 5c she was keeping in her back pocket catch fire during school as she sat down in her seat. The following year, a Long Island man had his iPhone catch fire in his back pocket as he bent over to pick up his keys. Both explosions were accompanied by “popping” sounds as the lithium ion battery was pierced by the compression in the back pockets of their owners.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), injuries from lithium ion batteries aren’t uncommon. “The decreasing size and slimness of portable devices coupled with consumer expectations about battery life are a challenge for battery manufacturers. Lithium batteries are vulnerable to significant physical impact, [which] may damage the extremely thin separators that keep the elements of the battery apart,” a spokesperson said. The commission warns against keeping your phone in your pocket during physical activity to avoid impact on the battery. And if you’re an iPhone user that tends to store their phone in their back pocket, you may rethink where you keep it – or at least consider pulling your phone out before you sit down.
Where do you stow your iPhone? If you keep it in your back pocket, will you continue to? Let us know in the comments below!