Man in coma following iPhone electrocution, second incident in two weeks


The charger above is allegedly responsible for electrocuting a man into a coma.

A man in China has been left in a serious but stable condition after connecting his iPhone 4 to a counterfeit charger in China. Wu Jian Tong, 30, called for help moments after he plugged his phone in, and his hand clamped shut on the device which was electrocuting him. He fell unconscious shortly after, and was resuscitated by ambulance crews.

The Independent reports that Wu called out "I'm getting shocked" before his sister disconnected the phone. She recounted:

I then felt needle-like pains on my fingertips. The current was running from my finger, through to my arm and body, and to the foot.

It has been circulating that the charger used was in fact counterfeit, which may have led to the incident, as cheaply made electronics often do not pass the same safety standards as the official counterparts and may not be properly insulated. The humidity inside the building may also have been to blame.

Last week, in a separate event, a Chinese woman was killed when she answered a phone call while her iPhone was charging. This raised concerns about possible faults with the iPhone's charger, but Apple have responded with strong cautions about using unofficial chargers:

Our customers' safety is very important to us and we have carefully designed all Apple products to meet government safety standards. We recommend our customers only purchase Apple products from Apple or authorized Apple resellers.

They have also announced the launch of an investigation, to ensure safety in the future:

We are deeply saddened to learn of this tragic incident and offer our condolences to the Ma family. We will fully investigate and cooperate with authorities in this matter.

These reports can easily be put down to scaremongering, and those using reliable, safety assured products should not worry about these incidents. If purchasing any electronics online or from illegitimate sources, however, users should be very wary about their safety, and preferably invest a little extra money in buying from trustworthy companies.

Source: The Independent | Image via News.cn

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69 Comments

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Who would really answer there phone while its plugged into the mains anyway. I also unplug mine from the wall. I only use official chargers for my stuff, but its going next to your brain!

What you're saying makes absolutely no sense. We all use items plugged directly into an outlet every day. If done correctly, using safety tested equipment, the risk is minimal if any.

I don't want to be mean, but there's something to be said about European safety standards for electronic devices, it ensures things like this can't happen!

But that isn't necessarily the problem. Sometimes it is very easy to buy goods, thinking they are genuine and actually getting crap. The tobacco industry is having similar problems too.

Brings a new meaning to Lightning connector...

In all seriousness, that's terribly sad, hope the injured recover & this problem is sorted before anyone else is hurt.

The sad thing is, people have DIED over "faulty" fake chargers. There was a TV episode on BBC 1 in the UK about it as well. This news isn't surprising and it has been happening for years.

djpailo said,
The sad thing is, people have DIED over "faulty" fake chargers. There was a TV episode on BBC 1 in the UK about it as well. This news isn't surprising and it has been happening for years.

No, it really isn't surprising, sadly.

I frequent a particular money saving site and the number of people who buy (seemingly) genuine products and then get cheap tat from China is unreal.

Sadly people stll buy this trash.

One regrettable result of buying cheap after-market/counterfeit devices. On the other hand, a lot of the blame rests on Apple and other similar manufacturers who grossly inflate the price of such aftermarket items. Hint: don't get greedy.

I've been shocked by 110 plenty of times here in the U.S, but never by 220/240. Is that voltage really enough to put you in a coma though

wv@gt said,
I've been shocked by 110 plenty of times here in the U.S, but never by 220/240. Is that voltage really enough to put you in a coma though

The popular saying is "it's the volts that jolt, it's the amp that kill"

You could take a million volts through your body but if the amperage is very low, it'll have no effect.

What I suspect may be the problem here more than volts vs amps is that they run DC rather than AC.

Since DC is direct and AC pulsates, you have a chance to let go of a charged device, DC doesn't afford you that chance.

Edit: just to clarify, in terms of a device, 110DC and say 220AC are effectively the same thing for a device, current all the time (DC) or twice the current half the time (AC)

But AC is still safer (not much but..)

Edited by boo_star, Jul 19 2013, 11:22pm :

The harshest lesson in taking proper care of your electronics, especially premium electronics like Apple sells. It has nothing to do with apple either (As much as I would like to pass the blame to them). They do everything in their power to make sure you are buying an Apple branded charging cable, a case that just became that much easier to win. Still, a terrible tragedy.

Spicoli said,
It doesn't appear anyone said it was.

No, it appears people are blaming Apple and their, "tax," as to why people are buying the knock off chargers which are, "electrocuting," people.

