Do 2 iPhone Dock Meltdowns a Firestorm Make?

Engadget (via Cult of Mac) has the details on what looks to be a case of iPhone syncing that's too hot to handle. (Sorry):

On Saturday, Italian blogger Tim Colbourne was charging his 3G handset and, after three hours, it sparked and caught fire at the base.

Apparently Colbourne found a Swede who'd had the same experience. Are these two isolated instances? Something to do with funky European power lines (hey, Japanese power is making BlackBerry Bold's flame-on, who knows how puissant the EU is?!)? Or a flame-ringed sign of iPhone problems to come?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Do 2 iPhone Dock Meltdowns a Firestorm Make?


Every one of these I've read about were in Europe.
There are two ways this happens:
1) conductive derbies in the 30pin connection. But this is still only working on 5 volts, and not more than 500 of power, (he was connected to his computer's USB port). This much damage seems unlikely to result from power supplied by the computers USB headers.
2) Far more likely is that the Charge source (computer) running with a faulty ground or (less likely) reverse wired circuit. This would make the metal bezel of the phone (which is part of the antenna system) and the ground lead of the ear-phone jack a direct path to ground.
Yee olde truste Multi-meter confirms that the metal is directly connected internally to the USB ground pin.
A computer with a faulty or "floating" ground could have significant voltage between its chassis ground and the "real" ground. (Having worked in computer maintenance for a few years I can confirm this is more common than you might think).
In such a case the bezel of the iphone presents a shock hazard (through NO FAULT of the phone) to anyone bridging the bezel and ground.
All it would take is nudging the phone next to another computer, lamp or other grounded object to achieve a potentially high current flow.
My bets are that if the blogger simply broke out his meter and measured his laptop chassis to ground he would see a significant current flow, and there is (or was) nothing at all wrong with his iphone.

This actually happened to me about 3 months ago. My iphone was charging from my desktop computer and I smelled a burning odor. Reached for the phone, unplugged it and there were tiny burn marks on the bottom of the phone where the USB attaches and a terrible odor (like burning hair). The phone was working but obviously I was concerned. Took it to the local Apple store and they said they had never seen this. The igenius bar rep suggested that perhaps some dust/hair/etc was in the phone and started to burn. In any event, they replaced the phone and I have had no problems since.

Could it be that something conductive lodged in the iPhone connector and caused a short circuit when charging? I started worrying about this after I had a dime stuck in the iphone connector while in my pocket, luckily nothing happened.

That looks like someone took a cigarette lighter,burned the plastic on the charger and then plugged it back into the phone . Then took a picture and made TheiPhoneBlog front page.

Don't think so Jordan. Enlarge the pic, and you can see the plastic melted to the phone (or at least up against it). I have had times when the charger was warm / hot when I unplugged it. I use a charging base now.....seems to have helped. Maybe it was not plugged in all the way. Lint can build up and act as a spacer when you plug it in. Lint and / or hair makes very good kindeling......