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Flaming Cellphones 288

Posted by michael
from the good-name-for-a-rock-band dept.
phorm writes "Many of us have heard the urban legend of cellphones causing fires at the gas pump, but how about the hazards of replacement batteries? Reuters is carrying a story about a woman whose cellphone burst into flame, causing her superficial burn injuries. According to Nokia, the problem has occured before, and is related to non-brand replacement batteries. For various reasons, these batteries may overheat and catch fire, or even explode! So far I haven't found much info on whether this has happened with other brands of phone, though I do know that my little flip-phone gets very hot when running in analog mode. Perhaps some slashdot readers have had a similar experience?"
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Flaming Cellphones

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  • Quick! (Score:4, Funny)

    by briancollins (700695) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:02PM (#6770257)
    Call the fire brigade!

    • by Anonymous Coward
      I'm wondering. Do you have to hit these phones from behind?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I can honestly say that though I've never seen one, I'd be more than willing to spray a thousand gallons of water at say, 300psi through a 1 1/4 nozzel at anyone with a flaming cell phone still being held to their face.

      * Although I did once load a woman with a broken jaw into an ambulance after she wrecked a brand new truck while talking on the phone. Guess what, when we got there, she was STILL TALKING. You must have something important to say to talk on a cell in a busted truck with a busted jaw.
  • by mfago (514801) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:02PM (#6770260)
    So my cellphone just burst into flames. Does anyone on Slashdot have an idea what I should do?
  • by Surak (18578) * <surak@mai[ ]ocks.com ['lbl' in gap]> on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:04PM (#6770270) Homepage Journal
    So...what...are they pink? Do they have pictures of Tinky Winky on them? Or what? :)
    • totally off topic, but nonethelessL obligatory simpsons quote: "You know me Marge, I like my beer cold, my TV hard, and my homosexuals, flammmmming..." -- Homer Simpson
  • Huzzah! (Score:4, Funny)

    by VanWEric (700062) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:04PM (#6770272)
    This is only proof that there is a god, and he does not approve of cell-phoning and driving.
  • So... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:05PM (#6770276)


    Are we supposed to welcome the cell phones as our new overlords, or the off-brand batteries?

  • by m.lemur (618095) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:05PM (#6770278)
    was she talking on the cellphone on a bus/train/mass transit system?

    if so all I can say is:

    "hah hah"
  • Coverup! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Un pobre guey (593801) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:05PM (#6770280) Homepage
    She is a secret CIA operative receiving a "this phone will self-destruct in 15 seconds" message!

    If you work for the CIA, do not take company messages while drinking coffee and browsing CDs at the record store.

  • by Animaether (411575) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:05PM (#6770281) Journal
    From a Dutch article*

    A spokeswoman for Siemens said a GSM (cellphone) of the Siemens brand exploded last year in Germany. It concerned a phone that was placed in a carkit. During recharging, the phone had overheated and exploded. Nobody was injured in that incident. The user of the phone had bought the battery at a fleamarket.

    * http://nu.nl/news.jsp?n=193292&c=51 [nu.nl]
    • by mindriot (96208) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:43PM (#6770463)

      Heise has had an article [heise.de] on this as well. Translation follows.

      Normally, one would only see this kind of stuff happening in rather bad secret agent movies, but now it happened to a woman in Amsterdam: Her cell phone exploded. These news about the exploded mobile phone are likely to disturb many cell phone owners: "Could this happen with my phone too?" In the Netherlands city, the woman's phone had first fallen to the ground. When she turned it on again and held it to her ear, the device exploded and caught fire. The woman suffered minor injuries. Experts, however, see no reason to be concerned: Cell phones explode extremely rarely, according to Bernd Schwencke, head of the cellular phone testing department of the German Quality Testing agency, Stiftung Warentest, in Berlin.

