Why phone explosions/fires should not make the news

by: Bogdan PetrovanJuly 11, 2013

burnt galaxy s3

Incidents where smartphones overheat, catch fire, or explode occur regularly. A quick Google search will reveal plenty of cases, which often garner hundreds of comments on Reddit, XDA, and other platforms where mobile users congregate.

Just this week, two incidents involving Samsung devices made the news.

Just this week, two incidents involving Samsung devices surfaced – in one case, a young woman in Switzerland suffered a bad burn on her thigh when the Galaxy S3 she had in her pocket caught fire without warning. In another case, a user in the United Arab Emirates woke up in the middle of the night startled by the smell of burnt plastic – his device, which was charging on the nightstand, was about to catch fire. Luckily, nothing was damaged besides the Galaxy S4 and the charger. In another case from a while ago, which went very popular on Reddit, a Galaxy S3 user suffered minor burns when his phone “exploded” and sent bits of molten plastic on his hand.

By coincidence, the three incidents I presented above involve Samsung devices, but examples of iPhones, Blackberries, HTCs, and other phones self-igniting are just a search away.

From time to time, incidents will make it to Android blogs (you’ll find a couple of posts on Android Authority too) and other tech sites, because they tend to attract readers. And that’s normal to an extent – we all tend to be fascinated by accidents, and the idea that the devices we regularly put to our faces and carry around in the pocket can go up in flames without warning is worrying.


A burnt Galaxy S4 battery.

But most incidents of phones and other mobile devices catching fire should not make the news sites or the front page of Reddit.


First, they are unavoidable, and to some extent, normal. I am not saying that it’s normal for phones to burst into flames or explode. But every electric device, from desk lamps to airplanes, is exposed to such accidents. Where there’s an electric current flowing through a circuit, there’s a chance that a component will overheat and start a fire. Smartphones make no difference, and, with adoption rates growing every day, accidents are bound to happen.

Where there’s an electric current flowing through a circuit, there’s a chance that a component will overheat and start a fire

Second, in most cases, it’s hard to tell what exactly happened. The cause of the accident may be a faulty battery, perhaps a replacement one, or a malfunctioning charger. In other cases, the user may be at fault – it’s easy to understand why putting a pillow on a charging device is dangerous, or why you shouldn’t microwave a device to remove water from it. Some users will lie about the circumstances of the accident to obtain a refund or a replacement unit. Of course, in many situations the cause is the smartphone – it’s just that it’s hard to tell for sure.

So, why do smartphone accidents get so much attention? One reason is that users that suffered accidents are often refused warranty. If given the opportunity, some retailers and manufacturers will wash their hands, claiming that it was the customer’s fault. Naturally, users feel wronged and take their plea to forums and websites. Then the story goes viral, and manufacturers often accept to shoulder the blame, rather than suffer more public shaming.

So, what should you do?

There will be more and more cases of accidents involving mobile devices. More smartphones hit the market every day and, statistically, that means more accidents. From time to time, posts about them will keep popping up on tech blogs. It’s just important to avoid panicking and blowing incidents out of proportion.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself, other than the obvious – don’t use faulty chargers, don’t cover charging devices so heat can’t dissipate, use compatible chargers, use original batteries, and don’t try to fix the device yourself unless you know what you are doing. Check out this article from Gizmodo which explains why batteries, which are often the cause of accidents, explode sometimes, and what you can do about it.

In the very small probability that an accident does happen and you know you did nothing wrong, don’t hesitate to take it to the manufacturer. This may require you to send the device over to inspection, which can be a lengthy process. But if the phone was indeed at fault, you should get a replacement and potentially reimbursement for other damage that you suffered.

If the manufacturer refuses, yes, you probably should make it public. Just keep calm, don’t give up on your rights, and don’t blow things out of proportion.

  • AAreader90

    The quality of entries in Android Authority has steadily decreased over the last few months. This piece is, at best, an exercise in Elementary writing.

    • Blowntoaster

      your opinion… :-P, I on the other hand think that Android Authority’s articles are waaay better than some other sites, where, more often than not, the reporting is shoddy and poorly written at best. I still go to those sites coz they report on all tech, and here and there you’d find a fine piece of writing. AA is at this stage the better if not best Android “Authority”… :-D
      and the authors actually comment on their own articles, something you rarely see on other sites.

