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back to article Thai man reportedly dies clutching his scorched iPhone 4S

A 28-year-old Thai man has become the latest to die after talking on his iPhone whilst it was charging, according to local media reports. The man from Chanthaburi province was discovered lying face down on the cement floor of his room clutching a black 4S device which was plugged into the wall through a charger. His 52-year-old …

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FAIL

It's all about the money

Unfortunately this will keep happening whilst Apple are charging £15 for a cable when I can buy 2 off eBay for 99p. 30 cables for the price of one is a no brainer.

The Apple ones do take longer to fall apart, and even when they have they do continue to work, but they don't last 30 times longer.

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Re: It's all about the money

"Unfortunately this will keep happening whilst Apple are charging £15 for a cable when I can buy 2 off eBay for 99p. 30 cables for the price of one is a no brainer."

Except maybe when the money-saving merchandise comes with the risk of death - unless one actually gets a thrill from living dangerously. Would you pay the extra money for the sake of, let's say, staying alive?

Even when they are selling poorly manufactured adapters at the lowest imaginable prices, there is NO excuse for any company to peddle goods with potentially lethal defects.

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Re: It's all about the money

Don't Apple don't supply a charging cable when you buy an Iphone ?

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Re: It's all about the money

Third party adaptors from reputable shops in Europe at least will all be CE tested and safe. Safe adaptors cost more, but as their less likely to kill you or melt or catch fire, it's worth the extra.

There's still no way they need to cost what Apple charge, though, that's just an abusive relationship where they won't use industry harmonising micro USB/whatever specifically so they can charge more.

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Re: It's all about the money

This will keep happening while people buy crappy black-market chargers rather than just cheaper alternates (i.e. properly CE-marked unofficial chargers), and have houses without RCD's or decent fuses, and don't check their cable before they plug it into the wall.

Fair enough, you could get a zap off a dodgy charger, but electrocution? That shouldn't happen unless you are somehow part of a circuit to ground and there's no RCD / ELCB at all. It's possible that with a fuse you might get a nasty shock but it should only be very temporary with a proper, compliant, modern fusebox.

This is little to do with crappy chargers, and much more to do with crappy house electrics AND crappy chargers combined.

And he was on a cement floor - so what the hell was forming the circuiting? The DC cable into the phone shouldn't even be able to carry that sort of power enough to actually electrocute you before melting / blowing an internal fuse and how the hell did it manage to arc from the AC to the DC side of the transformer?

Fact is, if he'd had anywhere near decent electrics, he could have stuck his fingers into light sockets and still not died (Fact: Have seen this done any number of times, including once in a lecture hall - maths lecture, so completely unrelated - where people were told they wouldn't do X so would they just stick their finger in a light-socket? Some idiot volunteered and did it in front of us all while the lecturer ummed and arred about whether to actually let him try it. And I know electricians who work with live sockets as a matter of course).

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Anonymous Coward

Must have been one hell of a heated conversation.

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Anonymous Coward

Was

Was he in the shower like the last one?

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Re: It's all about the money

properly CE-marked unofficial chargers

A CE marking means nothing. There is no formal 3rd-party test bureau, manufacturers self-certify and put the CE mark on by themselves. Any maker of dangerous, counterfeit, rubbish can do the same. Some even claim that on their products "CE" means something like "Compatible Europe" or some such nonsense.

The only protection for those who don't want to pay the inflated prices charged for official spares is to use some common sense,. and pay a reasonable price from a known high-street name. A 99p bargain from eBay will give you exactly what you pay for

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Re: It's all about the money

"A CE marking means nothing"

Whilst it is true that manufacturers apply the CE and RoHS marking themselves and some cheat, it is illegal throughout the EU to sell products which are falsely labelled or which do not comply with CE and RoHS rules. Those that sell this crap on ebay risk prosecution for manslaughter if their defective product kills someone.

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Re: It's all about the money

Those ce marks are easily forged

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Re: It's all about the money

No this may come a HUGE surprise to many out there banging on about CE marks, but wait for it........

China is not in the EEC (not EU, different things)! I know craaaazzeeeeee. So local products, even decent ones, may not actually carry it.

Still at least they can rely on a the Kite mark eh?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all about the money@ Lee D

"That shouldn't happen unless you are somehow part of a circuit to ground and there's no RCD / ELCB at all."