      "Up to now, no such case was known to me," Schwencke notes. According to him, what's unusual about this event in the Netherlands is that the phone did not catch fire during recharging as in previously known cases, but while using the phone. In previous cases where the rare case of a mobile phone catching fire occured, forged batteries were spotted as the cause. This was also the cause when a Siemens phone caught fire during recharging in a car kit. The phone manufacturer was not responsible -- the device was equipped with a bogus battery that was not properly working. "The accumulator had no overcharging protection and simply burst like a balloon filled with too much air," says Stefan Muller, spokesperson for the Siemens mobile phone division in Munich. Unfortunately, the plagiarized products mostly originating from Asia are still a problem, according to Muller. To prevent the use of such "time bombs" in cell phones, the experts advise to only buy batteries in specialized stores instead of flea markets -- even if a manufacturer's logo is on the battery.

    • by Guppy06 (410832) on Friday August 22, 2003 @09:24PM (#6770610)
      "A spokeswoman for Siemens said a GSM (cellphone) of the Siemens brand exploded last year in Germany."

      Exploding Siemens?

      Sometimes they make it all too easy...
  • Liability. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EvilFrog (559066) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:05PM (#6770282)
    While the chances of something like this happening are rather unlikely, it's situations like this that are the reasoning for those "we hold no liability for 3rd party components" disclaimers.

    Still, if this is happening there's obviously some hazardous defects with the batteries, and any responsible battery manufacturer would issue a recall. I remember that Apple had similar problems with some of the old Powerbook models, and they recalled the defective batteries/computers right away.

    • Can't say as I've had any problem with any of mine - was always a Motorola owner 'til last month when I needed to replace my Timeport and went for a Sony Ericsson T68i. Haven't even noticed any heat coming off any of them... Powerbooks on the other hand!
  • by Burpmaster (598437) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:08PM (#6770288)
    I'd like to see THAT happen in class!
  • Grr (Score:5, Funny)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:08PM (#6770289) Homepage Journal
    Nobody calls me you insensitive clod.
    • by BrynM (217883) *
      "Nobody calls me you insensitive clod."
      This discussion is about people who are innocently getting hurt and not about your feelings. Stay on topic you insensitive clod!
      :-)
  • by focitrixilous P (690813) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:08PM (#6770290) Journal
    It's the MPAA out for revenge for the bad text messages [slashdot.org] reported recently. Watch out, lest your speakers burst into flame for playing illegal .mp3s. I think giving them the ability to light phones ablaze was too big a concesion for them, as punishment just for badmouthing their IP, but IP is IP, right?
  • Full power! (Score:5, Informative)

    by ChilyWily (162187) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:09PM (#6770300) Homepage
    So far I haven't found much info on whether this has happened with other brands of phone, though I do know that my little flip-phone gets very hot when running in analog mode. Perhaps some slashdot readers have had a similar experience?
    Yup, analog transmits its signals at full power compared to other technologies like CDMA which dynamically adjust their power based on various factors (such as the signal to noise ratio, signal strength, how other cellphones in the same area are transmitting etc). More power for the signal requires a faster rate of discharge which translates into a more rapid chemical reaction that produces the heat in the battery. The issue with non-standard batteries (especially the cheap ones) is that they're not rated for the peak power consumption of the 'brand' phones - thus when the phone demands a surge of power for an extended period this stuff is likely to happen.
    • Interesting. So, the smart thing to do is hang up your phone when it gets a lot hotter than usual!

      "Sorry, honey, I gotta go. My phone is about to spontaneously combust."

    • Re:Full power! (Score:5, Informative)

      by linuxtelephony (141049) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:28PM (#6770401) Homepage
      Analog does not always transmit at full power. If memory serves there are 7 power levels that are used and the cell sites can tell the phones to step down their power to one of those 7. It all depends on the quality/level of the signal being received by the site. If it isn't that good, the site says turn up the power. Problem with lots of handhelds is that the antennas are in cars or have other obstables to transmit through thus they are told to transmit at the higher power levels.

      Handheld cell phones are limited to somewhere around 0.6 watts. Typically, the newer digital phones (at least from about 3 years ago) would typically have max analog power near 0.5 watts. In digital mode they often can go lower, with CDMA phones transmitting lower still (in theory).

      In this case it would appear the phone was dropped. When the phone was turned back on it suddenly ignited. This would seem to indicate a severe short somewhere, and no safety circuit to cut power in case of short, if any such circuits exist on any batteries to begin with.

