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China Handhelds Iphone Power Apple

After a User Dies, Apple Warns Against Counterfeit Chargers 457

Posted by timothy
from the risk-vs-reward dept.
After a Chinese woman was earlier this month evidently electrocuted while talking on her iPhone while it was plugged in to charge, Apple is warning users to avoid counterfeit chargers. From CNet: "Last week, reports surfaced in China that suggested the woman, Ma Ailun, might have been using a third-party charger designed to look like the real thing. Although third-party chargers are not uncommon, they vary widely in terms of safety and quality. Earlier this year, safety consulting and certification company UL issued a warning that counterfeit Apple USB chargers were making the rounds and that consumers should be on the lookout for them due to their lower quality and possibly dangerous defects. The company posted the guidance on its site after a woman was allegedly electrocuted while answering a call on her iPhone."
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After a User Dies, Apple Warns Against Counterfeit Chargers

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  • Smart move (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:06AM (#44381277)

    Whether or not the counterfeit charger was the cause, they have reinforced their image and promoted their chargers (as well as discouraging customers from buying their chargers elsewhere).

    • by Tough Love (215404) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:15AM (#44381387)

      It's the "big lie". What is the charger for an Android phone? Oh right, a standard USB cable. What is the charger for an Apple product? Oh right, an electric chair waiting to happen. Compounded by the aluminum case. Hey isn't that the same aluminum case that makes an awful antenna?

      Apple: think deadly.

      • Re:Smart move (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Stormthirst (66538) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:17AM (#44381423)

        I never understood why iPhone's adapter is a completely retarded pile of junk. What's wrong with the standard USB adapter like everyone else? Oh aside from them making a cock load of money from cables.

        • Re:Smart move (Score:5, Insightful)

          by blueg3 (192743) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:28AM (#44381583)

          Not that I particularly like the cable, but some reasons are: It predates USB being a standard for charging devices. It used to need to support FireWire in addition to USB. It still supports running audio and video over the wire in a "raw" form (rather than as some USB data device), which is actually a fairly useful feature.

          Only the last of these is really useful any more. If that feature happens to be useful, the iPhone implementation is actually fairly good. Using Android phones as video sources tends to suck. A few phones have mini HDMI connections (note that the iPhone connector predates HDMI, too), but not many. A few have stupid proprietary HDMI + USB ports that at least are compatible with conventional USB-only cables. Some phones support screencasting or video sourcing through DLNA or proprietary solutions, but those require a network.

          • Re:Smart move (Score:5, Insightful)

            by twistedsymphony (956982) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:34AM (#44381695) Homepage
            Didn't apple recently change their proprietary connector design around the release of the iPhone 5? and doesn't that new design remove support for raw audio/video through their proprietary port?

            The old iPhone connector was excusable for the reasons you've stated... the new one has no excuse to not conform to the new standard aside from Apple wanting to further bleed their customers of money.
            • by devjoe (88696)
              If you read the older article linked within the article for this story [cnet.com] you will see that the woman who was electrocuted was using an iPhone 4, not an iPhone 5 as was first reported. So this was indeed using the older connector.
            • One of the main differentiations of the 30-pin was it allowed for faster charging than USB allows. I think the 2.0 spec says no more than 500mA whereas the largest Apple charger could do 2A (mainly for the retina iPad). I think USB 3.0 ups it to 900mA but that is still less than Apple needs.
              • by oji-sama (1151023)
                Those are limits for ports with data transfer, for charging ports the values are higher. (And USB cable spec says 1.5A if I remember correctly)
                • Per connector it is 500mA, however multiple connectors like a Y type connector can be used to double the power.
          • by icebike (68054)

            Not that I particularly like the cable, but some reasons are: It predates USB being a standard for charging devices.

            Please tell me you didn't just write that!?!!

            USB has been a standard for ALL of its possible uses since it was introduced as a STANDARD, long before the iPhone or even the iPod.

            • USB is a standard that has grown over time both through additions to the core standard and through the introduction of side standards such as "on the go", "battery charging, power delivery " etc. According to the revision history in version 1.1 of the battery charging specification) the first version of the "battery charging" standard was released in 2007.

              You could build a device that charged over USB before the "battery charging" standard but there was no official way to do a dumb charger (you could in the

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Type44Q (1233630)

          What's wrong with the standard USB adapter like everyone else? Oh aside from them making a cock load of money...

          What's wrong with the standard butt load or ass load like everyone else uses? Butts and asses generally hold larger loads than do cocks, thus serving as more effective terms for expressing the concept of an impressively large unit of volume (unless you were specifically referring to the cocks of large marine mammals?).

      • Re:Smart move (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Osgeld (1900440) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:23AM (#44381523)

        the charger that plugs into your wall is IS a usb connection, the same type that comes with your android tablet, phone, camera whatever these days

        the problem is some dipshit designer makes knockoffs and does not adhere to basic common sense principals

        I am no apple fanboi, have no apple products, but your post serves no point other than to be a shit tosser when you clearly dont have the brains to comprehend that ANY SHITBALL EL CHEAPO CHARGER CAN DO THIS not just apple's

        so feel safe next time you charge up your precious chintek android using a wall wart you bought for 99 cents off of ebay

      • Re:Smart move (Score:5, Informative)

        by Alan Shutko (5101) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:26AM (#44381571) Homepage

        Nope.

