back to article iPod meltdown strands Tokyo commuters

Apple's iPod flame-out woes continue. The latest victims: Tokyo commuters. On Friday, Reuters reports, smoke from what turned out to be a self-immolating iPod caused passengers to alert transit officials on a commuter-train line, who quickly shut down the system. "When a member of staff went to investigate inside the train," …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quick test

    Create a joke using the following words and phrases


    On time





    1. TheOtherJola

      There are some problems with your post.

      Trains On time Mussolini Apple iWhatever(TM) Run?

      Run Mussolini Apple Trains On time iWhatever(TM)?

      Apple Trains Run Mussolini iWhatever(TM) On time?

  2. Arctic fox

    I am puzzled

    Why is it that a company that in many other ways is as good at marketing as Apple apparently does not understand that this type of behaviour is very damaging for their reputation. Just about every public relations consultent on the face of the planet would warn them that concealment and denial significantly increases the damage done to a company. Openess and ready rectification is the standard advice that you get from those who work with what we can call "reputation protection". And no, this is not an "I hate Apple" rant, I genuinely do not understand why one of the sharpest and cleverest marketing companies within consumer electronics does not, seemingly, understand these elementary issues.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      IT Angle

      The answer... simple: Arrogance. They actually believe they can get away with it.

    2. Jimmy Floyd

      Know your market

      Because Apple consumers are the type to look at the form, not the function. The style, not the substance. Dodgy screens (iPod), dodgy antenna (iPhone) or dodgy batteries (iPhone again) are not as damaging to the brand than an admission of fallibility, which would imply anything other than perfection.

      "Those are things that happen to other people," they'll think. "My toy is still shiny and perfect."

      It's not the best human trait, is it?

      1. Arctic fox
        Paris Hilton

        Up to a point

        I would agree with the thesis that a significant proportion of Apple's consumers of "fun electronics" do have a tendency to think that way although I have to say that I do know plenty of serious people who use *mac* kit proffesionally and are very pleased with it without displaying the symtoms that we observe amongst those who really do deserve the appelation "fanbois". However, if it is the case that Apple are relying on the uncritical admiration of a significant proportion of those who buy what we may call their lifestyle electronics to avoid what by any standards is only sound common sense in tending to their customer base properly then I believe that they, sooner or later, may end up paying a significant price for that attitude. They indeed may start paying that price rather sooner than they expect - which is bloody stupid given that they should realise that their reputation with *all* their customers (not just the fashion/self-image obsessed element) is the bedrock of their business.

        Paris because she doesn't work either if you hold her the wrong way.

        1. rciafardone

          Mmm, I gree with you but....

          I gree with you 100%, but i think Jimmy Floyd is non the less also correct, and Apple knows this and beahaves accordingly. That why you dont see Apple laptops blowing up, and at the same time ask yourself this:

          Do you imagine any other phone making company that makes a phone which bateries cant be replaced?

          Batteries is the shorttest living element in any phone. Make it irreplaceble and you know your user will switch to a new model as soon as possible.

    3. Daniel 1

      Japanese market is different

      Japanese consumers tend to regard Apple products as American-made, and, consequently, as complete junk. The concept of 'American consumer electronics' is, not unnaturally, something of a joke, in Japanese culture. Like Polish cars, in the 1980s.

      The Japanese press actually tend to go out of their way to run stories about iPods or Xboxes exploding, or failing to work, and Apple's usual stonewalling tactics tend to fall flat, in the face of this, because the press are actually busy looking for the laugh.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Arrogance, a dangerous attitude..

        In attitude about American made electronics then, the Japanese are where the North Americans were in the 1960's. Interesting.

        Of course the electronics are not American made, I doubt there is a company in North America capable of making an iPod like device that doesn't resemble a Do It Yourself project-box from an electronics hobby-store. The reason for this is because business has outsourced everything to the Chinese. iPods are not American made, they are made by the Chinese for an American firm.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          #In attitude about American made electronics then, the Japanese are where the North Americans were in the 1960's. Interesting.