      Typically you hear about two kinds of damage to cell phones. The most common I've heard of is batteries catching fire or exploding during the recharge process. And this is perfectly understandable -- feel a battery while it is getting recharged, they can get pretty warm. Some phone batteries would get so warm while inside the phone on the recharger or plugged into a cig. adapter that they would melt the plastic case of phone itself. I know some "rapid" car cig. adapter chargers from phone vendors have special circuits to control the charging, and the generic cheap adapters don't have the same circuit (if at all).

      The other heat related problems I've heard of with cell phones is from extremely long transmissions. Say a handheld phone plugged into a cig adapter and used for 200+ minutes. The transmitter can get pretty warm, and I've heard of some of the smaller/thinner plastic phones (early MicroTAC? don't remember for sure) had plastic melt.

      I've never heard of a phone bursting into flames, melting the case, or otherwise get hot when it was not directly related to recharging or extended use. At least not until now.

      Something had to be pretty severely damaged or there was no safety cut off circuit somewhere to allow a cold phone to burst into flames like that. Sometimes those bargain batteries and accessories aren't such a bargain after all.

      Here's my question. Did she get the battery used in this phone from the same store she got her phone from? I've bought several phones over the years, and the last few years you just about could not find OEM parts, the carrier stores had the cheap stuff there in packaging with their carrier names on it. So, if she bought her phone from a carrier store, and they gave her the battery, then would that carrier assume the liability for this happening, since it was not a Nokia battery involved?
      • Re:Full power! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ChilyWily (162187)

        Analog does not always transmit at full power.

        hmm...I don't know about that but I'm a bit rusty on my AMPS spec so I'll take your word.

        Handheld cell phones are limited to somewhere around 0.6 watts. Typically, the newer digital phones (at least from about 3 years ago) would typically have max analog power near 0.5 watts. In digital mode they often can go lower, with CDMA phones transmitting lower still (in theory).

        Precisely! CDMA in particular is capable of so low a transmission power that it can be

      • ...So, if she bought her phone from a carrier store, and they gave her the battery, then would that carrier assume the liability for this happening, since it was not a Nokia battery involved?

        First thing that enters people's minds out there... Liability! As they say, America is a nation of lawyers and order. Fortunately, the woman's Dutch, and the fact that the burns were superficial should ensure that nothing of that sort is going to happen. She'll probably just buy a new phone and get on with her life

  • by artemis67 (93453) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:10PM (#6770305)
    Apparently, whoever she was talking to hit the "ignite cellphone" button...
  • by cmowire (254489) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:10PM (#6770307) Homepage
    I worked with some people who were simulating battery-powered electronics. The program had an error message of "Device is on fire". People would call up the tech support for the simulator and ask what the error message means (perhaps they thought it was like Guru Meditation errors or something equally geek-funny). It meant, literally, that the simulated battery is on fire.

    The battery controller is in the phone, not the battery, so if it doesn't get the battery it expects to get, there's no limit to the pyromaniac fun that can be had. ;)
    • These batteries for these phones are chipped. Wrong chip and the phone discharges the battery, allegedly to protect the user from "substandard offbrand batteries." Thus, you have to buy approved batteries, or the phone catches fire.

      Since the phone is designed this way, the burn victim should be able to recover damages from a manufacturer that designed a phone to explode when the phone does not approve of the battery.

    • We've gone from printers to cell phones!

      Here [google.com] is an explanation of the original lp0 on fire message.

    • by j4k3 (306450)
      If you do overcharge a Lithium-ION cell or Lithium-Polymer Cell to over 4.2 ~ Volts, you can expect a Lithium bag cell to baloon up then vent poisions, or flame up. If you overcharge a steel, or aluminium cased cell you can blow the case, and explode! Lithium-ION batteries are really fincky they like to be charged under constant current at less than 1C. They also don't like to be discharged over 1C, so if the phone was malfunctioning, and drawing more current than it normally would, that could cause a "FAIL
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:10PM (#6770309)
    I like my beer cold, my TV loud, and my cellphones flaming .
  • by NanoGator (522640) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:10PM (#6770310) Homepage Journal
    Relax folks. It was just Chief Quimby delivering an assignment to the Inspector.
    • "Relax folks. It was just Chief Quimby delivering an assignment to the Inspector."

