Charging our devices as we sleep feels like a harmless routine. For one young Samsung smartphone owner, however, that habit almost turned heated.
Last week, a 13-year-old North Texas girl plugged her Samsung Galaxy S4 in for its nightly juice-up before hitting the sack, only to be awoken by the smell of something burning hours later. When she got up and searched around for the source of the stench, she realized that she had wedged her charging phone under her pillow. And not only was the backside of the pillow scorched, but the phone was fried into an unrecognizable slab of plastic and melted components.
The event, according to FOX 4, left the family a bit surprised.
“We have a reasonable expectation that the products we buy are going to be safe,” the girl’s father said. He told FOX that he suspects that the phone overheated, causing the battery to swell and start a fire.
The battery in the Galaxy phone was an aftermarket replacement, something a Samsung representative told FOX could have been part of the problem. The other issue, according to Samsung, was that the phone was being smothered by a pillow, restricting airflow while charging. This is something the manufacturer warns against in the device’s instruction materials.
Despite these miscues by the young Galaxy owner, Samsung told FOX and Yahoo Tech that the company will replace the phone, the pillow, and the mattress involved in the accident.
“Samsung takes product quality and customer safety very seriously,” a representative said.
“We have offered the customer a new device, and we are working to retrieve the product so that we can investigate what happened. We strongly advise all customers follow the guidelines of CTIA for care and handling wireless batteries. Additionally, our user manuals warn customers that phones must have adequate ventilation and airflow and should not be covered with material such as bedding.”
But our Texas family should hope for better service than the reddit user who recently posted a similar story has received. The owner alleges that his Galaxy S4 was also fried while charging, even though the charger and battery that came with it were in use. Now, despite being told by Samsung that the broken unit would be replaced, a month later, the redditor claims to be still waiting.
Of the redditor’s claim, Samsung told Yahoo Tech, “We respond to and investigate all consumer inquiries and work to resolve complaints to consumers’ satisfaction. We have been in touch with the consumer and are working to replace their device.”
And though Samsung has reiterated that unreliable third-party replacement batteries and poorly ventilated charging areas should be avoided to keep phones cool, the phones that it makes are not the only type to fall to this infernal inferno problem.
Cases of Apple iPhones gathering heat and burning up have been documented as well.
Several iPhone 4 fires, in particular, were reported in 2011 and 2012, with one woman claiming that she woke up to “popping” and “sizzling” while her phone was charging on the nightstand next to her head. Unlike the recent Samsung stories, the result of her incident, which occurred in a hotel room during the Colorado woman’s cross-country trip, was a “classic corporate runaround,” without Apple offering any replacement unit, the woman told Mashable.
Much like with the Texas family’s Galaxy meltdown, it was speculated that the iPhone 4 incidents were also caused by faulty manufacturer batteries. Consumer Reports last year published an investigation into best practices for avoiding mobile device battery overheating, with one remedy being to stay away from low-quality, aftermarket replacement batteries. The piece also suggests that you keep your battery out of the heat — or out from underneath pillows.
When considering aftermarket parts, be mindful that a mismatched or poor-quality charger or charging cable can put you at risk for a fire, too. And that doesn’t only go for phones, but almost any gadget.
So do your best to keep up on device part recalls, gadget instructions, and the constantly evolving list of best safety practices for handling your electronics. We promise you’ll sleep better if you do.
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