        Both iPhones and Apples come with a little AC->USB charging brick and a cable. The difference with most Android phones is that the cable is a standard USB cable, not a 30-pin or lightning cable. But the brick is the dangerous part.

        Ken Shirriff did a couple excellent tear downs last year comparing the build of the Apple charger [righto.com] vs a cheap knockoff [righto.com].

        You can have this exact same problem using a cheap knockoff with an Android phone so be careful!

      • It's dumb luck. People have been hit by lightning and survived. People have been electrocuted on the electric chair and have survived. Getting killed by a phone charger? (IF that's what actually happened, which I'm somewhat sceptical about.) She must have had a really bad day.
      • Re:Smart move (Score:5, Informative)

        by Rosyna (80334) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:29AM (#44381613) Homepage

        It's the "big lie". What is the charger for an Android phone? Oh right, a standard USB cable. What is the charger for an Apple product?

        The Apple charger has a standard USB power port. Just like all Android chargers that plug into a power outlet.

        Here is Apple's standard USB charger [amazon.com]. Note that it has a USB port.

        Here is a Galaxy S4 USB charger [emirates247.com]. Not that is has a USB port.

        Either charger can be used interchangeably to charge either phone.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Tough Love (215404)

          The Apple charger has a standard USB power port.

          "Has a" is not the same as "is a". Even in a reality distortion zone.

        • by petman (619526)
          The Apple charger does not have a standard USB power port. It is not wired correctly like a standard USB charger. If I plug in my Android phone to an Apple charger, it thinks that the charger is a USB host device, not an AC charger.
        • Re:Smart move (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@@@cornell...edu> on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:53AM (#44381945) Homepage

          "The Apple charger has a standard USB power port."

          Wrong.

          http://www.usb.org/developers/devclass_docs [usb.org]

          Read the v1.2 specification.

          Then check the voltages/resistances between D+ and D- of an Apple "dumb charger" for compliance to that specification.

          Or take my word for it: It will fail. Floating one pin at 2.0 volts and one at 2.8 with resistive voltage dividers is NOT compliant with that specification.

          • by Rosyna (80334)

            standard USB power port as in the same kind everyone else used/uses. The spec you pointed to didn't exist until 2010. Apple's USB charger predates the Standard standard but does not predate other standard USB chargers. If you've had a standard USB charger before Oct, 2011, chances are great that it does not conform to the 1.2 spec either.

            ("standard" as in bog-standard not as in the 1.2 Battery charging Standard).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Stinks of BS PR to me. "Might" have been using a 3rd party charger? Please... Get the facts first and then release the article. What if it turns out the charger was an official apple one? Huh? Then what?

      • Re:Smart move (Score:5, Insightful)

        by arth1 (260657) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @12:10PM (#44382203) Homepage Journal

        Stinks of BS PR to me. "Might" have been using a 3rd party charger? Please... Get the facts first and then release the article. What if it turns out the charger was an official apple one? Huh? Then what?

        It is also irrelevant. If the iPhone allows high current to pass through from the charging port to the user, the iPhone has a defective design.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by kh31d4r (2591021)
        In that case she was obviously holding it wrong.
    • If the Counterfeit charger was the cause, it was made to look like an Apple charger. So the crook who made the dangerous product, probably stepped on a slew of other copyright and trademark infringement issues as well. Saying you should use Apple chargers isn't going to help much.

      You need a USB certified charger, purchased threw a reputable source. Not something that takes the AC from the wall and gets it to fit into a usb port. It should meet standard USB power output and type.

      Unless apple is making a

      • You can charge an iDevice from any USB source. An iPad might charge slowly from a low amp source, but it will charge. They're bolt standard USB devices in this respect.

        As you point out, the unlucky victim could well have been using an Android device or, heaven forbid, a Blackberry.

        Although it really does take a whole bunch of incompetence to make a USB charger that will actually present mains voltage to the device case.

  • Huh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Entropius (188861) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:07AM (#44381283)

    There are lots of "third-party" Android chargers out there -- ordinary MicroUSB things. If "counterfeit" (i.e. non-Samsung, or whatever) chargers were a problem, wouldn't this happen all the time with Androids?

    Sounds like Apple is just taking advantage of the opportunity to scare people into paying the Apple Tax.

    • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Informative)

      by wzinc (612701) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:15AM (#44381385)
      You can buy non-Apple chargers, but they meet Apple's spec:

      http://www.belkin.com/us/Device/iPhone/d/IPHONE?q=::categoryPath:/Web/WSPWR [belkin.com]

      Apple is asking people not to buy counterfeit or unauthorized ones that don't meet the specs.
    • It's quite possible that given they're not using USB charging (albeit they're using something that can be indirectly charged by USB), that it's easier to build a "charger" that doesn't do so safely.

