back to article Wow, MIND-BLOWING: Florida Man gets an earful from 'exploding Apple AirPod' bud

A Florida man claims one of his Apple AirPods blew up as he worked out at the gym. Jason Colon, of Tampa, said on Thursday he noticed white smoke coming out of the painfully trendy headphone bud, set the gizmo down on his workout machine, and went off to get an LA Fitness staffer for help. When he came back, Colon says, one of …

  1. Blank Reg

    It was inevitable, Lithium batteries occasionally explode, so sticking one in your ear probably isn't the greatest idea ever.

    1. Boohoo4u

      The good thing is the battery (apparently) is external to the ear canal, but if the guy was asleep (for example) it could have been nasty.

      But not as nasty as when e cigarettes explode. Those are a major safety hazard, and should be banned.

      Really no small lithium-ion device should be close to our face. Phones at least are designed to protect the batteries, and are large enough to do a fairly good job. Plastic (or thin metal) gadgets don’t maintain enough rigidity to be safe...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But not as nasty as when e cigarettes explode. Those are a major safety hazard, and should be banned.

        Yeah, and let smokers continue smoking and die. Good idea, really, since other quit methods are so successful...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Vaping is safer but not safe

          Problem is people have switched to vaping instead of smoking and not giving up completely.

          Vaping is safer but not safe, breathing anything into you lungs apart from air is not really very good for you.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Vaping is safer but not safe

            How is switching from deadly to waaaay (at the very least 95%) safer a problem?

            And FYI vaping has been proven safer than outdoors city air. Yup.

      2. pffut

        > But not as nasty as when e cigarettes explode. Those are a major safety hazard, and should be banned.

        'Course, trying your very best to effectively short circuit the battery in the hunt for more POWAHHH (bigger vapes), I can't say I'm overly sympathetic when you come sobbing with a 'my e-cig blew up' story...

      3. phuzz Silver badge
        Flame

        "But not as nasty as when e cigarettes explode. Those are a major safety hazard, and should be banned."

        The really shitty devices and batteries that cause these explosions are already banned because they violate safety standards. The ones made by legit manufacturers that actually get their products certified are fine.

        Most of the time when you see a story about the battery in something exploding/catching on fire, it because it was a cheap knock-off. Basically you get what you pay for.

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Most of the time when you see a story about the battery in something exploding/catching on fire, it because it was a cheap knock-off. Basically you get what you pay for.

          Most of the time it's someone carrying a loose battery in their pockets, it shorts on their keys or coins etc and they lose a bunch of skin.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      "lithium batteries occasionally exloede "

      Never mind sticking one in your ear, there are other intracorporeal devices that should also avoid lithium batteries.

      BZZZTT BANG!

    3. el kabong Silver badge

      He inserted it the wrong way

      Had he inserted the AirPod properly, using the Apple approved way, nothing wrong would have happened. But no, he had to do it wrong.

      It's all his fault, got what he deserved. Apple is not at fault.

      1. macjules Silver badge

        Re: He inserted it the wrong way

        Apple is not at fault.

        Of course they are. How the hell do you insert the AirPod wrong? Stick it battery end first into your ear? Shove both AirPods up your nose in the vague hope that they will work and say 'wibble?

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: He inserted it the wrong way

          @macjules

          Read the comment again with your sarcasm filter switched off.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: He inserted it the wrong way

            Maybe not insert it the wrong way, but if you do something that damages it (like fall asleep while wearing them and roll over onto your side - putting pressure on it) that could eventually make a failure more likely. Or maybe crack the case so that water can get inside and short the battery - like say if you were working out and starting to sweat.

            Perhaps we might start hearing about more of these over time as Airpods age and are exposed to more and more cumulative damage.

  2. ThatOne Silver badge
    WTF?

    > he noticed white smoke coming out

    How did he see it? Do treadmills have rear view mirrors now?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Fitness clubs cover the walls with mirrors. Something about "motivation..."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I thought it was vanity

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I thought it was to check out the opposite sexes .

