back to article iPhone 4/4S 'self combusts' in airliner inferno

An iPhone caused a small emergency in an Australian airplane after it inexplicably started to glow red and emit "significant amounts of dense smoke" as the craft touched down in Sydney airport. A flight attendant extinguished the phone immediately, reported the Regional Express Airline news service, and no passengers or crew …


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  1. nigel 15

    the photo

    how about a link to the photo?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If you follow the "news service" link in the story you'll see this link to the pdf of the press release that contains the photo:

      1. nigel 15

        many thanks

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Terrorist are missing a trick here ... Just take iPhones onto planes and wait for them to explode, if they don't explode; the terrorist gets a nice holiday and can try again on the way home.

  3. Arctic fox

    Was the owner sitting next to somebody using..........

    ...........a Galaxy SII?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    With the black plastic clearly burnt

    Plastic? I thought theses iPhone thingies were supposed to be quality items. If I paid the sort of money needed for an iPhone I'd expect a bit more than plastic.

  5. Dazed and Confused

    Can't blame cheap third party batteries

    if you can't change it

  6. Tchou

    Our products are perfect. It is your imagination.

    Okay ---------------->[ ].

  7. Alan Denman

    A sad downer waiting to happen.

    All of these devices need to have the battery removed in flight.

    As they get older the explosive risk increases .

    It seems almost inevitable that the carrying of devices with non removable batteries will be eventually banned. Lets hope I am wrong.

    1. Tomato42

      >iPhone 4 old

      So, how would you describe my Nokia N-gage?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        N Gage


    2. Jedit

      No, let's hope that you're right

      Such a ban would force Apple to stop treating their users a bit less like children or intellectual pygmies, or face losing millions of pounds in custom from the people who use their iStuff for business. Even the biggest Apple fan can't deny that this would be a good thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Treating users like children?

        You mean like naming operating system like candy?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: "You mean like naming operating system like candy?"

          Android 1.0

          Android 1.1

          Android 1.5

          Android 1.6

          Android 2.1

          Android 2.2

          Android 2.3

          Android 3.0

          Android 3.1

          Android 3.2

          Android 4.0

          So, where's the candy AC?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re to Vomit on Android versions

            Come on. You, of all trolls, know how Google names their Android versions Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sarnie...

            They even put up Androids dolls representing them, playground style. Here, see for yourself:


            Can't really get any more child-like than that.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Android 1.0 - None

            Android 1.1 - None

            Android 1.5 - Cupcake

            Android 1.6 - Donut

            Android 2.1 - Eclair

            Android 2.2 - FroYo (Frozen Yogurt)

            Android 2.3 - Gingerbread

            Android 3.0 - Honeycomb

            Android 3.1 - Honeycomb

            Android 3.2 - Honeycomb

            Android 4.0 - Ice Cream Sandwich

            Strike Vomit - Fuckwit

            1. Anonymous Coward

              "Strike Vomit - Fuckwit"

              Niiice. I somehow expected better from you...

              FYI development code names != 'official' operating system names, AnotherNetNumptie.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward


                10/10 for originality; I like it! And I apologise for the barb; long day.

                On a serious note, Ubuntu is referred to by and often laughed at for it's code names. Add to that that the versions are more-often-than-not referred to by the release codename i.e. "CM7 sports the most Vanilla look you can find on a Gingerbread ROM". I get what you were trying to illustrate, but you know as well as everyone else that official name != familiar name. If you're going to call one device a toy; be prepared to have your favourite mocked back. The code names *are* a bit childish, but that is Google all over. You could argue, more reasonably, that FroYo or Ice Cream Sandwich are far more consumer friendly...

            2. Bruce Grunewald

              Google just wants.....

              Android users to get their Just Desserts.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Even the biggest Apple fan can't deny that this would be a good thing."

        Oh, I'll think that you'll find plenty of them willing to defend Apple's decision on batteries. Usually on grounds of looks, and/or size & weight savings.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not all batteries

      Sort of -- Lithium *ion* batteries will expand and contract as they are charged/discharged and that will stress the cell containers and possibly rupture them and cause a short/malfunction.