      Oh man, I can't believe I get that. Not very often you see Inspector Gadget references here!
  • by KiwiEngineer (585036) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:15PM (#6770335) Journal
    This brings a whole new level to the concept of starting a flame war or having a heated discussion on the phone.

    It also opens up the potential for cellphones to be sold as firestarters for campers outside of the transmission range, a wholly untapped market.
  • by TerraFrost (611855) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:15PM (#6770341)
    cellphones causing fires at the gas pumps may be an urban legend (if you click on the Helpful Links page of the TechTV, you can even read the snopes.com entry for it), but the user guide for the Nokia 3520 phone sure wouldn't have you believing that...

    to quote from page 12...

    Don't use the phone at a refueling point. Don't use near fuel or chemicals.

    here's a pdf of the user guide:
    http://www.nokia.ca/english/products/user_manuals/ 3520.pdf [nokia.ca]

    • by nordicfrost (118437) * on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:34PM (#6770426)
      But on the other side, what kind of consumer goods aiming for the American market todday has any sensible warning labels?


      Glock gun: Point away from face. (Aaahhh. So THAT'S what I've been doing wrong)

    • (blockquoted from a site discussing avgas refuelling) :

      Shell have issued a warning about mobile phones - they have reported 3 incidents recently where mobile phones have ignited fumes whilst being answered/ringing during fuel operations:

      1. A phone was placed on the boot lid during refuelling, it rang and the ensuing fire destroyed the car and the pump.

      2. An individual suffered burns to the face when fumes ignited as he answered a call during fuelling.

      3. An individual suffered burns to the thigh and gr

  • by freshfromthevat (135461) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:16PM (#6770343) Homepage
    Many LiOn batteries include built in gas gauging and over current protection. This costs about $1 in parts. Dallas makes some of the gas gauging parts -- DS2438 for instance. The gas gauging component is connected to the telephone via a 1 wire + ground interface. The overcurrent protection circuit is entirely internal. If the clone vendor wanted to save several nickels they could leave out the overcurrent chip and nobody would be the wiser until the battery shorts out.
    The reason the overcurrent protection is built in is because Lithium Ion batteries will reach the flash temperature of plastic if current is drawn from them too fast.
    So... don't rip the plastic off the pack and short them out except by remote control.
    Thankyou.
  • by wackybrit (321117) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:16PM (#6770346) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps some slashdot readers have had a similar experience?

    Count me in.

    Back in the late Eighties, I bought one of those 'brick' phones. Of course, as was the style at the time they weren't called that, because they just happened to be that size, nothing special.

    As was the style at the time, the phones used ridiculous NiCad batteries for portability -- when you were in the car, they ran off of a device hooked up to the car battery, so you didn't need to wear the batteries out. Unfortunately the NiCad batteries were crap. As you probably already know, NiCad batteries have this really horrible 'memory' effect where if you recharge the battery before it's completely empty, it thinks that where you've just started to recharge it from is the *real* empty.. and it's not.

    I could also only get thirty minutes' talk time out of a full charge, although it'd stay on standby on one charge for about three hours. Considering it took 12 hours to charge the NiCad (overnight charger), this wasn't a great arrangement if you wanted to use the phone while out and about during the daytime.

    At the time, NiMH's weren't available for cell phones, in fact hardly anyone used them at all for anything really. But they delivered better battery life (for the time), didn't have the horrible memory effect, and charged more quickly than the NiCads charged.

    So what I did was buy a second battery from Motorola for the princely sum of $95 (!!! and this was in the Eighties!!), I gutted it, and replaced all of the NiCad cells (yes, those big batteries are just collections of batteries all hooked together - it's not just one giant pool of acid in there..) with approximately 25 regular AA sized NiMH batteries that I bought at some store in a town. And, yes, I made sure the voltages all added up and that the current supply somewhat matched up. So I threw the casing back on the battery, hooked it up, and the phone worked! Talk-time was up to about ninety minutes, standby time was up to SIX hours (!! - I know, this sounds pretty ridiculous by today's standards, but there you go). I was walking on air.