Examples

Xerino said,

Well if apple didnt charge "apple tax" for their chargers, people wouldnt be detoured into buying the chinese cheapos

Ad Man Gamer said,

Well if they don't charge £30 for a power cabal, then maybe the official equipment would be more desirable.

omgben said,

No, it appears people are blaming Apple and their, "tax," as to why people are buying the knock off chargers which are, "electrocuting," people.

every iphone comes with a usb adaptor and charge cable. i.e. everything you need to charge your iphone. i don't see how these electrocution has anything to do with the so-called 'apple tax' if counterfeits are involved.

All this talk about the faulty charger, but one would like to know.

How the voltage to kill someone even manages to reach the outer shell of the device?
Are all serge protections in the charger alone?
If somebody gets a faulty apple charger, is there no second level of protection in the phone?
Is having a conductive element like aluminium on the outer shell of a device a good idea?

To be clear, getting non regulated / certified electronics is not a good idea. But they are still questions that need to be asked.

iphone has a metal rim for the antenna. faulty charger causes mains voltage to hit the output of the charger,most possibly ground,which then flows into the floating ground of the phone...boom youre dead.

The cheaper chargers being made from less components and being of a more basic design, will in a fail state usually deliver the full mains supply directly to the terminals of the output cable

Why are we calling this an iPhone electrocution when in fact the electrocution had nothing to do with the iPhone?

TCLN Ryster said,
Why are we calling this an iPhone electrocution when in fact the electrocution had nothing to do with the iPhone?

It wasn't a Blackberry, Android or Windows Phone device, now was it? And a similar event has occurred twice in a week. The link is valid to me.

Because the iPhone itself is what electrocuted them, even though it was the charger which caused it.

Sorry if that was misleading.

In fact, it did. You'd never get electrocuted using a Lumia for the simple fact that the body is made of non-conducting polycarbonate. First of all, iPhone casing is made of Aluminum, one of the cheapest metals on earth, also one of the best electrical conductors, on a premium phone. Secondly, the body is obviously not grounded or even isolated from the charging port, because if it had been, there is no way you'd get shocked.

AsherGZ said,
In fact, it did. You'd never get electrocuted using a Lumia for the simple fact that the body is made of non-conducting polycarbonate. First of all, iPhone casing is made of Aluminum, one of the cheapest metals on earth, also one of the best electrical conductors, on a premium phone. Secondly, the body is obviously not grounded or even isolated from the charging port, because if it had been, there is no way you'd get shocked.

It was an iPhone 4, front and back are glass, so no, the "body" wasn't Aluminium, only the antenna was.

And really, saying Aluminium is cheap?

It's the most common metal (ore) on the planet but is hard to extract.

It's also the only reasonably priced metal that won't rust and is lightweight.

Would you prefer Apple use perhaps Gold? Or Maybe Titanium?

I certainly don't see any other manufacturers using anything other than Aluminium.

Actually aluminum does "rust." It's just not called rust. Almost any metal will react with oxygen eventually.

GreyWolf said,
Actually aluminum does "rust." It's just not called rust. Almost any metal will react with oxygen eventually.

Aluminium comes pre-rusted if that works for you. Either way it's not like Apple can realistically make their items from "expensive" metals like gold, silver titanium, aluminium works because its relatively cheap, won't rust any further than it is (really grasping here) and is lightweight.

To say they're being cheap is ridiculous.

Well if apple didnt charge "apple tax" for their chargers, people wouldnt be detoured into buying the chinese cheapos

Xerino said,
Well if apple didnt charge "apple tax" for their chargers, people wouldnt be detoured into buying the chinese cheapos

People will always look for the cheapest as there will always be a cheaper alternative.. clearly you get what you pay for.

Personally i can't see the logic in putting a £2 cable into a £500+ phone.

Xerino said,
Well if apple didnt charge "apple tax" for their chargers, people wouldnt be detoured into buying the chinese cheapos
Maybe, but at the same time? There's a sweet spot between "paying too much" and "paying too little." Both waste money, but I think most people spend too little too often, forcing them to replace things sooner, or deal with more problems.

Spend a good amount, get something decent. Spending rock bottom to buy crap is worse than paying a premium, IMO. Might not need an i7, but don't buy an E-series APU, you know?

Xerino said,
Well if apple didnt charge "apple tax" for their chargers, people wouldnt be detoured into buying the chinese cheapos

There are plenty of reputable brands that sell those chargers for around $5.
I would never go anywhere near any of those $1 Chinese knock-offs.

Well if they don't charge £30 for a power cabal, then maybe the official equipment would be more desirable.

15£ for a usb cabal?
15£ for just the plug?

No thanks apple.

Edited by Ad Man Gamer, Jul 19 2013, 7:21pm :

Ad Man Gamer said,
Well if they don't charge £30 for a power cabal, then maybe the official equipment would be more desirable.

Perhaps wait until this man wakes up from his Coma and ask if he'll be using his £1.99 knock off or £30 equivalent in future.