          Having travelled widely in both directions, I'm pretty much certain that the Japanese are where Americans would like to be in the 2020's - at least if they knew better. iPods and iPhones are actually pretty retro in terms of functionality, not to mention rather over-priced, compared to run of mill consumer devices in Japanese high streets.

          Its not arrogance so much as a far greater immersion in and experience of technology combined with a justifiable pride in Japanese design and engineering long since gone in the US and here in the UK. For us that kind of pride is basically a form of nostalgia.

      2. Zippy the Pinhead

        @daniel 1

        Apple products American made.. HA.. they are all made in China by Foxconn.. Ever buy a foxconn motherboard? I have.. 3 in fact and all 3 returned as non-functioning.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think you answered your own question

      It's precisely because Apple are so good at marketing that engineering is becoming less and less valued.

      Apple aren't alone with this - but they appear to be breaking new ground.

      1. Arctic fox

        @I think you answered your own question

        You may of course, regretably, be right. If that is the case then I have to say that the company, in the longer term, is on the road to nowhere. The take-home message should be "take care of the engineering, the marketing, AND your customers". The whole gemillah hangs together, you cannot do any of it properly in isolation. The whole is by definition greater than the sum of the parts that I refer to - all those parts have to be present for that synergy to work. One cannot do it by marketing alone and rely on your customers not knowing any better. The irony of this in my case is that I have a certain wholly genuine respect for Apple's hardware but the marketing really makes me cringe!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @arctic fox

          Yup. I meant to add to my comment that Apple - historically have built some of the best engineered techy devices I've bought. The engineering was part of the design and vice versa.

          They seem to have lost their way a little of late that's all. Aesthetics beating usability and marketing beating ... well everything.

          1. Arctic fox

            @AC "Yup. I meant to add.."

            Yes, that is in fact my impression and despite the fact that I am no great fan of the company I am not an enemy either (despite what some might think!) I do not understand what the hell they are playing at. They have made a considerable contribution in many areas within the technology that so many of us that post here are interested in, it just does not make sense to me.

      2. Anonymous Coward

        Consumers are to blame

        Unless the customer is knowledgeable about the technology that they are buying, money spent on advertising is always going to yield a better return than money spent on development. This is why so many consumer products are so atrocious.

        1. Arctic fox

          @AC and "Consumers are to blame": I would wish that I could say.......

          ........that I was sure that you were mistaken but I greatly fear that you may very well be right.

    5. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Zippy the Pinhead

        @ Anonymous Coward... It's simple

        "The reason is simple.

        Apple sells a fashion item. It's usefulness as a product is irrelevant, the quality of build is irrelevant, problems with it are irrelevant."

        But it does have to be shiny.. Apple has the shiny part down pat! Shiny is what you wanted right?

    6. Zippy the Pinhead
      Jobs Horns

      @ I am puzzled

      It is because they are a marketing company.. they are about HYPE and have been so ever since St. Jobs made his return to leadership of the company.

      They build PCs of average quality, cell phones of average quality and mp3 players of average quality. Then they make it look shiny and bad mouth everyone else's product. They hide the defects by deleting user post to their forums and they charge a premium for their average quality devices.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do these guys

    Do these guys have the same lawyers and PR drones as the Scientologists?

    1. Tigra 07

      RE: AC

      No, slightly different strategy.

      Scientology lawyers sue anyone who blogs or writes about scientology for any reason they decide.

      Apple lawyers quietly blackmail their own customers into covering up faults in exchange for a refund.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Dear Steve Jobs

    Your iPod is smokin' hot

  5. Anonymous Coward

    If you don't know the make......

    It might not be a bleedin IPod!

    IPod= Overpriced Tut from Apple

    Music Player = General definition

    A Grenade, because that's what Apple's legal team will put under your arse if you carry on like this.....