      Keep up the good work, ol’ “Boggy D” especially.
      I thoroughly enjoy your articles n comments…

  • As someone who has had a smartphone explode and catch fire without any warning whatsoever in the past, I disagree. I think it’s important that stories like the ones you mentioned in the article make the news, if only to serve as a reminder that among other possible factory defects — like dead/stuck pixels, faulty wireless radios, and weak stereo speakers — busted batteries can also happen.

    • Well, David, our opinions differ here. I don’t see the point in reporting about such incidents on a major tech site.

      • Luka Mlinar

        Your site man, your choice. But i don’t think you have a majority backing you on this one.

        • Haha, I can see that.

        • Aleksander Hoff

          I tend to agree with Bogdan though, however, I still feel the users should report it. I just feel like the sites, such as a major tech site, should wait and see how many reports they actually receive. Is it just 1 person, or is it 3-4 in a short time frame? That is when they should start digging a bit further and maybe post an article.

          I am talking about this, as the Note 7 now 3 years later has become a huge topic. Which is well deserved, thanks to the huge numbers. However, I also see other people gaining on the fact, releasing stories about one iPhone 7, and one iPhone 7 Plus, as well as a 6 Plus (from two years ago) also burning up these last few days… they are all three different phones, although from the same company.. however, since they all have different batteries and slightly different internal hardware and design, it is still a reason to believe that they might all be isolated events which do not really deserve to be in the media.

    • MasterMuffin

      as long as the writer doesn’t write to so that people will start avoiding products from the manufacturer. I’ve seen iBlogs making articles about Samsung’s devices in a way that makes it sound like Samsung’s phones are just ticking time bombs ready to explode like a creeper when you turn your back. Writer should always write facts and never leave out facts, this can happen to everyone no matter what phone the is using

      • I’m with you on that. The point I’d like to make is really just how important it is that the issue — and it is an issue — of possibly faulty batteries be brought to light. In my own case, the smartphone I was using was a really hot-selling model at the time. And it’s very popular where I am, here in Asia. When it happened to me, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other people might encounter (or already encountered) the exact same problem I had with my unit — namely that its battery just straight up exploded and started burning.

        I found out later that a lot of people did have problems with their batteries (same units) but that theirs didn’t explode like mine did. Instead the battery units usually just became bloated, which necessitated the purchase of a new, aftermarket battery. Those people are lucky, but the problem clearly existed. I’m just happy my own unit didn’t blow up while I was playing Angry Birds back then!

        • Yes, if the problem is widespread and the manufacturer is clearly at fault, by all means, it should be brought to light. But I don’t see the point in reporting on isolated events, because you just can’t get the points straight in most situations.

          • PopeJamal

            How do you know if it’s a widespread issue if you ignore all the “isolated” reports?

            This comes across as blaming the consumer, but consumers aren’t the ones who write sensational stories for click-bait.

            I understand where you’re coming from and mostly agree. Maybe I’m biased from being in America, but I think the press should learn not to sensationalize minor issues.

            The issue is with the press, not the people reporting the issues.

          • I definitely meant the press, and not the users. Those “OMG, look at that!” posts only serve to draw clicks.

      • Person223

        If it is because of manufacturer problem, people SHOULD avoid the manufacturer and it should be publicized specifically so that people can avoid that manufacturer. You and this author seem to think that they should be above having their reputations tarnished because their product malfunctions. You are advocating supporting a business which hasn’t done their job.

    • Michel Mellor

      its not a damn issue at any point your heater can explode your lamp and Tv its not a major issue and where you using an OEM battery and OEM charger with the specific amps charging the phone if the amps are too high you caused it its in the little packet you threw away when you bought it

  • CpuKnight

    Er I wouldnt blame them since you have such a large amount of computing power in such a small amount of space without fans. I shudder to think how the Snapdragon 800 will have the power of AMD Kabini used in PS4 and Xbox One and not have to use fans and still not overheat ultimately leading to explosions.

    • Luka Mlinar

      No! It’s not ok for phones to explode no matter what. So don’t justify.

  • Luka Mlinar

    But if it’s not in the news then there is no reason to spend millions on making it a safer technology. If it happened to me. I would sue. Get payed and then if not specified in the settlement, spend half of that cash posting pictures of my burned phone and or body parts all over the interwebs. Why? Because if we don’t push them they will not go out of the way to make it safer.

    • Trent Richards

      Very true but the responsible parties need to be sued and held accountable. I believe that is one of the points that the author is making.

