Should You Be Worried About Your iPhone Exploding?

It's unlikely that your iPhone will explode

When it comes to something as serious and potentially dangerous as an iPhone exploding, it's essential that you have all the facts and understand the whole situation. No one wants to endanger their safety for a gadget.

The good news is that there is very little chance of your iPhone exploding. 

Smoky iPhone
WaffOzzy /iStock

What Happened With the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?

There have been a few cases over the years of phones exploding, but they always seemed random and isolated. Concerns about phones exploding increased substantially in 2017 after Samsung had a series of problems with its Galaxy Note 7. Those problems led the company to recall that device. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration even banned carrying the device on U.S. flights. Even after Samsung's official fix, the devices still can't be brought on planes.

But what happened? It wasn't spontaneous combustion. There were two problems with the device's batteries that were introduced during manufacturing. Both issues led to short circuits that ultimately caused the devices to catch fire.

The battery is the key thing here. Any time a smartphone or other device explodes, the battery is most likely the culprit. In fact, any device with a Lithium Ion battery like those used by Samsung, Apple, and most other companies could explode under the right circumstances. Luckily, those circumstances are really rare.

Understanding what's meant by "exploding" is important, too. That word might make you think of a bomb-like explosion from a Hollywood movie. That's not what happens with phones. While technically there is an explosion (or short circuit), what really happens is that the battery catches fire or melts. So, while a faulty battery is dangerous, it's not as if shrapnel goes flying all over the room. 

Could My iPhone Explode?

There have been reports over the years that iPhones have exploded. These cases were likely also caused by problems with the battery.

Here's the good news: your iPhone exploding is not remotely likely to happen. Sure, it's theoretically possible for it to happen. And yes, when it does happen it's an event that makes the news, but do you know anyone that it's happened to? Do you know anyone who knows anyone that it's happened to? The answer for almost everyone is no.

Because there's no centralized place to report these incidents, there's no official count of how many iPhones have exploded all time. And there's really no way to create a comprehensive list of all iPhone batteries that have had catastrophic incidents. Instead, we just have to base our sense of the problem on news reports. Unfortunately, that's not very reliable.

It's safe to say that the number of iPhones whose batteries have exploded is minuscule compared to the total number sold all time. Remember, Apple has sold over 1 billion iPhones. As we noted, there's no official list of these issues, but if it was something that even one in a million people experienced, it would be a major scandal.

A comparison may be helpful in assessing the danger. Your ​odds of getting struck by lightning in any given year are about one in a million. Your iPhone's battery exploding is probably even less likely. If you're not regularly worried about lightning, you don't need to be worried about your phone exploding, either.

What Causes Smartphones to Explode?

Explosions in iPhone and other smartphone batteries are generally caused by things like:

  • Hardware Failure: While not super common, manufacturing flaws in the device, especially related to the battery, could lead to an explosion.
  • Overheating: Apple says that the iPhone should not get hotter than 113 degrees F (45 degrees C). If your phone gets that hot, and stays that hot for a period of time, its internal hardware could be damaged (you may see a temperature warning on the phone's screen). That damage could cause the iPhone's battery to catch fire. You should especially watch out for phone cases that don't allow proper air flow and cause the iPhone to get too hot.
  • Using Low-Quality Accessories: Lots of people go through many USB charging cables or lose the wall power adapter for recharging the phone. Many people also want to save money when they buy replacements and don't purchase official Apple products. Contrary to urban myths, using your phone while it is charging is not going to make your phone explode.

The issue with low-quality accessories is particularly important. Dig into the differences between official Apple-made and Apple-approved chargers and the third-party knock-offs, and it becomes clear that cheap chargers are a threat to your phone.

For a great example of that, check out this teardown that compares an official $30 Apple charger with a $3 version. Look at the difference in quality and in the number of components used by Apple. It's no wonder that the cheap, shoddy version causes problems.

Whenever you're buying accessories for your iPhone, make sure they're either from Apple or carry Apple's MFi (Made for iPhone) certification. 

Signs That Your Phone's Battery May Have a Problem

There aren't many early warning signs that your iPhone might be about to explode. The signs you're most likely to see include:

  • A bulge at the back of the phone. Before batteries explode, they often start to bulge and swell.
  • A hissing noise coming from near the battery.
  • The phone getting very hot and not cooling down.

If your iPhone is exhibiting any of these signs, that's bad. Don't plug it into a power source. Put it on a non-combustible surface for a while to make sure it doesn't catch fire. Then take it straight to an Apple Store and have the experts inspect it.

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