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Learn to read

      The article says it was an ipod but that the specific model was unknown.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      RTFA FFS!!!

      It states in several places throughout TFA that the player is an iPod.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        How would you know it's an IPod if you don't know the model????

        You'd have to know the bleedin model to know its a beeding IPod....Simples!

  6. Adrian Esdaile
    Paris Hilton

    Did anyone else notice?

    That if a train is late in Tokyo it creates international headlines?

    Paris, because even she could design a better public transport system than Australia's one...

    1. Homard

      Probably because the trains run on time

      In the UK if a train runs within a day of its scheduled time, doesn't break down, and actually gets you to your destination within a calendar month of when you intended then this is considered acceptable ! All this at rip-off cost ! Bonus.

      Now for some reason beyond comprehension (of our train companies) the Japs and a few other nations have managed to make their public transport system work properly. Be nice if they found out how to do it too !

      In all my time as a commuter I've never heard the old 'iPod explosion' excuse ! I've heard just about every other.

      The flame is from an iPod showing its build quality, and **NOT** at you !

  7. Anonymous Coward

    "Stranded"? Really?

    "iPod meltdown _strands_ Tokyo commuters"


    "There were no reports of injuries, and after an eight-minute delay, the system was restarted."

    8 (EIGHT) minutes. Eight. Having been on Mass Transit systems (*cough* The Tube) where delays of 8 minutes can pass without rhyme, reason or reasonable explanation I think it's highly disingenuous to say that the commuters were "stranded".

    I know you have an undercurrent of hate toward Apple, Microsoft, Linux, Technology etc. at El Reg, and I let all the "freetard"s and "fanboi"s go with good humour and the utter ennui that accompanies the abandonment of the journalistic principles that you at least paid lip-service to in the past, but now you're just coming off as sad and desperate. What next? "Steve Jobs: actually 3 midgets on each others' shoulders shock"? "Gates, Torvalds, worship Satan, Martha Stewart"? Anything to get people to click on the link in their RSS feed I guess. God help you should the BOFH, at some point in the future, be published elsewhere.

    1. Arclight


      Did the train stop? Yes

      Could the passengers get off? No

      Was the cause of the stoppage the iPod? Yes

      As for comparing the tube to the Tokyo underground, trains running late there are as a big a cause of panic as the earth stopping rotating.

    2. Lottie

      There is a difference

      between most mass transit systems and the trains in Japan. An 8 min delay over there is incredibly rare and actually something worthy of headlines.

    3. Steve Roper

      Some people just don't "get" El Reg

      OK. Stop a moment. Take a deep breath... that's good. Now think about what you just said.

      "...undercurrent of hate towards Apple, Microsoft, Linux, ..."

      Which pretty well covers *all* the big ones, no? You may also have noticed that El Reg aren't exactly affectionate towards Google, Yahoo and Facebook either. Now take a good look at the site. 1. It's a redtop. 2. Its symbol is a pissed-off vulture. 3. Its tagline is "Biting the hand that feeds IT". Got any clues yet?

      Look, if you want staid, competent reporting about technology, you should have a look at Ars Technica or ZDNet. If you want sarky, cynical, iconoclastic, in-your-face journalism about a broad range of generally (but not always) tech-related subjects then here is where you end up.

      So yes, someday soon we just might well end up with something like "Gates, Torvalds worship Satan, Martha Stewart", if such people appeared, illusorily or otherwise, to be doing anything remotely resembling that. Wouldn't surprise me at all, because it's the sort of thing they do here. That's why BOFH is here and isn't likely to go anywhere else. Because it's what El Reg is all about.

    4. heyrick Silver badge

      Eight minutes

      Eight minutes is enough to browse the headlines of the newpaper opposite you. Eight minute stops for no reason whatsoever are evidently normal on British trains. I've stopped in a goods yard in Swindon. On a bridge over a canal in the middle of nowhere. Hell, I've had a flippin' Intercity grind to a halt for no discernable purpose. This sort of this is not news to us.

