An iPhone 4 mysteriously, spontaneously combusted on an airplane in Australia on Monday, less than a 24 hours after The New York Times published an attention-getting article suggesting the Federal Aviation Administration might be going overboard in their fear of gadgets on planes.
Of course, the link between Monday's exploding phone incident in Australia and Sunday's Times piece -- which was focused on the FAA policy of requiring powering down devices for take-offs and landings -- is nothing but an unfortunate coincidence. The statistics cited by The Times cited statistics -- "in 2010, no crashes were attributed to people using technology on a plane. None were in 2009. Or 2008, 2007 and so on" -- remain the same. And similarly, the incredibly rare phenomenon of exploding iPhones is not new. Apparently it's an issue with the phone overheating, causing the lithium battery to combust. (We've embedded some videos below.) But the in-flight explosion does show a bit of the reasoning behind the ban: cell phones are new; there are lots of them out there; and no one can be 100 percent sure what they will do.
Details of the exploding phone incident are pretty vague so far. A media release from the airline reports that "Regional Express (Rex) flight ZL319 operating from Lismore to Sydney today had an occurrence after landing, when a passenger’s mobile phone started emitting a significant amount of dense smoke accompanied by a red glow." It does specify that the "mobile phone in question appears to be an Apple iPhone." The accompanying photo (above left) appears to most definitely confirm that detail.
Since flying shards of glass from exploding iPhones have caused injuries in the past, we'd expect the F.A.A. not to bend on their "err on the side of caution" rule anytime soon. Regardless of the location, situation or relevant regulations, iPhone should not explode. We're sure that spontaneous combustion most definitely falls outside of Steve Jobs's idea of perfection, when it comes to Apple devices.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.