      Lithium *polymer* batteries, like those used in basically all cell phones, do not suffer from this problem.

      So while they can still overheat, catch fire, etc. from malfunctioning electronics that cause them to discharge too fast, I doubt this has much to do with age or wear.

  8. Nev Silver badge

    It's a feature.

    It's meant to do that.

    Apple will be applying for a patent soon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They can't, Samsung has prior art

  9. Fab De Marco

    The Plane did it

    If it was glowing and smoking as the aircraft touched down then the passenger should have had it turned off. Even when using flight mode phones should be tuurned off during take off and landing. Clearly this was the plane's self defence mechanism. In my head, something like...

    "I'm Sorry Dave, you cannot let you play Angry Birds.... Stop.... I'm aftraid I can't let you do that Dave"

    On a more serious note, as Both an iPhone 4 owner and a Samsung Galaxy SII owner, only one will remain in my jeans pocket inches away from my balls.

    I would be interested to know what he was doing at the time of the smoke out too. I hope for Apples sake that it was not just sitting idle.

    1. Iain Leadley

      Pocket Rocket

      I NEVER put any phone or lithium powered device in my front pocket. Lithium cells are like little sticks of TNT. Even if they were safe I still wouldn't as I don't want my nuts microwaved.

      1. Iain Leadley


        Why the thumbs down?

        Do any of you actually understand lithium cells? Obviously not.

        1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

          I understand Lithium-Ion cells. Fairly well too, I think. I spent a good part of 2 years doing nothing but working out how to achieve the safest and most reliable use of Lithium-Ion cells.

          Actual Lithium cells, much less, but them too :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What it was "doing"?

      It might have been idle, who cares.

      The phone does not have a self destruct feature that can accidentally be activated by a bug in Angry Birds.

      There was clearly a hardware malfunction with the power circuitry that caused the battery to short out. Nothing to do with software, presumably.

  10. uksysadmin

    Official response from Apple

    The person in question was just "holding it wrong" and Apple will be putting out a FAQ on how to hold the iPhone 4/4S correctly shortly.

  11. EddieD

    Needs some brown sugar, raisins and cream.

    Well, that's how I serve baked apples, anyway.

    Or possibly a layer of crumble.

    Li-ion batteries can go foom for a variety of reasons - I wonder if he was charging it from the sockets some flights have for laptops, and it overcharged - or any one of a number of other possibilities.

    Anyways, bring them on - as Alan Denman says above, the more these sort of things happen, the less chance of having to put up with loud-mouthed reps trying to be heard over the obligatory baby cries.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Was it the iTerror App......

  13. Platelet

    It's a feature, droid users are jealous.

    All phones randomly explode.

    Should have switched it into "do not explode on airplanes" mode

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    is this what the reviews mean

    when they say it is the hottest item on the market?

  15. dotdavid

    "An iPhone caused a small emergency in an Australian airplane after it inexplicably started to glow red and emit "significant amounts of dense smoke" as the craft touched down in Sydney airport "

    Shouldn't the passenger have switched the phone off prior to descent? Or does that rule apply only to *other* electronic devices?

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      I'm curious; where did you read that the passenger switched it on? I read the media release from Rex, complete with the photo and it didn't say anything about it being switched on.

      Or are you assuming it was switched on; because when it is switched off, it no longer exists and therefore cannot combust?

      1. dotdavid


        Good point, I kinda assumed it was switched on.

      2. Jedit
        Thumb Down

        Assuming it was switched on

        I would always assume that a combusting electrical device was switched on at the time, as using electricity generates heat. Occam's Razor: the hotter something is, the fewer additional factors are required for it to reach combustion point.

        My own smartphone has at times become quite warm during periods of intense use, but never when it's just sitting in my shirt pocket. The guy was using it, no need for facetiousness.