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

            Actually, it's for checking your form when doing weights. Most cardio areas don't have mirrors, they have windows so that you can imagine you're not in some sort of self inflicted hell. Also, so you can see the doughnut cart outside.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I thought it was vanity

          I can assure you that in my case, and many of my fellow users, vanity is not bolstered by a straight look at ones own body - although it may well be a motivator to remind me what I am attempting to overcome :-) . On the other hand, there are a couple of rather gorgeous looking women using the gym - and that might be considered a motivator when combined with a view of my own carcass

      2. Alistair Silver badge
        Windows

        re Motivation.

        Partly motivation - especially when the young toughs deadlifting 150lb and acting like they're king kong notice the 40 something pudgy wife type in the mirror deadlifting 200 and change.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems arrogant to me...

    After all the incidents we've already had in the past here we are: let's ignore the past, look out for a bright future and some people with no ears anymore.

    Did Apple actually think this through?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Did Apple think this through?

      Hey, this is Crapple we are talking about.

      As they have been selling these stupid things for a year and there hasn't been a Note 7 type wave of failures like this I think this might have been a one off but who can resist a chance to slag off the Cupertino 'tat seller' eh?

      At least two things are certain to happen

      1) A lawsuit gets filed

      2) At least a dozen copycats will surface on the Internet ('Me Too' and all that)

      I'll never put things like this into my ear. I did that as a young child (a pencil) and lost around 30% of the hearing in that ear. I didn't know better back then.

  4. AndrueC Silver badge
    Happy

    My golf trolley has a lithium battery. I've often wondered what that would be like if it ever let go. Doesn't stop me playing golf though :)

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      I shouldn't worry too much, unless you insert it into one body orifice or another during play.

      Ditto a golf buggy.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        So what kind of battery do these "personal massage device" things have?

        1. Pete4000uk

          Something round, one would hope

    2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      That would be a lithium iron phosphate battery in a golf cart. They're tougher, good for 10x the charge cycles, less flammable, and less prone to thermal runaway compared to LiPo. It's definitely the preferred chemistry when energy density isn't critical.

  5. Christoph Silver badge

    'Jason Colon'?

    Maybe Nobby Nobbs messed it up trying to nick it?

    1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

      Re: 'Jason Colon'?

      Obligatory Sir Pterry icon request.

      #gnuterrypratchett

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even a NiMh battery can decide to burn for no apparent reason.

    One of the garden solar lights had stopped working. There was a neat circular hole in the plastic container where the small NiMh button cell had burned through and dropped to the ground. The button cell was 1.2v with about 80mah capacity.

    A replacement battery has worked without any problem.

    I made a Valentine's day decoration for the school dance this week with an Arduino Nano controlling some LEDs. I used 2xAA alkaline batteries rather than rechargeables - to be as safe as possible.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Even a NiMh battery can decide to burn for no apparent reason.

      Well, given the extreme simplicity of the charging circuit (nothing more than a diode) as it is present in the IC (QX5252) that's in all these garden lights, there's a good chance that the battery can get overcharged on a sunny day. Especially a small 80mAh battery; they also come with a standard AA or AAA cell, which have some ten or more times that capacity and therefore won't overcharge quite so easily. Repeatedly overcharging is one thing what kills NiMh's

  7. bazza Silver badge

    Anyone Said It Yet?

    He was wearing it the wrong way.

    1. el kabong Silver badge

      He inserted it the wrong way that's for sure

      Had he inserted the AirPod properly, using the Apple approved way, nothing wrong would have happened.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: He inserted it the wrong way that's for sure

        Had he inserted the AirPod properly, ....

        Yes, we heard you the first time you posted that hilarious comment.

        1. el kabong Silver badge

          Hilarious????

          It's an absolute truth!

  8. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    This...

    Is why I insist on using cable and headphones.

    Oh, not literally specifically *this*. But you know when you get that "older person/old fashioned" feeling? Sticking to Tape/CD instead of MP3, using a dumbphone/turning off wifi/GPS. Those things other people look at you strangely for... but you know, deep down, there is a real good reason to do it?!

    I just prefer not to stick batteries in my ears.

    1. Not also known as SC

      Re: This...

      "Is why I insist on using cable and headphones."

      Doesn't the bluetooth protocol compress the music signal as well resulting in additional sound quality deterioration (although my IPhone 6S has dreadful sound quality to start with) or is this just a Hi-Fi urban myth?

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

        Re: This...

        I don't know, I don't use bluetooth headsets because the batteries.

