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Mind the malfunctions: Incidents of gadgetry going haywire

I personally depend on smartphones to the point of being unreasonable. I need constant Internet connection wherever I go. This is why I have a smartphone with LTE capability, so that I can do more things online from virtually anywhere. But I know that my phone, being that it’s a piece of technology, is not infallible. While it can give me all sorts of means of communication from almost anywhere, I know that in an underground cave, my ever-trusted LTE will fail me, and there goes my plan to get through the next level of Candy Crush.

Technology is not perfect

It’s the same reason there are such things like external battery packs, smartphone cases with their own Wi-Fi connections, and phones capable of handling dual sim cards. Contingencies. Even if our ever-developing technology is becoming more sophisticated and more reliable by the day, may it be a business phone or an mp3 player we should still be always prepared in the unlikely event our mobile tech fails us.

What we’re probably not prepared for is when our mobile catastrophically fails us, to the point that users get actual physical harm.

"Branded" phone

The severe incidents are few and far between when you look through the news. You’d also think that at this stage of development, you don’t have to worry about the possiblily of your smartphone exploding in your hand, but just this week, tech website TechCrunch reported that an HTC Evo had overheated on its own and seared its owner’s skin with a serious burn that "branded" the phone into her skin.

The woman from Columbus, Ohio, who owned the device, said that she was doing the yardwork outdoors and, since she had no pockets, kept the phone in her waistband while using it to listen to the radio. This isn’t an unusual scene and it’s something anyone might have done. But as she continued to work, the phone overheated to the point that she nearly fainted, and it left a phone-shaped burn onto her abdomen.

The exploding Apple

Physical harm from a device is not unheard of, and Apple is no stranger to these incidents. All the way back to 2009, Apple had received reports of exploding devices, particular when one 11-year-old Ellie Stanborough in the UK had her iPod Touch literally combust thanks to overheated lithium-ion batteries. It was chalked up to usage of complex processes, but if that were so, why hasn’t Apple found a way to make sure this kind of thing won’t happen these days? Especially with how much more complicated the apps and functions the devices have today, causing the batteries to overheat even further?

Just this past March, an iPhone 5 actually exploded in the hand of a Thai man’s hand a mere 30 seconds into his call. That’s not even nearly enough time to say that the phone was doing something excessive it is a phone, and that’s what it’s designed to do. But Suwicha Auesomsaksakul claims that in that span of time, his two-month-old phone started to grow extremely hot and emitted smoke. He fortunately threw it before "[it] exploded four times like a firecracker".

An iPhone 4 did the same thing last year. The footage of the exploding iPhone in the pocket of 17-year-old Henri Helminen of Finland was even featured in CNet. It had been three months old at the time of the incident, and was just sitting quietly in its owner’s pocket before it combusted.

Watch your pockets

How do we prepare for this kind of contingency? Market experts say turn away from cheap or knockoff batteries, and stop overcharging your phone. But even so, one has to wonder is this something we as the consumers must prepare for, or something that the manufacturers should be the ones looking into?

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