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Portables (Apple) Businesses Hardware Apple

FOIA Documents Detail iPods Overheating, Catching Fire 314

suraj.sun passes along a report from a Seattle TV station that has been investigating reports of Apple iPods overheating and bursting into flames. "An exclusive KIRO 7 Investigation reveals an alarming number of Apple brand iPod MP3 players have suddenly burst into flames and smoke, injuring people and damaging property. It's an investigation that Apple has apparently been trying to keep out of the public eye. It took more than 7 months for KIRO 7 Consumer Investigator Amy Clancy to get her hands on documents concerning Apple's iPods from the Consumer Product Safety Commission because Apple's lawyers filed exemption after exemption. In the end, the CPSC released more than 800 pages which reveal, for the very first time, a comprehensive look that shows, on a number of occasions, iPods have suddenly burst into flames, started to smoke, and even burned their owners. ... Apple refused to comment, and refused to answer all of the other questions [the reporter] has been asking of the company since November."
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FOIA Documents Detail iPods Overheating, Catching Fire

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  • by Skraut ( 545247 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @08:29AM (#28780217) Journal

    A while back I had a problem with the power brick for my Macbook Pro. It was running awful hot, and some of the plastic on the cable near the magnetic adapter was starting to melt. Applecare kept trying to tell me that the problem was my fault for unplugging the adapter by pulling on the cable instead of actually grabbing the magsafe plug, and that despite me having paid for applecare, they would not fix it.

    A couple days later while playing a game in bootcamp, I went to unplug it, and was so hot that the power cord's coating actually melted to my hand. I called up AppleCare went through the situation again. I even explained that it had melted, I seemed to get nowhere. Where I had touched the cord it had now darkened considerably, probably from me being able to see the bare cable beneath it. I was trying to describe this to the tech and said something along the lines of, "Well there's melting damage, and the area is blackened a bit as if there was a small fire there"

    Suddenly the whole tone of the conversation changed, and I was immediately transfered to a supervisor. I went through about 10 minutes answering a series of questions off a script. "Did the Fire cause any property damage?" "Was there any bodily injury caused by the fire?" "Have you suffered any loss of income due to this problem?" etc etc etc.

    I answered no to everything, but simply mentioning "Fire" got me a new power brick, when no other method did. It is something Apple is clearly concerned about.

  • "Apple will block it..."

    Getting a story on Slashdot cannot be considered blocking the news. And Apple has made the story far, far worse by attempting to block it.

    Just Google it: iPod Fire [], and Google news: iPod fire in the news [].

    But, in general, I agree with your underlying point.

    Another subject: In spite of what appear to me to be lies about Steve Jobs, it seems the company is becoming a different place now that he is less influential.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @09:09AM (#28780529)

    Confirmed, same experience from Apple Store in Tokyo (it's a script). Also told me "no, never heard of this before" while clearly asking scripted questions.

    Proof is the shorted power adapter can apparently cause damage to the smart battery (there is a little processor in there), and he knew this. He went right for the battery, and sure enough it no longer reported it's serial no and status... changed that too.

    My business partner had the same experience also.

    NOW--- the problem as many have said, is that there is so much energy in such a small space. Lithium Polymer batteries explode, and those power adapters have ~70W of output which is more than enough to char a cable. Apple handles -each case- well (very well), I don't fault them for something like this because it's an energy density issue.

  • Re:So whats new ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by T Murphy ( 1054674 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @09:49AM (#28780945) Journal
    I think a consumer has a right to know about all safetey hazards. The obvious ones like toasters are hot or lawn mowers will eat your fingers I hope people get, although how hot the toaster gets would be nice to know. Everyone accepts some level of risk by getting in a car or using a gas stove, but you are aware of both the risks and benefits. Instead of letting a company decides when the risk is enough we should know about it, they should let the consumer decide what is acceptable by putting all the information out there. Sure, there will be some consumers that see one exploding iPod and run for their lives every time they see white earbuds, but it makes no sense to put the average consumer at unknown risk just to avoid spooking the dumb ones.

    Apple could report all safety issues- including consumer idiocy. They have good marketing so they can push how they want to be up front about safety, letting people learn from others' mistakes to avoid further injuries, and the risks that are Apple's fault get watered down by their minority compared to stupid mistakes.
  • by AntEater ( 16627 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @09:53AM (#28780999) Homepage

    Where they hid news?

    If that rate of explosion is so unimportant, why did Apple try so hard, spending YOUR money (you think they're going to take a hit on profits because of this?) to pretend that this unimportant defect rate didn't happen AT ALL?

    Very simple. Even a statistically insignificant defect can cause people to react irrationally which could hurt their sales. Basically they were trying to avoid the sensationalism of some journalist running with a few isolated incidents and creating a public perception that there is a major problem. Kinda like this article. It's not necessarily malice although I do tend to be skeptical about things any time a corporation attempts to hide information. Most people have no sense of what constitutes a real danger. A classic example of this is how some will be apprehensive about getting on an airplane but commute by car everyday without hesitation. I'm beginninng to think that people should be required to pass a basic applied statistics course before they are allowed to become full members of society.

    If it turns out that the number of incidents is much higher or is the result of a known and correctable error then let the class action lawsuits begin.

  • Add one more reason (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Eric Elliott ( 736554 ) <(su.ttoillecire) (ta) (todhsals)> on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @11:06AM (#28782061) Homepage
    Just the latest reason to not buy Apple. Scheduled obsolescence. DMCA legislation support. proprietary hardware & software. Concealed liability court cases. Intentional hardware incompatibility. Throw away hardware. What if M$ was small & Apple giant? Would you approve of Apple as giant company?
  • Third Party Chargers (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MoparMark ( 1043238 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @11:15AM (#28782231)
    I wouldn't be surprised if there was more unreported claims, but not by fault of the iPod itself. I've got an older 30GB Video one that I would dock every night on an Emerson clock radio. After the first year the dock started to overcharge the iPod. I pulled the iPod apart to discover the battery had swelled to almost twice its original size. I'd be more skeptical of low quality third party devices, and there are a lot.
  • This is Worrysome... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by denmarkw00t ( 892627 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:24PM (#28784177) Homepage Journal

    but it unfortunately doesn't come as a surprise either. Apple is always reluctant, if not downright shady when it comes to defects. "Deny Deny Deny" is the mantra there, and it hasn't helped me one bit. I've had an iBook G4 for a while, and up until a couple months ago it was dead due to loose solder joints on the GPU (caused after about a year or two of normal use). The solution? Purchase a new logic board at around $250-$400, depending on options and seller. A friend happened to be scrapping his old iBook for some of the parts in the display and was kind enough to give me the logic board. Suddenly, I had a Mac, and I loved it. 1 month later? Same problem with the loose GPU solder joints.

    This issue has been documented by many an iBook G4 owner, but so far Apple has only been held responsible in Denmark where their version of the BBB did an investigation and found defects in the logic board GPU connections. This is troubling because who knows what other Apple products have had this kind of track record (remember iBook G3 batteries? other iPods pulling this?) and have been kept hush-hush, all at the expense of the customer until enough people get loud enough and then MAYBE they'll do something about it.

  • Re:ALARMING! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by broken_chaos ( 1188549 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @01:50PM (#28784619)

    Furthermore, it looks like more of these are contact burns from an iPod that's overheated, than are actual sparks flying - letalone spontaneous combustion. I've had laptops that (in normal operation) get nearly hot enough to burn skin.

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