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Industry Shocked at iPhone Electrocution Charge
Industry Shocked at iPhone Electrocution Charge

By Jennifer LeClaire
July 15, 2013 11:39AM

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"It's difficult to see how someone could be electrocuted by 110 volts unless they were grounded. The likelihood that a manufacturing defect would cause this kind of incident is probably better than winning the lottery, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group.
 

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Laptops catching on fire and smartphones exploding in your pocket are one issue. Getting electrocuted while talking on an iPhone plugged into the wall is something else altogether. That's what the sister of an iPhone user in China is claiming after the woman died in a freak accident.

Apple has launched an official investigation into a Chinese woman's untimely death. A twenty-three year old named Ma Ailun was reportedly electrocuted while answering a call as the phone was charging, Xinhua news reports.

Apple was not immediately available for comment, but said in published statement: "We are deeply saddened to learn of this tragic incident and offer our condolences to the family. We will fully investigate and cooperate with authorities in this matter."

Sister Wants Justice

A woman claiming to be Ma's sister told the story on Sina Weibo, China's micro-blogging service. As the story goes, Ma was planning her sister's wedding and dropped to the floor after answering a call on the iPhone 5, which was plugged into the wall to charge. Ma reportedly purchased the iPhone in an official Apple store and was using the original charger.

"[I] hope that Apple Inc. can give us an explanation," her older sister wrote. "I also hope that all of you will refrain from using your mobile devices while charging." She is seeing justice from Apple for her sister's death, but where the blame lies is yet to be determined.

Police in China are investigating the alleged electrocution. Johnny Sin Kin-on, a professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told the South China Morning Post: "There is a risk using an electrical device while its installed battery is being charged, be it a shaver or a phone."

Was it Really Apple's Fault?

But Rob Enderle, principal analyst at The Enderle Group, is unsure how Apple could be at fault in Ma's death. He told us, first of all that he's skeptical about iPhone stories coming out of China because it is not clear whether the device is authentic or a clone.

"It's really hard to tell the real iPhone from the clone because they've done a pretty good job of copying the device," Enderle said. "And it's difficult to see how someone could be electrocuted by 110 volts unless they were grounded. The likelihood that a manufacturing defect would cause this kind of incident is probably better than winning the lottery. The components aren't designed to carry that kind of a load."

For all the clones, Apple is seeing good business in China. Apple's sales to China in 2012 rose to $23.8 billion, from $10 billion in 2011. And Apple reports it sold more than 2 million of the iPhone 5 in China in the first weekend alone. But the company has also seen some troubles there.

In April, the state-controlled media unleashed a barrage of criticism against Apple's warranties, accusing the iPhone maker of treating China unfavorably compared with other nations. Apple at first denied there was any difference in its China warranty policies and those in other regions, but CEO Tim Cook went on to apologize.
 

Tell Us What You Think
Comment:

Name:

CraigG:

Posted: 2013-07-16 @ 9:47am PT
Like Scott said, it was likely 220V, not 110V. Additionally, we know it's the current, not the voltage that kills (although 220V could make a difference).

Not sure Rob Enderle was the right person to comment on this incident.

Scott:

Posted: 2013-07-15 @ 3:51pm PT
The likelihood of it being a clone is high. But meantime, let's also keep in mind that she was probably plugged into a 220V outlet, not just 110V.



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