N’@busters! Can cell phones explode?

A while back I got an email that warned that you shouldn’t use your phone while it is charging or else it could explode.  Photos embedded in the email showed a bed that looked as if a hand grenade had gone off on it, along with pictures of charred skin and other grossness.

While the email stated that it was “verified by Snopes” (Snopes is an Internet fact-checker for such things), I thought I’d look a little deeper.

The story apparently started back in 2004 from India, but the story changes significantly year after year, which automatically adds doubt to the story.  Snopes in fact didn’t debunk the whole idea of exploding cell phones, but did find the email to be a fabrication.

The fact is that it is not dangerous to use your cell phone while it’s charging.  Numerous sources have debunked the story as well as many similar stories.

There have been reports of cell phones “exploding”, including a recent case in Texas of a Droid 2 shattering, along with fairly gruesome pictures of cuts.  However lots of comments on that case noted how the injuries didn’t match with what would happen with a battery explosion.  The fact that the phone still worked according to the victim really shoots the idea of an “explosion”.  To my eyes it looked more like someone smashed him in the head with the phone in an argument and he decided he could get more money from Motorola than whoever it was that punched him in the ear while he was on the phone. 

If your phone or charger are in poor condition however, there is a risk of danger.  Wires on chargers can occasionally come loose and become exposed, especially if you have a tendency to wrap the cord tightly around the brick (that big block that either plugs directly into the wall or is along the cord), and become a shock hazard.  There have also been reported cases of phone batteries exploding, but it’s possible that these batteries were cheap knockoffs sold online or in the gray market and were not safe to begin with.

The short of it is, your phone will probably not kill you.  But with any kind of electical device proper care is important .  Take notice of frayed or exposed wires and be aware of your device overheating.  Both of these are signs that your device needs to be repaired or replaced.

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Posted on May 19, 2011, in tech myths, Tech News. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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