        It's rather like asking me if the break pads on a Veyron last many miles... I'm kinda not going to know for *other* reasons than not wanting the break pad replacement costs. ;)

        However, I am of the opinion, most music reproduction is "good enough", and I've nothing against it being so. However I do also think having a nicer quality is ok... providing it's physically demonstrable to not be snake oil!

        1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

          Re: This...

          As James May said about Veyron:

          "The tyres will only last for about fifteen minutes, but it's OK, because the fuel runs out in twelve minutes"

          So those brake pads should be good for at least twenty.

        2. fajensen Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: This...

          I don't know, I don't use bluetooth headsets because the batteries.

          I had a "Marshall Monitor BT" headset for Christmas to keep the gibberings of the mind eaters prowling my open-office hell-space.

          The battery life on this particular headset is obscene - about 30 hours of continous use which in my case is about one month of actual use. I have so far charged them exactly once.

          1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

            Re: Nice BT headphones.

            Oh, they would be great. One charge in 30 hours, and so far only needed to charge them once? That's still one more time than I've charged my cabled set... ;)

            But I would actually be after some, if not for the extra hassle of remembering to charge, or replacing (as some cannot be :( ) the batteries in so many years time.

          2. hplasm Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: This...

            "...gibberings of the mind eaters..."

            I like this. May I have it?

            Ta

            1. fajensen Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: This...

              Sure. Ripped it off Charles Stross "Laundry Files" myself, so maybe it's "hot"

  9. Davegoody

    I had a (Generic) Lithium-Battery based USB PowerBank charging in my car a few weeks ago.. It went up in flames, taking my car with it. Nobody was hurt (fortunately), but it wrote-off my car, leaving me with a large gap between settlement and owing..... Could have taken me and the family with it, so grateful for small mercies....

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Sorry to about your loss.

      But there should be warnings for doing such devices. Most battery banks are probably not safe from what I have seen. Add to that most car 5v chargers not being safe. Add to that both probably also not having the quality of voltage regulation. You then get a match made in... sorry to hear about your loss.

  10. Juan Inamillion

    Can't believe no one else has found this yet...

    An absolute gift, Desmond Dekker.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxELSzay2lc

  11. Paul Herber Silver badge

    > he noticed white smoke coming out

    That's the snake oil burning ...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It not a fault it's a feature.

    A recent firmware update makes it so that if the battery in airpod degrades below accepted levels the airpod self destructs. It's better they do that than inconvenience the user in having to charge it more often.

  13. Ben Trabetere

    Occam's Razzer, anyone?

    Sorry, but I do not see charring or a battery failure. I see a busted set of AirPods and nullified warranty.

    What does an AirPod look like when it pops from your ear, drops to the treadmill and gets stomped on?

  14. Bluto Nash
    Joke

    Regarding the caption on the picture...

    Isn't this the chap being held in Harlow from yesterday's story?

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/02/09/drug_suspect_toilet_holdout/

  15. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Was he listening to...

    Smoke gets in your eyes ears

  16. Gomez Adams

    What was he expecting the LA Fitness staffer to do?

    1. Arty Effem

      What was he expecting the LA Fitness staffer to do?

      We're talking about someone happy to keep the name 'Colon'.

      1. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: What was he expecting the LA Fitness staffer to do?

        So you are saying he's quite far up his own arse then?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: What was he expecting the LA Fitness staffer to do?

          "So you are saying he's quite far up his own arse then?"

          He has Airpods. 'Nuff said.

  17. Phil Kingston Silver badge

    "went off to get an LA Fitness staffer for help"

    Begs the question "what exactly did he think an LA Fitness staffer was going to do?"

  18. andyp-random-number

    My views may not be popular but...

    In days gone by, before potentially dangerous things inside "black boxes", such as batteries, the risks inside peoples homes and on their person seemed either obvious to most (bleach has don't drink on the bottle, medicines must be locked away from children etc) or were relatively few, or the risks had been present for many many years. (Think before modern tech).

    The risks in the modern age are multiplying rapidly and most of these risks are within an area of people's life that is a "black box" to them. They know absolutely nothing about what's inside. With toys, minus the high tech side, we make sure the box says "not suitable for children under certain age", "contains parts that can cause choking", pens have lids on with holes inside, cots, bed matrices and furniture has fire proof material etc etc. Great lengths have been gone to to help protect people.