Not all of the UK, never mind the rest of the world is wired to the latest regs. Or even the 1997 version when I *think* RCD's became mandatory for new build in the UK (someone round here will know better). As for a cement floor conducting electricity, why not? Ever heard of the concept of "earth"?

I would add that sticking fingers in a (powered) light socket might not kill you, but it certainly could, and is likely to cause a nasty and deep flesh burn in the fingertip. For those who think electricity can be messed with, I can assure you (having unintentionally messed with it) that it is dangerous, it can and does burn, it is painful, and you feel a right tit turning up at A&E having done this - typing this looking at the entry and exit scars on my right hand :(

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Boffin

Re: It's all about the money

Unfortunately this will keep happening whilst Apple are charging £15 for a cable when I can buy 2 off eBay for 99p. 30 cables for the price of one is a no brainer.

The cables are not the problem, the charger inbetween the socket and the cable is. Unless you're in the habit of jamming your charger cable directly into the mains socket, in which case I can guarantee that that UKP15 Official Apple Cable will kill you just as dead as a crappy 99p one, all other conditions being equal.

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CE Mark

China is not in the EEC (not EU, different things)! I know craaaazzeeeeee. So local products, even decent ones, may not actually carry it.

Whether China is in the EEA (not EEC) or not is irrelevant. CE marking is not an indication that a product is made in the EEA, but that it can be legally sold in the EEA. It is not mandatory for all products, but is mandatory for many categories, and "low voltage" is one of them. All such chargers must carry a CE mark if they are sold in the EEA, and importers/distributors must verify the presence of both the CE marking and the necessary supporting documentation.

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FAIL

Re: It's all about the money

Turns out my life is worth than 99p - so i buy the Apple one and i keep living, pretty good value for money if you ask me.

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Re: It's all about the money

Partly true re CE. the Mark is equivalent to the BS kite mark of yesteryear.But the CE means nothingin itself its the test documentation and spec reports Cof C's and D of C's which back this up and is only applicable in the european community.

Non european companies does not have to comply nor mark its products CE certified but do so they can sell in europe. as most people will now notice no CE mark in might be dodgy. but the mark doesnt mean that the relavant supporting tests and documents are actually in situ if coming from outside europe.

TUV are one of the european test centres and trhere mark should back up the CE mark. Before some one jumps in yes i know there was an issue and fine a regarding fake tits in france.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all about the money

It's not the cable it's the charger.

Doubt anyone is going to get scorched using a genuine Apple charger even with a fake cable - that 5v at around 2a max is not likely to be fatal. These are when obviously mains voltages are being allowed to pass to the cable - so again IT'S THE CHARGER NOT THE CABLE.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all about the money

Apple DO supply a cable with the iPhone and a charger - but this was not caused by either a fault with the Apple charger or cable but a 3rd party one.

The Apple USB charger is about £15 - yes it's more than a cheap clone but perhaps they are cheap for a reason. In this case cheap and dangerous.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all about the money

£15 for a good quality, branded / original 2A charge is not that outrageous - sure you can buy cheaper but is it worth it? There is no way I would skimp on a few pounds when the thing is plugged in 24x7 and often unattended.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all about the money

You must be pretty rough with your cables - I have original Apple cables that sit in my backpack, get used every day and folded / unfolded repeatedly - I've not had one fail. It's not to say they could not - accidents happen and there are physical limits to anything like this.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all about the money

Apple do a micro USB to dock or lightning adapter - I actually carry a micro USB cable and a lightning adapter so can use one cable for my iPhone and also for my bluetooth headset that uses micro USB. But saying that I've never damaged an Apple cable - guess it could get trapped / pulled but think they are about £15 for a new one and not seen 3rd party makers selling lightning cables for much less (that actually work).

I have also seen more rugged 3rd party cables available from known manufacturers - so assume these may be a good option if you need something tougher.

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Holmes

Re: It's all about the money

And the CE/TUV/Kitemarks are relevant regarding cheap Chinese crap sold in Thailand, exactly how?

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Re: It's all about the money

Apparently the CE marking as the Chinese are using it means Chinese Export...

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Re: It's all about the money

"Third party adaptors from reputable shops in Europe at least will all be CE tested and safe. Safe adaptors cost more, but as their less likely to kill you or melt or catch fire, it's worth the extra."

A local shop (well, one of those mini shops in the middle of a shopping centre) was selling the fake chargers, along with its CE mark. So it isn't always easy to tell when an item is genuinely safe.

