Woman allegedly dies from iPhone-caused electrocution

A Chinese woman has allegedly died from an iPhone 4 electrocuting her while it was charging. Ma Ailun, 23, was found dead still holding an iPhone 4, still plugged-in for charging, with burns on her hand and foot, according to media and police reports of the incident.

It's unclear exactly how the iPhone managed to electrocute Aliun, as generally speaking smartphones and their chargers are fairly safe, although it could be caused by a fault in either system. Apple has said that they are "deeply saddened" to hear of the incident, and "will fully investigate and co-operate with authorities in this matter".

This isn't the first time the battery system of a phone has caused an accident, as there are many reports out there of the lithium-ion batteries inside self-combusting, such as this incident involving a Samsung Galaxy S III. However this appears to be slightly different, and we hope the final cause of the death will be revealed through the aforementioned investigation.

Source: Quartz | Image via Bonjour Life

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40 Comments

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Well iFans said they would die for an iPhone...so I guess it has happened /S
Jokes aside, this is very sad. Oh and how funny you want to mention a GS3 catching on fire. That person didn't get hurt. How about the guy on the plane with an iPhone that caught fire in his pocket? How about Macs that have caught on fire while being used?

Electronics can fail. What I hate is the fanboi writers who every time Apple has a failure, they fine this need to mention someone else. Same BS Apple did when the iPhone 4 wasn't working properly and dropping calls.

It probably wasn't the phone...bad wires somewhere. of course Apple wants to know.
Looks like the lightning connector is live and ready for electrocution.

Spicoli said,
The A/C hot wire could have been somehow directly shorted to the case. Plastic cases are safer for electronic equipment.

The converter in the charger is a flyback with an opto-isolated feedback loop. That's generally good for at least 2.5kV of isolation.

Unless there was a surge of several kV, or a knock-off charger, that seems unlikely.

I don't think it's likely it would be shorted to the case. That's just the only way I can think you could get a fatal shock from touching a plugged in phone. The whole story seems a bit fishy.

It takes Amps to kill not Volts. An Iphone charger is 5v 1A. A shock of anything above 0.2 miliamps and your talking nasty burns. Anything above around 0.5/6 miliamps and you be dead.

So a charger at 1.0 Amps, just possible, even more so in an area with a lot of nervous systems. i.e the shock may not have killed but the shock could of caused her heart to have an attack.

Quick FYI, but the shock you get from touching someone or certain surfaces after creating static is about 10-20,000 Volts, however its such a weak Amp that you dont die, just get a silly tingle.

While a small amperage will kill you, you need to get past the resistance of the skin which is around 500,000 ohms for dry skin

5v will never kill anyone, neither 24, the skin has quite a lot of resistance that current it's simply null, what probably happened is that the charger malfunctioned allowing to pass the power part to the regulated part, then again current doesn't flow in your body because it wants to flow, she must have touched ground to close the circuit, that way she effectively became a high ohm resistor... probably just going out of a wash?

If you touch high voltage, you're likely grounded enough for it at least to be very uncomfortable. The throbbing current from an A/C circuit will mess up a heart rhythm and cause death even if the burns are superficial. One thing that gets you is the electricity causes your muscles to contract so you grip tighter on the power source. If you touch it with the back of your hand first, the electricity will cause you to pull away. Even if I'm sure a circuit is off, I always touch the wires with the back of my hand and touch them together before starting work. If the circuit is still hot that will pop the breaker.

What sorcery is keeping that iPhone afloat in the picture?

My money is also with it being to do with a fake charger. Although with that said there are reports that all the equipment was genuine.

I've been electrocuted many times before, and still alive. I'm at a loss to explain how an iPhone could pull in enough current to kill a human being...?

Short circuit on charger, then 220v on the phone. I electrocuted many too, but not everyone has the same chance and reflexes to survive.

It PROBABLY wasn't the iPhone itself, but rather the charger at fault. And willing to gamble that it was a poor-quality 3rd party product.

Considering "electrocuted" means "death by electricity"

Wow, never knew that. I've said I've been electrocuted a few times (240v baby - yeah) but never knew it implied death. But yeah, clearly it does!

Nik Louch said,

Wow, never knew that. I've said I've been electrocuted a few times (240v baby - yeah) but never knew it implied death. But yeah, clearly it does!

Didn't know that either!

Dot Matrix said,
I've been electrocuted many times before, and still alive. I'm at a loss to explain how an iPhone could pull in enough current to kill a human being...?

From old memories when I was in school..... Therefore not very accurate, there is something related to amperage not only voltage that is involved.

The_Decryptor said,
Considering "electrocuted" means "death by electricity", then I have to assume you're either a ghost or a zombie.

Well, my friends do call me "Ghost".

Nik Louch said,
It PROBABLY wasn't the iPhone itself, but rather the charger at fault. And willing to gamble that it was a poor-quality 3rd party product.
I am curious as to why you think she wouldn't be using the charger that came with her phone? And even if it wasn't, they are all made in china, so what makes you think Apple's chargers are any better?

Are you genuinely curious or are your challenges trying to prove a point.

OK, firstly the picture biased my opinion, I will admit that. However, Apple DO have a quality control dept, or rather their contracted suppliers do. 3rd party knock-off's DO NOT. That's a given, argue it all you want, but you will just look foolish.

It's upon this that I suggest it was a knock-off. In the past, more often than not - the issue with phones dying is due to unregulated chargers. Phone batteries melting, overheating or shocking is more often than not (not always) due to 3rd party products.

This has been widely reported.

TechieXP said,
I am curious as to why you think she wouldn't be using the charger that came with her phone? And even if it wasn't, they are all made in china, so what makes you think Apple's chargers are any better?

Knock off chargers are the number one cause of customer injury whilst using a tech product. Nik was quite right to make this assumption.

I will bet every penny I own that this was down to a fake charger.

I've seen a few of them in my time, and the electronics in them are absolutely appalling.

Brian M said,
I will bet every penny I own that this was down to a fake charger.

I've seen a few of them in my time, and the electronics in them are absolutely appalling.

Yep, you're probably right.

Maybe but....

They found her with her iphone still in her hands, charging... Does that mean it was still turned on and functionnal? How can this be after a jolt that essentially burned an adult person?

Farchord said,
Maybe but....

They found her with her iphone still in her hands, charging... Does that mean it was still turned on and functionnal? How can this be after a jolt that essentially burned an adult person?

It says "still plugged in for charging" not "plugged in and charging"