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Report: iPhone 7 burns in car at Australian beach

Last week, Channel 7 News reported an iPhone 7 burst into flames in a car under clothes at a beach in Australia.

You can see Channel 7’s video and text report here, while The Guardian has its write-up here.

The story is that Mat Jones, a surfer, had left his phone under clothes in his car, parked at the beach while he was surfing.

It was when he noticed smoke coming from his car that he returned, seeing that the windows were black, with "front seats, dashboard and stick melted".

Under his clothes, he reportedly stated, “ash was just coming from inside the pants, which then, once you wrapped open the pants the phone was just melting inside of it", and on the video, Jones shows the phone and says: “There’s the phone, total burnout.”

Given that Apple sells millions, if not tens or hundreds of millions more of its specific flagship models than competitors like Samsung, the "failure rate" thus far for an iPhone 7 reportedly burning without physical damage is one compared to nearly 100 for the Samsung Note7 on a global basis.

So, in theory, there’s no need to panic, or at least not yet. Naturally, if iPhone 7 models start burning up in major numbers around the world, Apple will have to go through the same kind of recall and humiliation suffered by Samsung.

However at this stage, while there is reportedly smoke and fire from an iPhone 7, it’s no epidemic, or at least, not as yet.

If you are going to store any brand and make of phone in what could be extremely hot summer days to come, it would be a good idea to have the phone turned off, and not to place it under clothes.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your phone is set to automatically turn off the screen after 30 seconds, or a minute or two.

Some people like to leave the screen on for longer, for various reasons, or not have it turn off at all unless manually turned off, but as this drains the battery much faster than having the screen off., If you do set to screen to never turn off, only use that setting sparingly.

It’s actually not a good idea to leave any electronics with lithium-ion batteries in a hot car – if hot cars on a summer’s day (not that we’re in summer yet) are dangerous for humans and animals, they are not good for batteries, either. It can shorten their lifespans. Potentially they could cause devices to catch fire, too.

That said, GPS devices are left in cars all the time, even through smartphones have replaced GPS devices for many, and can you remember any epidemic of GPS devices on fire during the summer? I don't remember any such mass events occuring. 

Hopefully Apple is able to explain what happened with this phone – the company was reportedly in contact with Jones to examine the situation.

Whether Apple makes any public explanations or not, the chances of your iPhone 7 or 7 Plus spontaneously catching on fire are extremely slim, especially with the likelihood of tens of millions of those two new models sold around the world, a vastly greater number than the 2.5 million Samsung Galaxy Note7 models sold before the first recall took place.

Until then, if you are really worried, charge whatever phone you own when at home in your metal laundry sink, or in your kitchen. You won’t escape the smoke if it burns, but at least it shouldn’t fill your bedroom with smoke next to your head, and it’s unlikely, in a kitchen or laundry sink, to burn your house down.

So, don’t panic. If this is a more serious issue, the world will learn much, much more soon enough, and Apple will have to take appropriate action, as was the case with Samsung.

Fandroids can't celebrate just yet.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.