        1. Marcelo Rodrigues

          Not really

          A Smartphone keeps running, even when it is turned off. Yes, at extremely low power levels, and with almost everything turned off. But it is still "on" - after all, my Nokia E66 rang the alarm even when I turned it "off.

          And a Li-Ion battery may burns itself down even with no load. All that is needed is an internel short - wich can be caused by corrosion, wear and tear and so on.

          The IPhone could be on. Could, even, beeing in use. But not necessarily.

          1. Jedit

            True, not necessarily

            But as I said: the more heat a phone is generating, the more likely it is that it *will* happen. That's where Occam's Razor comes in - in the absence of definite proof, the most probable solution is the one requiring the fewest factors. And when there have already been stories of the same thing happening to other models of the iPhone when it is in use, that's further fuel for the fire (so to speak).

            1. Vic

              > as I said: the more heat a phone is generating, the more likely it is that it *will* happen.

              You might have said it, but it's not true at the sort of temperatures phones generate in normal operation.


        2. Gary Bickford

          Internal short in the battery?

          Li batteries are not just a lump of stuff, they have their own internal electronics, which can go bad. The battery might have shorted out internally, resulting in a current flow limited only by the small internal resistance. This could easily result in smoke, fire or even explosion - it's happened before in laptops and other products. This article: has info on the 2006 recall. I don't know if the Apple batteries are the same kind (in fact I doubt it) but there is still a lot of energy stored in those little things.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Although the iPhone can be turned off, it cannot be powered off. The phone is always powered, drawing a small amount of current (as long as the battery isn't dead).

  16. stim

    the hold...

    So.... what happens if someone puts their iphone in their suitcase and this happens mid-flight in the belly of the aircraft...not.good.

    1. hplasm

      That would NEVER happen!

      iThing seperation anxiety... that could wreck the [plane on it's own.

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      That is a very interesting point, but it all depends on where you are.

      When I was playing with Li-Ion batteries, the "clever people" who won't let you take your water in planes in England said that all the spare batteries for your laptop had to be in the hold, for safety reasons. The clever people in the US said they must not go in the hold because of the issue you raised, for safety reasons.

      Obviously you have to get out and go around to the boot while flying over the atlantic to perform the switch!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Since when have the UK made you put spare batteries in the hold?

        I always fly with spare batteries and they sell batteries air side...

    3. <user />

      ..the ground staff rob it before it gets anywhere near an aircraft!

  17. Lee Sherwood

    We have an app for that

  18. Alan Denman

    It only affects a very small percentage ........ of planes

    'Only a very small percentage'.

    Tell it again Apple?

    1. g e

      Affects a small percentage..

      Therefore implies that it has been measured

      Which means it is a known fault

      Which means Apple must be sued for knowingly selling and advertising goods unfit for purpose. That they cannot identify which units fall into the percentage is irrelevant.

      So a complete product recalled is also required as they cannot issue new batteries to people because you're not allowed to change the battery.

  19. Mike 125

    I always take a dodgy iPhone on the plane.

    The chance of one dodgy iPhone is small. So the chance of two tends to zero.

  20. Armando 123

    According to Nigel Tufnell

    Thousands of iPhones spontaneously combust each year, it's just not well-documented.

    Mine's the one that's size 11.

  21. Big Cheese Jong Jong

    A1332 is an iPhone 4

    Judging by the model number A1332 on the picture, it is an iPhone 4 and not a 4S so it could have been down to a dodgy batch of batteries from the battery supplier.

    I wonder if the batteries are made by the same company that made the infamous exploding Dell laptop batteries? I think that at the time it was Sony?


    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not laptop batteries

      Dell laptop batteries are lithium-ion. Cell phone batteries are lithium-polymer. Big difference. There was almost certainly a short in the phone *outside* of the battery.

  22. Brian Morrison

    A major Li battery fire...

    ... is what almost certainly accounted for the UPS 747F that crashed in Dubai earlier in the year. It was carrying several tonnes of them, all brand new and in packaging designed for shipment.

    No obvious reason for ignition but since they are self-oxidising neither depressurisation nor halon will put the fire out. You can't ship them discharged because then the battery will almost certainly never work again.