    A week later, I was walking along, cellphone in its case (they were big, so you carried them in things kinda like camera cases - you know, those big Nikon camera bags, that you can get a few lenses in).. phone was on standby,and suddenly BANG, the side casing of the battery ploughed a hole through the bag and fell onto the floor and suddenly all this goop (the battery acid) was running out. I dropped it immediately and battery acid was pouring out everyplace.

    That was some dangerous stuff.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      We can't bust heads like we used to, but we have our ways. One trick is to tell them stories that don't go anywhere. Like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe. So, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. 'Give me five bees for a quarter', you'd say. Now, wher
    • ...I bought at some store in a town.

      hmm....
    • "NiCad batteries have this really horrible 'memory' effect where if you recharge the battery before it's completely empty, it thinks that where you've just started to recharge it from is the *real* empty"

      Whoah... It thinks? This is a major developemnt - I must return to my battery lab!
    • There was a time that I replaced the cells on nokia with off the shelf radio shack AA. I knew they also sold the offical batteries, but their extra long life AA batteries were rated at a higher mA rating then the stock I do believe.

      I also remember I had a recent gmt motorola cell phone that did take standard rechargable AA batteries, or a slim NiCad pack.

      I never had complex issues with the batteries exploding.

      I suspect that your motorola brick phone solution, or was it bag phone, i'm not sure, but consi
  • " We later heard she had used a replacement battery"

    I guess that when you buy cheap crap from the Ukraine you get burned, literally.
  • by karmavore (618727) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:21PM (#6770372)

    I like burning the phone bills.

  • by Kirsha (201264) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:23PM (#6770377)
    ...at the movie theather. Asshole who doesnt turn off his cellphone, gets a call, answers it and BOOM, the fireworks illuminate the room. Yes, entertainment at its finest!
  • by mjprobst (95305) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:23PM (#6770381) Homepage Journal
    Oh, so this information just came from _somewhere_ and the replacement battery was from a _flea market_?


    I could see this being true, but I could just as easily see it as a story planted by the phone manufacturer for one of two purposes:

    • To keep selling official batteries at higher markup
    • To hide the fact that there's some kind of heat management flaw in the company's product
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:25PM (#6770386)
    For various reasons, these batteries may overheat and catch fire, or even explode!

    Lithium Ion batteries will do this very readily when drained or charged too fast...or if overheated past a certain point under what would otherwise be normal current draw...and it's one of the reasons, for example, Panasonic won't sell me the cells I need to fix my Powerbook G3 Lombard's battery(almost all laptop+camcorder batteries, save the newest, are simply AA-sized LiIon cells in various series+parallel configurations).

    Panasonic won't sell to anyone except a 'certified systems designer' who has signed agreements saying they'll design proper charging and current/temperature limiting circuitry. God forbid you should simply want to fix a battery pack which is no longer made. I suspect they do it mostly to keep battery pack repair impossible and force everyone to simply run right out and drop $50(cell phones) to $300(some laptop batteries). Sound conspiracy-theory ripe? :-)

    LiIon is actually a pretty crappy technology, at least as far as consumers are concerned. Nobody told consumers that for the extra talk minutes they got, their battery will be damn near worthless in a few months if they use their phone a lot...because LiIon looses a staggering amount of its capacity with every charge/discharge cycle- and the deeper the discharge, the more capacity is lost with each cycle. NiMH batteries don't have this problem. Funny thing, eh?

    Even worse, the batteries never get recycled(you think the consumer drives to the town dump and puts the battery in the battery recyling box? Nooooooo), they simply get chucked. There are some really nasty chemicals in LiIon batteries(like just about any battery technology today.)