      We consider trains late if they are running maybe 10-15 minutes behind time. I've even stood in stations as the train that was supposed to stop passed right on by, leaving me to wait for the next, and who knows if anybody on board expected to get off then.

      We are used to this, so eight minutes doesn't seem like a big deal. We are used to an overpriced second-rate rail network run by incompetent morons.

      The Japanese, however, might consider their trains late if they are not eight minutes, but eight SECONDS behind schedule.

      Seconds matter. At 30, you'll hear an apology over the speakers. A few apologies, they'll start issuing notes to give to your employers. Here's a fascinating read:

      Here's an interesting (brief) read: and many books and tourist guides will make a point of the punctuality (to the second) of the trains.

    5. Homard

      @AC : I happen to like this site !

      This site has loads of useful articles on it, and I think they're pretty well written. I've made use of information posted on here (articles and comments on them) on many an occasion. Dug me out of the shit a few times :-) !

      There's also a fair load of funny stuff. Essential for those of us that perform a job function where the only time any interest is shown in what we do (and the professionalism we undertake) is when things have gone titsup. A bit of light relief makes all the difference.

      So please don't knock it. Enjoy it, and the freedom of expression given.

  8. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Where marketing drones fail to understand publicity: Apple

    The bla-bla machine at Apple appears to believe that if you BS enough, the problem will vanish. Not unexpected, after all, Microsoft got away with it for years, gradually pushing people into accepting new products that were not even ready for beta until they went too far with Vista.

    It ain't working no more..

    They tried it with the iPhone 4 - I still think they may be forced into a massive recall if some government trade organisation decides it can use Apple to prove how strong it protects its customers (read: vting public). Well, here's rule 1 of crisis management (also not picked up by Tony Hayward): do NOT lie to the press. It is better to admit a problem and fix it than to deny it exists in teh face of overwhelming evidence. The former will create credibility (most people allow a mistake to happen), the second destroys brand trust.

    Frankly, I would prefer they get a serious clobber around the ears from, say, the UK Department for Trade for selling "goods not of merchantable quality" or whatever the term is. They must learn that customer trust is again important..

    As for me, thanks for confirming rule no. 1 of personal purchases: never buy a version 1 in hardware or software..

  9. richard 69

    they've always been wankers...

    yes that's right girls, apple have never given a shit about you or what you do with their/your product....just buy it and piss off...wait 3 years and buy another. the total arrogance has always been there, it's just that now more ipods/macs have been sold and there's more muppets to realise about that arrogance.

    i'm one of the muppets. that's why i'm on my 5th ipod and 5th mac, but now they're charging silly prices for the entry level mac mini and still expect us to download hd content off itunes instead of putting a blu-ray player in macs....they can sod off and i will be buying my first pc next time.

    1. yeehaw....

      Advice about Win7

      Do NOT get any Win7 Home versions - stick to Win7 Professional.

      Win7 Home (any version) is crippleware.


  10. JaitcH
    Jobs Horns

    Jobs: It's OK folks, we know the answer

    The shipper mixed up delivery of stage props that were to be used in Mission Impossible (This tape will self-destruct ...) remakes which means, inter alia, Apple has no responsibility for these incidents.


    The users were at fault as they played the music too loud / kept them in a warm place where the ambient temperature specified in our warranty


    These units, on inspection, were subject to smoke filled environments amd are not covered by warranty



    1. SlabMan


      The shipper mistakenly sent out a few of the Mossad co-branded iPods

  11. RJ

    @Adrian Esdaile

    While the Japanese train system is usually very good. It is still quite often delayed.

    Unfotunately my commuter trip in uses the Keihin-Tohoku line which is the most frequently delayed line in the country. Usually up to 10 minutes once or twice a week.

    Still a lot better than other places I think; but not the perfection most westerners seem to think it is.

    This one made intl news because: A) It was a major line, B) It was an apple product.

