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iPhone 8, 'swollen batteries', and what you really need to know

Here's the thing: Every year, every iPhone— every phone by every manufacturer sold anywhere and everywhere around the world — will have some small percentage of battery failures. That can include swelling, combustion, and suddenly failure to charge or hold a charge. It's the realities of the lithium-ion technology currently used in the power cells. It happens every year. It happens all the time.

It may not be widely known because it didn't used to be widely reported. A few outlets would cover it but pretty much everyone knew what it was and took it for what it was — a curiosity more than actual news.

This year, we're getting numerous headlines about it happening twice with iPhone 8. (That's twice (2x) out of however many hundreds of thousands if not millions already shipped.)

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The difference in attention being afforded these cases is likely due to heightened sensitivity following the Galaxy Note 7 recall of 2016.

The problem with Galaxy Note 7 was that it exhibited incidents of battery failure far higher than is typical, and those failures were repeatedly causing fires.

Apple is currently investigating the iPhones 8 in question, as the company does any issues following any launch. There is an interesting aside, though, noticed by iMore's sibling site, Android Central's, electrical ace, Jerry Hildenbrand:

Those photos show exactly what is expected, and are actually a good look at a safe design. When the case can expand slowly along with the battery, there won't be as big of a chance for fire.

What you can do in the meantime, and all the time, really, is follow best practices when it comes to charging your electronics:

  • Don't use cheap, damaged, or dodgy chargers or connect good chargers to cheap, damaged, or dodgy extension cords or power bars.
  • If you suspect your battery has been compromised, turn off your iPhone immediately and take it to an Apple Store or call AppleCare as quickly as possible.

By all means, stay informed. Pay attention. But, unless Apple finds anything out of the ordinary or the number of battery failures reported starts to exceed industry norms, it's not a story. Or, perhaps, the attention being paid to the phones could be more of a story than the phones.

Rene Ritchie
Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

28 Comments
  • I bet Apple is hoping that it’s an isolated issue, otherwise...
  • I think everyone is hoping for that. But again, 2 units (so far) out of many thousands shipped. We'll have to wait and see.
  • Apple will say itß isolated no matter what. '1 of 9'....
  • Two more days. 0 new reports. Facts point to this, at this point, being an isolated incident. Two. They honestly have 1.4 more incidents, assuming 1 million made, before it becomes something worse than world class quality.
  • And trolls like you will say "it happens with every iPhone, iPhone is **** go buy Samsung" as if their phones haven't had any problems… 💥🔥
  • It's an isolated incident, as they usually are… troll
  • Are you serious? It was shown that every Galaxy Note had the issue due to how the batteries were manufactured, hence why ALL of them were recalled, and ALL of them were banned from airplanes etc. Tell me when this has happened with an iPhone… ASSHAT
  • No need to call him an Asshat. He won’t listen to facts, anyway. I was going to draw parallels to some current events and how, though some would love you to believe they are just as horrifying as events from the past, they clearly aren’t, and anyone who says differently is not only ignorant, but so tied to a side that they won’t accept facts, but I realized they don’t care about facts, they have an opinion/agenda and no amount of reason and/or facts will change their small mind.
  • Buy the way what happened to “The next ten words” podcast. Or am I missing something? I use the Podcasts app built into iOS.
  • I hope for all our sakes it is an isolated issue. I would hate to have another battery related catastrophe
  • I don't know why your default is to dismiss problems associated with Apple. Sure, it's two reported cases. There may be more.
  • I'm not dismissing anything, I'm providing needful context. It's not about Apple, it's about the people who bought iPhones who don't deserve to be fearmongered just to get clicks. If there are ever incidents above the norm, then it will be news. (Same was true with Galaxy Note 7. Other Galaxy devices have had incidents; Note 7 was the only one that had them above normal levels.) It's easy to be cynical. You get cool points for being a basher. None of that serves the customer or reader though. Informing them does.
  • Criticism isn't bashing. Samsung had issues with ONLY a couple of Note 7 devices at first last year, but then they started blowing up. Last I checked, the batteries in those devices swelled up too. Now where does that sound familiar?
  • At the point I shared?? The replacement batteries were also doing it. And not separating the screen. Catching fire. This SO FAR, is not the same issue. It could become it. So far? No.
  • Dude... TSA literally banned Note 7's from Flights. Pull your head out of your fanboy'ism for android.
  • It is apple, they can do no wrong in Rene's eyes. Funny I am still waiting on his post saying the iPhone x isn't symmetrical like the articles he wrote bashing samsung.
  • Can't wait to see him try and explain that away. iPhone X is horribly designed.
  • Personally, I don’t think it’s horribly designed. I think it’s unfinished. I think they can do a lot to “fix” it with software. I look at the Galaxy and like the top but the bottoms seems too much. This is still a problem no one has fully solved.
  • Guess another one popped up on Reddit https://i.imgur.com/eS72I2T.jpg https://www.reddit.com/r/apple/comments/7378hq/iphone_8_plus_reportedly_...
  • I believe that's the second one already reference. My pal Jerry found this:
    estimation from Yale was 1E-4/operating hour. That's one unit every 1,000 operating hours.
    That's for any phone. We'll keep a close eye on the numbers here in case the incidents accelerate.
  • As I’ve said other places today... 3.4 defects per million is Six Sigma, a worldwide standard for exceptional quality. Assuming that anyone buying an iPhone 8 Plus in the first week of sales uses social media, if there was widespread issues, we’d have heard more than 2 (also assuming Apple has sold more that 600,000 iPhone 8 Pluses so far). At WORST, that falls within expectations for six sigma. Likely an even higher quality than that.
  • Haters love bashing Apple and highlighting every hazy incident. Look at the Thao & Farmer's Insurance vs Apple lawsuit. There is a lack of details in the suit and yet there were dozens of stories and an explosion of bashing against Apple. Even if true, that would mean one fire for hundreds of millions of iPhones sold and in use. As with everything, I have a wait and see attitude. I'm sure if Apple is not at fault, the coverage will be just as widespread. (Like heck it will!) If these two defects are truly Apple's fault, two faulty iPhones out of millions means a high quality product. The users will be reimbursed and we can all move along. Except of course the bashers.
  • Why are people assuming that everywhere on this planet everybody rushes to social media to comment on everything (wrong or right) that happens with their new mobile phones!? Some people surely go straight to the stores where they bought their new phones from and get things sorted out without too much noise. So, I don't think it is smart to wait and count how many mobile phones will have similar problems, even though iMore and others made a lot of noise when it happened to Samsung.
  • It's funny because if Samsung was in this situation, Rene would be the first one to jump on the "Samsung is horrible and is trying to kill us all bandwagon."
  • I had a swollen battery on my Series 0 Watch in March/April of this year. This was right before they admitted it was happening. I didn't post it on social media, I went to the genius bar and got a replacement. I did have my watch for well over a year, so I did feel I got a good amount of use out of it. If this happened with one iPhone it could happen with more. I believe it will not be wide spread. Almost every iphone had a defect/scnadal (antennagate, bendgate, the purple dot in the camera). As many as they have to churn out to meet demand especially for launch things happen. Some people just want attention, I'd just want a new phone.
  • What’s really sad is the number of people that are down on their knees, hoping and praying another claim surfaces. You know the neckbeards are in their parents basements furiously working to cause a battery to swell so they can scream into the Internet.
  • Similar? Yes. Same? No. No iPhone has yet exploded. Once they start exploding and are recalled and not sold, banned from flights, then it will be the same.
  • And who manufacturers these batteries?