The downside is Apple will probably change their phones to not charge when plugged in to a non-Apple charger. For safety of its users, not for the extra profit it will make from selling more chargers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all about the money

Even CE marked chargers are not what they appear.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CE_marking#China_Export

Just another con from the country trying to make some quick money and not bothering with the consequences.

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Re: It's all about the money

"The downside is Apple will probably change their phones to not charge when plugged in to a non-Apple charger. For safety of its users, not for the extra profit it will make from selling more chargers."

I find it strange that those who happily throw money at Apple (when equivalent quality WP or Android phones are hundreds of quid cheaper) should carp at paying a fairly small sum for a decent safe Apple branded charger. OK, Apple will charge a fat premium, but the cheap and dangerous charger is like buying a Porsche and fitting some completely unheard of make of tyres bought from a bloke on the street corner, rather than premium branded tyres.

If there's an issue with paying Apple's accessory prices, why not invest in a Sammy, Moto,or a Nokia phone where the savings on the phone will free up the money for a drawer full of chargers, and those chargers are cheaper and the OEM premium is less than for Apple kit?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all about the money

The Apple parts have been tested and approved under CE and other regulatory schemes required to sell products in the EU and US. The cheapo parts will be unsafe and therefore cheap and nasty.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's all about the money

But the point is that Apple make one charger to cover various markets and test this to comply with US, Asia and EU rules.

So while they could produce a cheap device with no testing for non EU markets they won't.

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Alert

Re: Is it only iPhones..?

Have only iPhone users using cheap third-party chargers shuffled off this mortal coil?

Or is it not deemed worthy of reporting Sony/Samsung/HTC/Motorola etc. users who have departed via the same route?

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Re: It's all about the money

There is no point in saving money at the risk of losing your or a loved one's life.

Majority of the charges from reputable companies go through a variety of safety tests as not to kill or injure a person. There is a cost involved and the customer pays either with their life by taking a chance or buy paying more to have a safe charger.

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Re: CE Mark

Yes, but you misunderstand the op - the op isn't talking about them being on sale here, they're talking about them being on sale in China.

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Re: It's all about the money

A concrete floor is considered to be a fairly low impedance to ground.

As for dodgy chargers, it's worth looking on Google for articles where someone strips down a dodgy charger and explains all the problems. You'll find that many of them don't use properly rated components, the design often doesn't meet the performance specification, the safety clearances are not met and the isolation transformer is not double insulated. No wonder there are failures - it might still be a one-in-a-million chance, but if you've got ten million out there, that's ten people getting zapped, and more likely than winning the lottery jackpot.

There's also a fire hazard - if you leave your phone charging overnight, you might be woken early by the smoke alarm. Approved devices are usually more fire resistant than the dodgy ones.

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Re: It's all about the money

I can assure you the electrical standards in the average Thai house fall somewhat short of British standards.

Not sure about sticking your finger in a socket much either, still have a couple of small burn scars from touching a live socket by mistake - that was in the UK.

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Well,

This story may be apocryphal, but I remember reading some 30 years ago about goods marked "Made in USA" actually meant that they were made in a city named Usa.

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Re: It's all about the money

At least they'll have a more durable CE sticker :)

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The wonders of having a metal phone body

If the phone has a plastic body (like my Xperia Arc S) a deffective charger leaking 220V onto it will kill the phone and do nothing to the user.

If, however, it has a nice shiny and conductive metal rim... If the user is holding it tightly by same said rim (I know - holding it wrong)... If the rim is connected directly to bits of the circuitry because it is serving as an antenna... If these connections have no means of limiting the current to a sub-letal < 200mA by design...

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Mandating the dogfooding of their own charger designs—for example, by using each until an internal component (diode, resistor, heart, etc.) fails—would likely have a salutary effect on what's produced in pursuit of the quick buck made off the backs of the cheap and the not-so-swift. You buy cheap, you get cheap—and you encourage cheap to enter the marketplace.

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Holmes

Re: The wonders of having a metal phone body

@Voland's - "If the phone has a plastic body (like my Xperia Arc S) a deffective charger leaking 220V onto it will kill the phone and do nothing to the user."

I agree.

Funny that the defective charger gets all the blame. Not sure how the various national Product Safety Commissions allowed a metal-frame phone that you hold to your face to ever make it onto the market.