Ad Man Gamer said,
The fact that you can pick up an FCC or CE certified charger for £5 - £10 kind of makes £30 a bit of an over expense don't you think?

Not really.

To get an FCC or CE mark requires them to meet a minimum standard. It's my understanding that Apple chargers are actually overengineered.

Besides, what does an FCC mark or CE mark mean?

If it's from a brand name fair enough, but don't you think these cheap Chinese knockoffs also print these on their dodgy parts?

boo_star said,
Besides, what does an FCC mark or CE mark mean?

FCC means it meets US Federal Communications Commission regulations for safety. CE means it meets similar regulations from the European Union.

2xSilverKnight said,
Seriously ?? It says it right there.

Reading the first sentence of the post proofed to be too much of a hurdle.

.Neo said,

Reading the first sentence of the post proofed to be too much of a hurdle.

I can understand their pain. The title uses the word "electrocution," however, the person involved isn't dead.

And the worst thing is even if the writer saw these comments they wouldn't change the word "electrocution" to "electric shock", because it sounds better.

Must be some REALLY cheap chargers. I have used/bought non Apple chargers before for a few bucks, but those were known manufacturers.

I think they mean counterfeit as in products advertising themselves as apple products. Not legitimate 3rd party products with their own name on it.

"It has been circulating that the charger used was in fact counterfeit, which may have led to the incident"
I would surely hope so, if an expensive charger like apple's isn't able to detect a short circuit through a human and cut off then there's something very wrong.

n_K said,
"It has been circulating that the charger used was in fact counterfeit, which may have led to the incident"
I would surely hope so, if an expensive charger like apple's isn't able to detect a short circuit through a human and cut off then there's something very wrong.

Well there's no fuse in these chargers, so there's nothing that will detect if unregulated voltage gets through. Using proper components will usually prevent this from ever happening, but we all know that these Chinese knock-offs are made with the cheapest possible crap.

Surely there is a HUGE design fault with the iphone itself. "You're holding it wrong" doesn't cut it when someone dies because they picked it up to answer it.

If there is so much voltage going into the phone, you'd think the phone itself would have been fried and stopped working.

dvb2000 said,
Surely there is a HUGE design fault with the iphone itself. "You're holding it wrong" doesn't cut it when someone dies because they picked it up to answer it.

If you basically put mains voltage directly into it and take a call then i'm pretty sure any manufacturer will tell you that you are on your own.

dvb2000 said,
Surely there is a HUGE design fault with the iphone itself. "You're holding it wrong" doesn't cut it when someone dies because they picked it up to answer it.

If there is so much voltage going into the phone, you'd think the phone itself would have been fried and stopped working.


Under various different legislation such as the Low Voltage Directive there is a very good reason why phones don't have internal protection from high voltage sources and that's because the LVD states you'd need to incorporate something the size of lunch box to protect the device.

Voltage operates as the pressure does in a water hose. AMPs measure the flow. Voltage doesn't push the amps. For example if you plug up the end of a water hose the pressure rises but you have no flow.

DeathByPenguin said,
Voltage pushes current.
As for Astra.Xtreme - Voltage doesn't cause a fuse to blow, current does.

I never said it did... And you clearly don't understand both the basics of electricity and the context of what happened with the phone charger...
The voltage regulator obviously failed, which then allowed higher current to flow due to the unregulated voltage. Current proportional to regulated 5V (at that resistance) isn't deadly, but current proportional to 220V unregulated is. It's a pretty simple concept.

DeathByPenguin said,
"Well there's no fuse in these chargers, so there's nothing that will detect if unregulated voltage" - I'll just leave that here

Learn to read...
"The voltage regulator obviously failed, which then allowed higher current to flow due to the unregulated voltage."

I'll leave it there...

DeathByPenguin said,
You still pretty much said that a fuse detects if there "unregulated voltage"

For a third for fourth time now, higher voltage allows for higher current to flow. Do you honestly not understand the context of the incident? When the voltage regulator fails, current rises. If there isn't a fuse (of some sort) in series with the flow, then nothing will stop it. I have no idea why you're so concerned with wording logistics when I've explained this to you multiple times now. If you don't have the capacity to understand, either crack open a text book or find something else to waste people's time on...

Firstly, you're actually talking to an electrician, so I do understand what you actually meant, but you STILL said it as if a fuse detects unregulated voltage, which it doesn't.

DeathByPenguin said,
Firstly, you're actually talking to an electrician, so I do understand what you actually meant, but you STILL said it as if a fuse detects unregulated voltage, which it doesn't.

Do I need to explain it a fifth time? The statement was put in simple terms since most people don't understand basic electricity theory. What I said wasn't wrong in this CONTEXT... And FYI, I'm an electrical engineer, so I also know what I'm talking about.