    By the way, speaking of batteries and the environment, a lot of people have trouble with car batteries and simply buy new ones instead of taking care of their car battery better(granted, car batteries are usually recycled better, because it's easier, and there's a lot of material, but still...) This site covers just about anything you ever wanted to know about lead-acid batteries and how to properly care for them: http://uuhome.de/william.darden/

    • almost all laptop+camcorder batteries, save the newest, are simply AA-sized LiIon cells in various series+parallel configurations

      If that's the case, and Panasonic won't sell you batteries, buy someone else's battery pack, take it apart and resolder the cells into your Powerbook battery pack. Problem solved.
    • Panasonic won't sell to anyone except a 'certified systems designer' who has signed agreements saying they'll design proper charging and current/temperature limiting circuitry. God forbid you should simply want to fix a battery pack which is no longer made. I suspect they do it mostly to keep battery pack repair impossible and force everyone to simply run right out and drop $50(cell phones) to $300(some laptop batteries). Sound conspiracy-theory ripe? :-)

      It is a conspiracy, flat out. There's no need for
  • Now if they could just make a device to do this remotely and install it in every theater in America we'd be set.

  • Really??? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mechamse (515842)
    Cheap battery + Expensive Cell phone = little boom!
    Nice. Just goes to show you that price doesn't always mean you should buy it...

    I can see it now...
    Woman sues battery maker for causing personal injury due to defective device. Company not able to pay the settlement, and so gives user a free lifetime supply of (fixed) product...
    Such a dilemma... To use it or not to use it...
  • by cr@ckwhore (165454) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:28PM (#6770403) Homepage
    Excerpt from a related story ...

    "John Smith, 45, received minor burns to his hands Thursday evening when his computer suddenly burst into flames. Operating system vendor Microsoft provided a statement, indicating that the cause of the small fire was due to the use of Star Office, a 'non-microsoft brand' product."

  • by resignator (670173) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:29PM (#6770408)
    to the cellphone of that guy that goes around asking,"can you hear me now?" If only life were so sweet.
  • Well (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    For this very reason, I modded my phone. Phew...

    Ok, here is my rig (Phone):

    I got a small vantec Geforce2 chip fan, and drilled (dremel) a hole on the back of my phone (Sanyo 4900) behind the PCB. The fan was at first glued by superglue, but since this didn't work when temperate went high, I then used a length of duck tape to permantaly bind the fan to the phone.

    But this caused some problems, namly they tape went around the phone, thus the keys were all stuck behind the phone. Thus, I spent an afternoon u
  • by Magus311X (5823) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:40PM (#6770449)
    First, I saw the "electrostatic discharge" labels at the Mobil pumps today. They've been there a while. For good reason. They wouldn't alter old warning labels and stick them on every pump if there wasn't a reason. Business don't like spending money.

    Gasoline ends in "ne" and have that "eeen" pronunciation to them. Xylene. Benzene. Toluene. All come from crude oil and all have a bloody low flash point.

    Second, lithium batteries have the highest energy to weight ratio, and yes, folks are still careless with them. Most batteries I believe even have a little resistor in them to moderate the output. Lithium is nasty nasty stuff. I don't suppose anyone here remembers when Kodak started pumping out some of the first lithium cells? Guess how they stored them in the warehouse? On METAL shelves! The battery contacts shorted against the metal shelves and you can guess what happened.

    Nasty thing about lithium batts is when they do burn. You essentially need Lithex to put the fire out. Granted you get a warning when something's up. There are sulfur in the batteries as well (a few other things, the mixture is part organic), so you can smell the typical rotten egg smell when the batteries are outgassing. When you smell that -- toss them and RUN. Defense contractors and places working with these things often have bomb blankets and ammo cases around for these suckers for a reason.

    Point? Both of these are dangerous substances, and I wouldn't want to be near them when they start burning together!

    -----
    • The military uses a different animal than consumer lithium-ion batteries. The military version has about 10 times the power/weight ratio of the consumer versions, and also 10 times the explosive potential.

      The military used them for about 15 years before they were introduced into civilian use. The delay was not due to classification, but because they were simply too dangerous and unstable.

      After some years, the designers were able to dilute the strength (and volatility) of the cells by a factor of about 1
  • by ehiris (214677) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:49PM (#6770479) Homepage
    "...cellphone burst into flame...Perhaps some slashdot readers have had a similar experience?"

    Please refer this kind of questions to Darwin Awards [darwinawards.com]
  • Can you EAR me now?