You've got to be a fool to hold one to your ear while its plugged into a wall outlet. Any frayed or loose wiring, even on a professionally-designed charger cord, could give you quite a jolt.

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@Voland's right hand (Re: The wonders of having a metal phone body)

So his death was a direct result of product design choice. Lucky for Apple this didn't happen in the USA.

Anyone remember the Ford Pinto?

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Dogfooding...?

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Re: The wonders of having a metal phone body

As the charger is only designed to deliver a few volts, and almost any plug you think of has the zero/earth on the outer shell of the plug, a metal casing should be perfectly safe. An old-fashioned charger with transformer would insulate the low voltage circuit completely from mains, and is therefore the safer option. However, with copper prices the way they are, and the weight and bulk of a transformer, most supplies are now switching power supplies, in which there is a potential conductive path from mains to low voltage. Properly designed, there should be fail-safes that should prevent accidents happening. In cheap replacements, these can apparently fail. So while I can understand why phone designers can get metal casings approved, a plastic case would provide an extra fail-safe. Not buying dodgy chargers is another.

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Re: The wonders of having a metal phone body

Apparently the switching power supplies actually deliver half of the mains voltage though the metal case. So if you're in a 230v country, the phone will be live with 115v. The current is so low that this is considered safe. However, a cheaply made and uncertified power supply might well be capable of delivering a much higher current through the case.

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"Dogfooding".

"Dogfooding" - Forcing a group of engineers, product designers, company employees to actually use the products they design on a daily basis. They make the dogfood and they have to eat it. So they better make it good.

Example: the bosses of the local mass transit department have limousines and so do not actually have to use the mass transit which they oversee. "Dogfooding" would have them stripped of their limousines and compelled to use the public transport for which they are responsible.

Ha-ha-ha - like *that* would ever happen.

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Re: The wonders of having a metal phone body

Then why hasn't there been more reports of burnt-out JesusPhones? Or House Fires caused by these cheap Chargers for that matter?

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Boffin

Re: The wonders of having a metal phone body

@Wyrdness

Switching power supplies tend to contain a noise filter on the mains side that can make the output appear at half the mains voltage, but at a high resistance. Usually enough to light up a neon bulb as used in those mains probe/screwdrivers (those work on less than 0.5mA), and you can sense it if you have conductive skin and a good path to ground (for me, just once with an old XT plugged into an unearthed socket, but I'm rather resistant; I usually go "hmm, tingling, must be live" when I accidentally touch hot mains circuits).

When one of the capacitors comprising the filter shorts out, and I've seen quite a number of cheap PSUs where that had happened, you have 50-50 chance of the PSU output going hot. And without a GFI/RCB you're now getting mains into some organs that don't quite appreciate that

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Re: The wonders of having a metal phone body

most supplies are now switching power supplies, in which there is a potential conductive path from mains to low voltage

Beg pardon?

Switching PSUs have transformers just like conventional power supplies, only much smaller: a transformer's power capability is [some factor] * [core area] * [working frequency], and by driving a SPSU's transformer at >50kHz they can be made sufficiently small to get >10W from a small (and light) wallwart. The feedback to regulate the output is via optocoupler (I've not seen otherwise, even in the crappiest units), and the only possible galvanic connection between mains and output is via the filter, as noted. or insufficient isolation (PCB or transformer) between mains and secondary.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The wonders of having a metal phone body

Until you touch the metal connector of the micro USB cable. It's not the iPhone or the Apple charger or Apple cable at fault - the guy was (unfortunately) using a 3rd party charger which was a bit like sticking wired direct into the plug socket.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Dogfooding".

I guess it does at Apple as their stuff works - remember this was not due to a fault with the Apple charger / cable - he was using some (defective) 3rd party cable.

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@ Stoneshop Re: The wonders of having a metal phone body

You are right: the filter is the main culprit. Possibly the reduced distance between mains and low-voltage ends of the small transformer (compared to the beefier old ones) increases risk, but that distance is not smaller that the distances typically found in optical couplers (and they are safe, as a rule).

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Re: The wonders of having a metal phone body

a deffective charger leaking 220V onto it will kill the phone and do nothing to the user.

Probably not even kill the phone, as long as the charger's output voltage doesn't rise beyond what the phone can take. That the entire phone is at 230V AC is irrelevant in this respect; it's similar to birds sitting on an overland power line.

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