  • jahbrake

    Buy shit Samsung phones that’s what ya get….ever wonder what the “S” stands for?
    It’s shit in case you were curious.

    • PopeJamal

      That was brilliant! Bravo! You’ve raised the overall level of discourse across the entire internet by 7%! Cheers!

    • YoungHermit

      Why’s everybody blaming plastic? An iPhone once exploded and they’re made of aluminium. Whether they are made of glass, aluminium or plastic, it’s technology. It’s not perfect YET! They’ve been around since 2008 or so…

      • jahbrake

        You’re missing the obvious. Samsung churns out poorly put together plastic phones at ludicrous speeds. By making a phone with a removable back they are allowing or encouraging users to remove or replace the replaceable items therein. Anybody surprised? Poorly put together phone plus the ability to tinker can apparently equal explosion. The charger shouldn’t matter again all androids use a micro USB. I love the Sammy fanboys mind bending excuses. The charger lol smh….

        • Trent Richards

          Show me a feature phone from the past 2 decades that didn’t have a removable back. You are acting like that option is new when it used to be the standard. Giving customers options does not make a company liable for those customers’ bad decisions.

  • mumusen

    No man. That’s a safety hazard. I feel such incidents should be reported to companies and probably make headlines on well known sites/blogs like yours, so that the companies may take notice on that and improve the quality of their products. And OEMs, pleaseeee stop this THINNEST phone war.. you guys are killing us with that. This could also be one of the reasons that the phone’s internals are not able to emit enough heat, causing the battery/phone to explode.

  • jahbrake

    Things that shouldn’t blow up like smart phones should make the news when they do. Manufacturers need to be held accountable. All the money Samsung has they can’t make their plastic phones not blow up? That’s a head scratcher. As is the mind bending view of the author. “Hey phones blowing up in your pocket is just a part of life. No big deal.”
    Lovely article

    • Yes, but what if the phone blew up because the user used a faulty charger from another manufacturer. Who’s fault is it? And what if the user claims he did nothing wrong? Is it fair to accuse the manufacturer of the phone?

      • jahbrake

        Are you kidding me? Android phones nor the OEMS use a proprietary charger. They are universal in that they all use a mircro USB. So no, you still haven’t a leg to stand on….Also if a manufacturer wants to make a phone with a removable battery that’s the risk the manufacturer is taking. Different charger? Samsung at fault. Different battery? Samsung is at fault. Guess what you make a removable back people will remove it. We know that and so do they.

        • You mean that if you use a battery you bought online for 20 cents and it sets your phone on fire, it’s the phone manufacturer’s fault? The same for microUSB…

        • HitokiriX

          I disagree with that completely. There are a lot of different things you can mod in all electronic devices… even in cars. But you can’t blame the manufacturer if you decide to swap something out and it results in damage. That’s why some manufacturers void warranties if you change parts.

          Samsung sells replacement batteries, so you have the choice to buy straight from them or not.

        • Trent Richards

          So giving customers the flexibility to buy third party parts such as batteries and chargers makes the manufacturer responsible if said third party part causes the phone to catch fire? The way I see it, the third party vendor that you purchased your 20 cent battery from is at fault. There is more fault on the customer who purchased the faulty third party part than there is on the manufacturer of the phone in those scenarios.

        • Person223

          You are oversimplifying. Many chargers have circuitry which flow different currents based on percentage of charge rather than whatever current might flow at whatever voltage the charger operates at until the battery is fully charged. Some batteries are very touchy about this. Take the LiPo batteries which are commonly used in RC aircraft power by electric motors. These operate that way, and have a ground lead on each cell in the pack so that when that one cell completely charges it opens the ground on it individually. Then you get one of those Einsteins who has a charger which fails. They just get a charger which is the sum total of the batteries in series and put that voltage across all the cells. But when some cells charge completely before the others you have current flowing through a fully charged battery because one or more of them in not completely charged. Power = current times voltage which means heat builds up and you have a fire. Also, never leave a charging LiPo battery pack unattended even if using the proper charger.

        • Person223

          As to the removable battery: I had a Nokia, but then changed to an iPhone. The Nokia lasted me years because I could change the battery when it got weak, but when an iPhone battery gets weak there isn’t the option. I’m going back to Nokia, getting the iPhone was a mistake. The iPhone crowd is like a religion. I don’t understand them.

  • Ruz

    these days lots of mobile owners are fitting high capacity cheap Chinese made batteries which doesn’t come with the necessary protections like overheating, over charge, surge, etc.. what do u expect to happen in this case?