    Good!
  • heh (Score:4, Funny)

    by nyet (19118) on Friday August 22, 2003 @08:54PM (#6770506) Homepage
    Stop, drop, and rollover minutes
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Alot of these posts are pointing at Lithium Ion and showing ways it can "reach the flash point of plastic if current discharged too fast".

    Does this mean that any lithium ion devices (such as the Tungsten W I just bought) should be banned from airplanes?

    And does the fact that I'm arab, and in fact palestinian, and in possession of a Tungsten W, immediatly make me a threat to national security?

    Interesting... I think I'll go back to paper cups and string :)

  • Until you see it happen right?

    Just like filling up gas containers on the plastic liners of a pickup truck right? *cough* static*cough*

    I've never seen an explosion caused by a cellphone but I've seen vapor ignition caused by a cellphone. Ofcourse in favor of people and their cell phones, it did have a small electrical short in the phone.

    And for those craving more information it wasn't at a gas station, but at a factory plant where everyone carries one of the phone type jobs, some yahoo was filling a mac
  • by El (94934) on Friday August 22, 2003 @09:06PM (#6770556)
    Start pointing out that cell phones can easily be made into incendiary devices by shorting out the batteries, and they'll start confiscating them at airport security gates and throwing into the same basket as the fingernail clippers and knitting needles.


    "Stop that man!!! He's got a CELL PHONE hidden in his shoe!!!"

  • That's all I have to say about that.
  • by rune2 (547599) on Friday August 22, 2003 @09:23PM (#6770606) Homepage
    In fact I'm using my phone to view Slashdot at this very moment and it's...... #### NO CARRIER ####
  • by VikingBerserker (546589) on Friday August 22, 2003 @09:33PM (#6770642)
    I was once involved in a similar incident, though the cause wasn't battery related. I was on an away mission, collecting soil samples for later study, when the captain ordered an immediate wide-range phaser volley directly on my communicator's position.

    I never did learn why the order came through, and I spent the next two weeks in sick bay, listening to the doctor tell me how he's "not this" and "not that." At least I got a raise in rank, and a nice blue uniform to replace the scorched red one.
  • April 1, 2012 Today, billions of sell phones spontaneosly combusted after the payload of a "worm" was devlivered.
  • Is There Any Way... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Mister Transistor (259842) on Friday August 22, 2003 @09:53PM (#6770705) Journal
    To get them to do this on command?? Perfect for rude users in theaters, restaraunts, etc! Use the detonate destination feature :)

    I do commercial radio repairs for a living so I may have a little insight here.

    First, let me say that the heat generated by the phones while transmitting in analog mode is due to heat generated by the RF power amplifier IC Module in the phone. It is the most power-consuming part of the phone, followed by battery recharging and backlight hi-voltage power supplies. Hand held cell handsets are usually power limited to 300 mW max. The old Motorola Shoe Phones used to put out 3W of power max. (!) before the cell tower infrastructure was sufficiently built up to not need those levels of power.

    But anyway, the battery only gets hot while charging. If it gets hot during discharge, it's under a serious over-current situation that is a "Bad Thing" and would never be designed as such. The only situation like that I've ever heard of is with some R/C racing cars that have special hi-temperature battery packs that are specifically designed to deliver high current into a near-short circuit condition. And they don't last very long in that sort of service!

    Finally, about the urban legend - there actually may be something to it. I know that Motorola Handie-Talkies are sold in what the call "Intrinsically Safe" versions, that are for use in mines, and explosive atmospheres (chemical spills, fires, etc.)

    All of the contacts and switches inside the radio are not hermetically sealed, and even the tiny arcs they make at 5-7 volts are enough to detonate an explosive atmosphere. So they make the radios with something like a tire valve at the bottom, and positively pressurize the radio to +1 atmosphere with nitrogen. These radios and their batteries are marked with green dots, and have an MSA (Mine Safety Associates) approval sticker on them.

    To the extent that gas fumes are explosive in the air while refueling a vehicle, if the radio isn't an intrinsically safe one, the possibilty of detonation exists. Probably it would only happen from switch contact closure, if you were talking and not dialing or opening/closing the phone by the pump, then nothing would be likely to happen.

  • This nasty incident has interesting things to say about current-day capitalism.