    1. CD001


      If a 10 minute delay, once or twice a week, constitutes the "most delayed line in the country" - that IS perfection - or at least so damned close to it to make little difference.

      Try catching the train in Blighty - "We're sorry, it's the wrong kind of rain - but it's OK, we've laid on a replacement bus service for you". Hell, we were eligible for compensation in the West Midlands a few years ago because they buggered up the train service so badly, for MONTHS, that you'd be lucky to get a train that was ONLY ten minutes late... it's not quite that bad now but still.

      1. Alan Barnard

        10 minute delay

        In Blighty, the statistics for late trains do not include those less than 10 minutes late.

      2. It wasnt me

        A small error in your post:

        "We're sorry, it's the wrong kind of rain - but it's OK, we've laid on a replacement bus service for you".

        Should have read:

        "We're sorry, it's the wrong kind of rain - but it's OK, we've laid on a replacement bus service for you and we sent the busses to Woking. Yes, yes, I know youre in basingstoke, but if you make your own way to woking the bus will fulfill your journey to Southampton".

        There, fixed it for you.

        *This actually happened to me 2 years ago. I ended up getting a taxi. The train company offered me a refund of half my ticket price paid in .... Train vouchers. Never did use them. Wouldnt pay for the taxi as they offered a replacement bus service from a town 30 miles in the wrong direction away.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this smoke emitting app a bit dangerous?

    Especially if it was tucked into a rucksack by someone looking a bit foreign running for a train/bus.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      especially if..

      you happen to be a Brazilian sparky (or plumber, whatever he was) or one of our ethnic community.

      Grenade, well because..

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Hurray, another Apple based Flame war

    ... i'll get me coat.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Get over it

    So your iPod exploded. It was pretty old and it's time you bought another. Not that big of a deal


  15. Mystic Megabyte

    Don't take your iThing to Switzerland!

    Cos' farmers there are fined for each minute that a train is delayed when one of their cows gets onto the line.

    As your flaming pod-bomb is obviously your own fault then you could be in for a hefty penalty.

  16. David Neil

    From the interview

    "While interviewing Balderas back in November, Clancy asked the Arlington woman what her biggest concern is. Balderas quickly said, “there’s millions of these out there, and as a parent of five children, all of my children have at least one (iPod). And they use these, and sometimes they listen to them at night when they’re in bed. And what if the iPod is lying in bed and the sheets catch on fire?"

    Five kids, each with at least one iPod. I really wish I'd bought Apple stock a while back.

  17. Z 1

    Save time

    Just use the term "Applegate" - their quality control seems to be woefully inadequate

  18. Sean Baggaley 1


    This sounds like the same old "Batterygate" problem which was eventually nailed to the likes of Sony some time ago.

    Apple don't make the damn batteries in their devices, so if they're exploding, the fault lies with the *battery's manufacturer*, not Apple. Apple just design their products and send the specs to—you guessed it!—East Asia. To companies in Taiwan, Korea and China. And they often buy components from the Japanese too.

    This is increasingly shoddy *Japanese* workmanship coming home to roost. (Toyota, anyone?) But the Japanese don't want to hear that. They'd rather just blame Apple for having been so dumb as to buy their batteries from Japanese companies in the first place.

    There was a time when "American Made" (or even "Made In Britain") was seen as a mark of quality. Then the Japanese came and, after many years of hard work, finally made the Americans and British workers look like feckless idiots....

    ...and now it's Japan's turn. Only—like the Americans and British—they're going through their denial phase. No wonder the Chinese are about to steal Japan's "Second Biggest Economy" title.

    If it's any consolation, the Chinese will go through a similar phase too eventually.

    1. Geoffrey W

      Yes, but...

      RE your comment about Asia's shoddy workmanship coming home to roost.