  • Guest

    Why’s everybody blaming plastic? An iPhone once exploded and they’re made of aluminium. Wether they are made of glass, aluminium or plastic, it’s technology. It’s not perfect YET! They’ve been around since 2008 or so…

    • Piyush

      thats why this type article should be brought up to tackle the problem.

  • Timothy Anderson

    I think that we have sunk to a new low, if we suggest that when a product bursts into flames that this is somehow acceptable and normal. I am old enough to know when products were made with a certain level of quality, where this was definitely not normal or acceptable. Products used to be able to take a beating and still function normally. I don’t care if a current is running through it or not, it should not be made so poorly that it is a fire hazard. Quality has taken a back seat to inexpensive. … now we are entering an age of low quality and expensive.

    • My point is that statistically it’s “normal” for accidents to happen. I didn’t mean to say that we should accept crappy quality as a fact of life. But even the best designed and high quality devices will fail from time to time.

    • Mike Reid

      I agree, but…

      Small, high capacity lithium batteries IMO inherently bring a level of danger, even with the best brands. That said, the worst brands are IMO unacceptably dangerous, even if catastrophic failures are a “mere” 1%.

  • Piyath Alawatte

    I totally agree with this article. It shouldn’t be so much popularized unless the manufacturer does care. Every phone does burst if we use it in a wrong manner. Those kind of news decreases those respective manufacturer’s dignity.

  • Adam Koueider

    Let me remind you that the GS3 was put on some propoganda list because the screen was breaking with some people. They said that they never dropped their device, but here’s the shocking thing about the internet people: THEY LIED (well 99%) and were trying to get a free replacement.

    Open up your Samsung phone and you’ll see half a dozen warnings on the battery telling you what NOT to do.

    • asd


  • A very controversial topic.

    Bottom line is phones will blow up and overheat. It’s our job as reporters is to determine whether it’s a widespread issue or a natural occurrence. Determining whether it’s a widespread issue is next to an impossible challenge in itself. Of course there will be more S3s blowing up because there are a ton more in circulation. We’d really have to create a bot that monitored all the social channels and recorded the incidents for each device. We’d then have to compare the incidents to the total devices in circulation to figure out the % of bad apples. Even then it’s hardly accurate, but it would be a better metric to look at than reading a random news story about a phone blowing up.

    I believe users should report device defects to the world via their social channels rite away, regardless if they get a refund from the manufacturer. We need to express ourselves and let our voice be heard so we keep the manufacturers honest.

    News sites should investigate and report more than just random instances. They should go the extra mile to let the users know about defects with devices.

    So maybe it’s time to create the device defect bot 2.0 and start scanning the internets… What do you guys think?

  • Gaurav Gupta

    from last 1 week my samsung galaxy grand started over heating while charging the device, and my device is taking 7 to 8 hours for charging full and its only 3 months old, when it reaches 20% it sometime starts overheating, and i am using all original accessories. and now i dont know what to do, i am scared…

    • Trent Richards

      Contact Samsung and get it replaced. Overheating is a legitimate issue to justify a warranty replacement. The longer you wait to report the issue and address it with Samsung, the more you are at fault if the phone does catch fire or explode. Don’t ignore warning signs.

  • districtjack

    my opinion is anyone who has a cell phone fire has most likely caused it themselves. If you understand watts, amps, and current you will not burn up your phone. When manufacturers discover a problem they issue a recall. When a consumer tries to save money or uses other than the recommended charging cycles, they will most likely blame the phones manufacturer for their very own self-ignited fire.

    Use the correct ratio of volts, mA, and battery. If your brand new phone comes with a 1000 mA charger, don’t go out and buy a 600 milliamp or a 2.5 Amp charger. When your battery goes below 30% charge it to 100%. If you have a spare battery, store it at 40-60%(unless using daily). Do a little research on batteries to educate yourself and you won’t make a mistake that will cause FIRE to “just happen”.

    • J244

      “Do a little research”

      I agree, and its not that hard. Most people just dont want to it though.
      Everything should work all the time and things must be build so that they cannot be dangerous..ever.
      I love that i can take of the back cover and switch to a spare battery (original or good third party) when im not able to charge the main battery of a phone. If no one wants to learn that functionality (and others) will disappear..

  • robwick

    Being on the news is good for a couple reasons.