    Tricky problem really...

  23. Aldous

    it was his own fault

    he was holding it wrong.

  24. codemonkey

    Cooked Apple...

    Apple pie anyone?

    If only they were even that useful ;)

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You cannot send batteries on a chopper to an oilrig...

    And that includes anything from AAA to laptop batteries.

    However, they will let you carry a phone, laptop and an alarmclock with the same batteries already fitted...

  26. Seanie Ryan


    " started to glow red"

    really? really???

    it would have to be _*VERY*_ hot for that to happen and at that temperature, it would not look like the photo.

    i'm sure there was a flaw in this device, but lets keep the report in the realms of normality.

    1. James Smith 3

      593ºC or more. Sounds pretty hot to me.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Motorola may want to sue Apple over this, their smartphones were exploding before and with much deeper "user experience"

    1. Fab De Marco


      The Moto Story was a scam, trying to get money out of them after he dropped his phone

  28. pdogguk


    Sounds like it was smouldering.

    Or did I miss the part about the 40ft flames?

  29. Mcbain

    Perhaps he was playing Nokia Snakes on a plane, it was bound to end badly for an Apple device.

  30. Tom Reg

    China knock off - or real phone?

    The picture so clearly shows an iPhone 4. But the china knock - offs look the same.

    1. DJ Particle

      @Tom Reg - I was wondering that as well, many of the fakes look exactly like real iPhones, right down to the writing on the back. You see videos showcasing them (comparing to the real thing) on YouTube all the time.

      Sherlock - because this mystery needs solving before we blame Apple.

      1. hplasm

        The straws!

        Clutch them!

  31. Marcelo Rodrigues

    We have burning IPhones here in Brazil too! \o/

    Yes, it is in portuguese. Roughly, it says:

    "IPhone of a brazilian woman gets on fire in the middle of the night."

    It was an IPhone 4, and it was recharging.

  32. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  33. Kerry Hoskin


    watch out manufactures of hand warmers Apple’s lawyers will be after you soon

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Homeland Security and Modern Electronics... Both Built to Fail by Design.

    Nuking electronics at Airports...

    In the X-RAY scanners is never a god idea, especially if you know anything about how the guts of a IC are made (X-Ray Lithography) Duh!.......

    So having your high value electronics kit be effectively hosed down at the atomic level is just asking for said kit to the develop whiskers(lead free solder [epic fail there] ) on the solder joints or breakdowns of insulation within either the batteries or high density IC's, which will lead to a full on short circuit and hi risk of a meltdown and fire.

    sooner or later someones flight will crash due to a fire in the cabin or hold due to such a cause, then electronics gear wont be allowed to be irradiated or maybe even carried, unlike the passengers.

    this time it was a close call, next time they might not be so lucky...

    1. Vic


      > In the X-RAY scanners is never a god idea, especially if you know anything

      > about how the guts of a IC are made (X-Ray Lithography)

      If you did know anything about how ICs are made, you'd know that's total cobblers.

      > just asking for said kit to the develop whiskers

      Nonsense. Whiskers are down to the crystalline nature of the solder, and are exacerbated by mechanical and thermal stresses. The amount of heating you'd get from an X-ray machine just doesn't feature.

      > this time it was a close call

      Perhaps it was. But your attempts at scare-mongering really don't help the discussion.


  35. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    "We have contacted Apple...

    ...for a response, but are still waiting to hear nothing back."

    There, fixed it for you.

  36. Deth2Trolls

    All these posts are MUTE

    If you look at the picture of the phone, you can clearly see that the phone has been modified. The apple logo has Jobs face in the bite... Nice try trolls. GL with your malware, volume turning off, devices stuck on same OS, and phones that will be outdated and wont be sold in 3 months.

    1. Richard Scratcher

      Mute point?

      Have you tried turning your sound up?

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Baked apple.

    Pretty sure it was an iPhone 4, squint at the FCC ID and it looks like BCG-E2380 which matches iPhone 4 GSM

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