      You cant blame it all on Asia and China. Western companies sourcing over there often take a very hard line, playing one company off against another for contracts and forcing them to take short cuts and lower quality in order to be able to meet a price and land a contract (or risk going out of business). And then we blame it all on the Chinese when things go horribly wrong. If allowed to do things properly at a fair price then they will produce quality goods. Same as everywhere, really.

      This is, of course, a generalisation and there are always exceptions to every rule, but I think the point stands.

  19. DI_Wyman

    Dear Steve Jobs....

    ...come on baby light my fire.

    I thankyou.....

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Ah well, what the ...

    If anything threatens to burst the Apple phenomena it just might be those strongarm legal types doing more PR damage than a couple of squillion on advertising.

    Can't the Apple send it's legal beagles back to from whence they came and find a group that does softarm legal challenges aware of consequences to the organisation itself?

    I'd guess a good reason to dispense with any contractual abligation the Apple might have with legal beagles doing damage they do might run on lines of: bringing the Apple into disrepute.

  21. Jamie Kitson


    I use free-range gates only.

  22. herry


    I use the line everyday to work and luckily I was not around during the meltdown.

    Otherwise I would have melted myself in this hot summer crushed by one million people.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What constitutes a "late"?

    It's funny. Metro North Railroad (serving NYC) doesn't consider a train "late" unless it arrives 6 minutes or more behind schedule.

    It's been reported by the NYT that 25% of NJ Transit trains are late, 2 in 5 more than 15 minutes late. LIRR doesn't fare much better as both go into NY Penn Station. Metro North does much better as they go to Grand Central instead of Penn.

    Eight minutes? I wouldn't even blink at an eight minute dealy on NJT or MNRR (having commuted on both for many years). But in Japan, I'd be surprised. Granted I haven't spent nearly as much time on Japan Rail as on the NYC trains, but from what I've seen, "running like clockwork" isn't an exaggeration.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    shifting blame

    I wonder if the person was holding it wrong?

    I love how Apple tries to deflect the blame and says the issue is with the battery maker.. umm no.. the battery is sealed.. the issue is with the people who accepted delivery of the battery.. APPLE itself. Don't shift blame.. fix it! If the battery was built to the specs that Apple specified then It's Apple's fault. If the battery wasn't built to Apple's specs then it's Apple's fault as well because they accepted delivery of the batteries and didn't test them to ensure they met specs.

    In short Apple stop trying to deflect blame and take responsibility!

  25. halms
    Thumb Down

    internal device combustion

    i personally experienced some of them. 2 years ago, on a bus, i had my hp laptop in its bag, on my lap, when all the sudden i smell smoke. then i noticed my lap is warm. when i opened the bag, some smoke came out. but 3/4 of the keyboard melted which took the screen with it. when i sent it for data recovery, the guy said i wasnt the 1st. my 1st experience was with a nokia (the one from the 1st matrix movie). the battery overheated and melted the phone from inside out.

    5 mobile phones, 4 laptops, 2 pcs... well, those are only some of the items i've seen that had the same luck. i think my fren still have that toshiba laptop somewhere.

    just last week my dvd player burst out sparks and smokes. dont make this an apple thing.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Jesus, much ado 'bout nothing!

    What a storm in a teacup!

    So would this have made international news if it had been a Cowon, Sony, Archos or Creative? Nope! It woudl have been "MP3 player stops trains in Japan shocker!". Instead because it's one of Jobs' little toys the world has stop and heave a giant gasp of disbelief, because a device is not perfect. Who hyped it to be perfect? Wasn't Apple. Apple merely state that you need this to make your life complete, it's the mass media that hypes Apple's products beyond all sense!

    When the iPad came out, I was getting sick and tired of iPad stories. ASUS release lots of products and some fantastic tech gadgets, your lucky if you see the name mentioned outside t tech press. Jobs farts and the media sit up like a load of silly little lapdogs!


    Well so does my arse at least once a day and no one stops a mass transit system or reports it in every major media outlet! ( Maybe they should? Fancy getting my 15 mins, even if it's not my face getting it! )

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