    1 It forces the companies promoting and selling these devices to honor their customers valid complaints for replacement. “Sorry, but you didn’t buy the optional insurance and this one doesn’t cover the battery.”

    2 It informs people of possible risks or it keeps the risk fresh in their minds so they second guess sleeping with the damned thing under their pillows or in a hip pocket whilst driving.

    The news is one means of keeping an informed public.

  • Larry

    This has to be one of the dumbest articles I have read in a long time. Thanks for wasting my time.

  • rongyaozai

    tinyurl.com/d2tf87t tyeryre

  • Mollie

    Therefore, removable battery is better than non-removable. At least, you can check if the battery is bloated or not.

  • Blowntoaster

    I agree, keep these kinds of articles short, and one per specific”device”. If I see another ” My S3 exploded/caught fire/spontaneously evaporated” article I’m gonna spontaneously evaporate into the Matrix and throw up on the “Creator’s” face. half the people are idiots and have no common sense. by now people should have figured that the devices get hot, don’t like moisture, should not be overcharged, left under pillows, come anywhere near the inside of a microwave/oven etc.

    AA, please do an article on “How to look after your mobile devices…”
    with stuff like how not to charge your phone etc so these poor souls can help themselves.

  • Blowntoaster

    My version on how to look after your mobile device:

    If you want to charge it. wait till the battery temp is under 40 degrees and leave your mobile data off. it’ll prolong the battery life and keep the device cool. Do not leave the device on any flammable material when charging. beds. pillows, cloths can keep the heat in and the device will get hotter by the minute.

    Put the device on a cool/cold hard surface that can conduct heat or where there is food ventilation. Nexus 4’s beware, put a thin cotton cloth under it to avoid the back glass possibly cracking from the sudden temperature change. if the device is in your pocket, and the LTE / mobile data is downloading at the speed of light, take it out and keep it in a ventilated area, and out of direct sunlight. and away from other devices that generate heat.

    The human body generates quite a lot of heat, especially near pant pockets/ areas where limbs are attached to and there is skin on skin/ limb on skin contact. Fabrics like Nylon/ polyester/ Jeans can generate quite a lot of heat around those areas, and when the body is hot your bodyheat can overheat a device. (been there done that, saw that happen many times.)

    If your Non Sony Xperia Z/Galaxy S4 Active etc gets wet, rip the battery out, and dump everything in a open rice pot. the rice will absorb most of the moisture out of the device in about 12 – 24 hrs.

    Take the device to a mobile device expert when it starts acting funny on charging. over time, carbon/ dust n rust (from your sweaty paws) builds up on the contact areas on the port, and can at times short or screw with the current/voltage.

    And Blink…

    Just a few things to think about…David…

  • amrutraj

    Personal experience:
    Three batteries of Omnia W swollen to thrice their thickness within 8 months of purchase (Me and my brothers phones).
    One battery of some 30$ monochrome display samsung ‘thin’ phone, swollen.

    I am not bashing samsung, but even google trends agree ‘samsung battery swollen’ is twice as common as any other brands battery swollen.

    Call me paranoid, but I have switched my whole family to lumia 920 and 720. Even though I am a hardcore android (linux) fanboy.

    • Skander

      Normal, Samsung sells 10x the amount of devices any “other” company sells.

  • Betty T

    The public needs to know maybe we can find out the cause and prevent or get the company to fix the problem. Your out of you mind saying that it should not be made public, What are you a politician? I will still continue to purchase samsung phones but now I know to be carefull.

  • Optimal by Amited can be the best solution for this problem.
    It protect your smartphone from extreme temperature changes and keeps it at “Ideal conditions”.

  • Person223

    And the new Samsung is also having this problem.

  • Loretta

    Wow, I think you are so wrong. Today my daughter had her Samsung Galaxy S 6 Active phone in her pocket, not in use not charging, she was just standing therewhen it suddenly blew up and caught fire causing 2nd and 3rd degree burns on her thigh then down her leg as it burned it’s wayout of her pocket while she was trying to bear out the flames. I am concerned about my daughter’s injuries, however I am more concerned with the fact I have 6 grandchildren who use the same phone. When I called Samsung about this all they could say was they had problems only with their Notebook 7 phones and if we were still using them it wasn’t their fault even though I kept telling them this was a Galaxy S 6 phone. This type of “accident” as you put it is not acceptable. When did consumers get so complacent that we feel we deserve bad and dangerous products?

  • cwg999

    *chuckles* and look at Samsung now…