    With all the pressure to make things better and faster by exploiting cheaper labor and vast international differentials in labor and environmental laws, capitalism has created a situation that makes the event described seem a lot less like news.

    With Globalization in place, Asian companies are getting a lot of exposure to cutting-edge technology in an industrial wild-west setting in which you find companies manufacturing items i
  • I've noticed that every once in a while, my phone will heat up to uncomfortable temps while talking. The heat seems to come from the phone itself, not the battery - from the front side of the phone, near the lcd. The phone is in digital mode when it happens.

    Now I know y'all like speculating, so - what would cause this? Has anyone else had similar experience with factory-original phones?

  • a few years ago Dell recalled a number of laptop batteries due to similar concerns. This problem is most definately not limited to cell phones. :)
  • by ChrisCampbell47 (181542) on Friday August 22, 2003 @10:27PM (#6770866)
    You guys and your girly tales of excessive charge rates and wisps of smoke ...

    Those of us salivating all over the Samsung SPH-i500 PalmPDA/phone [testflysamsung.com] (units of which finally started trickling to market 3 weeks ago) have been hearing for weeks of the travails of this guy who's modded his to add Bluetooth and maybe more.

    "I decided to build the sled out of the extended battery. Initially, I was planning on making the standard battery fit inside the extended case, but then I got a first hand lesson in the volitile nature of li-ion batteries. After the 2 FOOT FLAME, which looked like a smoke flare going off, this MESS is what was left of the battery ... What caused that? Believe it or not, it was LIGHTLY nicking it with the tip of my jewlers screwdriver! It doesn't take much."

    http://i500.nopdesign.com/hw/ifire.jpg [nopdesign.com]

    The complete story is here [nopdesign.com]; the flames start on page 2.

    "Hello, Samsung? I would like 1000 units of your new Lithium-Ion bomb phone please. Do you ship to Chechnya?"

  • Lithium batts can catch fire if overcharged, and can explode if shorted. I know of one guy whowas charging a lithium pack, and at some point the charger reset (power glitch?), and when it did, it set the cell count WRONG. this caused a garage fire. Newer cells will overheat and 'puff up', rather than explode, but if you use Li cells, you need to ba familiar with what you are doing. I think most of the dangers are lessened, and most of these accidents can be chocked up to not advanced enough technology. The
  • 'Do not use non proprietary hardware we have ways to get even!' When will this 'by using non-proprietary hardware overcharging shit hit the fan'. Someone is going to get seriously hurt by this manufacturing sabotage bullshit. Then who do you sue the cell phone manufacture for sabotaging the battery or the company that tried to create a compatable product. I have boycotted proprietary hardware/software and hope we responsible /.ers can start something like a ANTI DELIBERATE INCOMPATABILITY PROPRIETARY SOFTWARE and HARDWARE INFORMATION TRANSFER SITE or (AntiDIP-SHITS) to increase consumer awareness about this kind of bullshit. Ralph Nader on steroids. The sooner the better.
  • This could be a great marketing ploy... think about it's application to computing:

    WARNING: Using non-OEM print cartridges may result in a really, really big explosion. You'll be set on fire, and the heat will give you very nasty burns.

  • U.S. Navy (Score:3, Informative)

    by Detritus (11846) on Friday August 22, 2003 @11:06PM (#6771028) Homepage
    I believe the U.S. Navy prohibited the use of lithium batteries due to safety concerns. Later this was relaxed to allow their use if stringent engineering and safety standards were followed. See NAVSEA S9310-AQ-SAF-010.
  • by jhylkema (545853) on Friday August 22, 2003 @11:32PM (#6771114)

    Bless this thy Holy Hand Phone of Antioch, that with it thou may burnest thy faces of thine enemies into little tiny bits, in thy mercy.

  • weird timing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Darth_brooks (180756) <clipper377@@@gmail...com> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @12:15PM (#6773398) Homepage
    I picked up my nokia 6150 yesterday after leaving it on the charger over night. By morning (on from 12am to 6:30am) it was too hot to touch, and now it won't turn on.

    It's been charged longer with no ill effects, and it's using the original Nokia battery.

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