    Technology though seems to evade most of these warnings and companies can produce very poor products, or, as in the case of lithium batteries, be placed in inappropriate places. Babies and toddlers seem to regularly swallow button cell batteries etc. Shoddy tumble driers burning homes etc.

    I think it is high time more effort and thought is placed upon these technologies, either in the way of educating to a far more technical level or with far stricter rules because I feel that profit is the only motivation with these products.

    The general population can not way up the pros and cons of this tech and legislation seems to be failing.

    The other day doctors and 111 service wanted to send an ambulance out for me because of a very very very tiny risk that I may have internal bleeding that was life threatening, and yet no one is concerned that my phones, tumble drier, USB battery packs etc etc may cause death and fire risks to my whole family. These other risks are far higher than my taking of an ibuprofen once per day for 2 weeks to avoid arthritis.

    It appears technology is exempt from health and safety, while we go totally risk averse in another areas.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My views may not be popular but...

      I don't think it's got any worse. My dad has stories about carrying the accumulators to the garage to get them charged. Would you let a child walk, or take a bus, carrying open jars of sulphuric acid these days? No to mention non-earthed mains valve radios with live chassis, etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: My views may not be popular but...

        "No to mention non-earthed mains valve radios with live chassis, etc."

        IIRC early electric washing machines were a tub with an exposed mains voltage open coil motor underneath it.

        BBC TV has a series, often repeated, about the dangers in the home during the usual era splits eg Victorian, Edwardian, 1930s.

  19. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Bending lithium cells...

    My Surface RT 2 needed a new battery pack. After several days spent removing screws needing a T3 bit (of size 46 thousandth of an inch), I finally met the glued-in battery. Predicting the future, I soldered some resistors directly across the cells to drain them fully, while the replacement pack slowly crossed the Pacific. About 8 weeks of relentless discharge gently flattened them to mV.

    Removing the pack started by attempting to peel the cells out, but far too much bending was needed. So I ending up slicing the cells open (prismatic cells in baggies) to remove them without inflicting so much stress on them. It went smoothly. All back together and 100% working. Only five parts left over, ;-).

    The experience was a combination of 'watch repair' and 'defusing a bomb'.

    Thank you El Reg for ensuring that I was well aware of the dangers inherent in lithium cells.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bending lithium cells...

      Don't people use heat guns to remove the glue?

      Had to do a replacement for a cheeper WinTab. Though I did bend the board a couple of cells were on, which needed me to bridge the traces after. As the cells were separate, but when I took them out separately, I found out they were not cabled in, but on a single long thin pcb. :(

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

        Re: Bending lithium cells...

        AC inquired about heatguns.

        Individual cells are big 100mm by 100mm. Plastic tablet case back, with dubious heat transfer characteristics. Ultrasticky double sided tape was across middle, not really accessible. Cells marked with warnings about excess heat.

        All things considered, heating didn't seem to be the optimal approach. Sharp knife to carefully open baggies worked a treat.

        YMMV.

        1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: Bending lithium cells...

          I'll still not recommend it. As while you could confirm you discharged the cells, most people cannot.

          Breaking the cell is IMO much much worse than a little heat and some elbow grease. A little heat should be fine. Always check out iFixit: https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/Microsoft+Surface+Pro+3+Battery+Replacement/51877

    2. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Bending lithium cells...

      Out of scientific curiosity, which 5 bits were left over...?

  20. PhilipN Silver badge

    Sweat-proof?

    Nope. There are such things available e.g. Jabra for gym junkies but Airpods ain't one of them.

    Some e.g.Bragi even say you can swim with 'em in but [ditto].

    I shall be happy to keep any form of electricity well away from any form of water (and sweat), thank you.

    Not sure why nobody has yet mentioned a (very) short circuit as the cause of the problem.

    Must be techies never ever break into a sweat.

    And could a non-techie learn whether he correctly identifies sweat as a good conductor?

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Sweat-proof?

      My Sony walkman from 3-4 years ago was fully waterproof earbuds - fully sealed units that charge via induction.

  21. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
    Coat

    Has anybody checked if he works for the IMF?

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