      Essentially what we see here, yet again, is evidence that proprietary crap is a bad idea, and Apple shouldn't be doing it.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Essentially what we see here, yet again, is evidence that proprietary crap is a bad idea, and Apple shouldn't be doing it.

        No, what we have is evidence that Slashdotters don't read the articles, and don't understand that in China you can buy a cheap knock off of pretty much anything which hasn't been tested by anybody.

        If you build a cheap ass piece of electronics and don't care about safety or performance, it could be a fire hazard.

    • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:21AM (#44381477)

      I think something was lost in translation. It's not the third-party chargers that we would normally buy, it's the ultra cheap inferiorly made chargers that pass themselves off as an Apple product that is the problem.

      The best advice for any country and any make of phone is that when looking for a replacement charger that plugs into your home's AC be sure to choose a charger that is certified for safety (e.g. UL, CE, MEPS, RCM, C-Tick. I guess the closest Chinese equivalent are CCC, CCIB, CCEE).

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      its a one in a who knows shot, but yes this happens all the time, it usually just kills the charger, or your battery, not you

      I had one not too long ago that converted itself to a smoke machine almost instantly, another where you could hear it click, and when measured was putting out 19 volts AC

      just avoid them if they are stupid cheap, its not worth the money

    • by sunking2 (521698)
      How does a manufacturing error in an Apple knockoff have anything to do with Android chargers? If in fact true, Apple is doing what they should be doing in telling people there are potentially dangerous products out there. Anything that plugs into a 110/220V outlet has the potential to kill you. You are going on faith that it won't.
    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      There are lots of "third-party" Android chargers out there -- ordinary MicroUSB things. If "counterfeit" (i.e. non-Samsung, or whatever) chargers were a problem, wouldn't this happen all the time with Androids?

      It does on the ultra cheap chargers - the usual symptom is you can't use the touchscreen while it's plugged in.

      In fact, the quality of fake Apple chargers is shockingly bad (pun intended) - the outsides look damn real as well.

      This guy tears apart a few $10 chargers [youtube.com] he was given, very Apple-like adapte

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      If "counterfeit" (i.e. non-Samsung, or whatever) chargers were a problem, wouldn't this happen all the time with Androids?

      I'm more inclined to believe that in China when you buy a cheap no-name or a knock-off it's created under absolutely no oversight, and made as cheaply as possible.

      I don't think they're saying "3rd party chargers approved by UL will explode", I think they're saying "cheap garbage is a really bad idea".

      Sounds like Apple is just taking advantage of the opportunity to scare people into payin

  • ... and while it does a good job of charging, it does have a "sparking" habit whenever I plug it in to a wall outlet. Honestly, if this was truly a concern for Apple, they should make their chargers cheaper, or license aftermarket production to the spec of originals. I saved a bundle (about 50%) by going with a Chinese knock-off.
    • by alen (225700)

      how much is that in real dollars? $10? $15?

      and risking to damage a computer that costs over $1000

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        pfft, I'm not spending the 3 - 10 times markup for a brand name charger. there are plenty of asian companies that make serviceable chargers for major laptops, cell phones, etc. that cost $2 to $20. I've saved hundreds of dollars and the things have been working fine for two or more years.

    • Cheap chargers are fine... unless they fail in some way. A lot of the extra cost goes to higher quality components (such as double insulated transformers instead of single), so that failure is much less likely, and if it does fail then it's not going to shock you. Also, cheap knock offs use don't use a full-wave bridge rectifier usually, so your charger will give the device a very noisey DC waveform, which may mess up the charging components or cause device malfunction (such as people complaining with off-b

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      I bought a MicroUSB to Lightning adapter that worked OK with my iPhone... but sparked like crazy with my iPad, so I ditched it for a cable.

      However, for current to be lethal, either the DC voltage was stepped up (which might have fried the phone before the user), or the charger just passed 240VAC directly to the phone. There may be other things which can pop up.

      So far, I've had good luck with third party chargers. I have a 20 amp-hour battery which can be used to charge a tablet and such when I'm camping,

    • You continue to use something that sparks when you plug it in?

      I'd check to ensure that your various insurance policies are adequate and paid up.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      ... and while it does a good job of charging, it does have a "sparking" habit whenever I plug it in to a wall outlet ... I saved a bundle (about 50%) by going with a Chinese knock-off.

      If it burns down your house, what have you saved? Because if your insurance company ever finds out you kept using something which tended to spark, you are completely on your own.

      Honestly, if this was truly a concern for Apple, they should make their chargers cheaper

      Do you really think Apple (or any company) should lower their

  • by intermodal (534361) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:15AM (#44381391) Homepage Journal

    When I finally dumped my iPhone 3G, it was because it kept shocking me every time it rang. I don't know about the iPhone 5, but I think blaming the charger might be a little simplistic given that experience.

    • I suspect your problem is a point others have brought up in this thread: the aluminum case. If you live/work in a carpeted area, you can build up substantial static charge on yourself. Your phone rings, you're grounded against a fairly large, high conductivity object, and the natural conclusion is the ringing is what caused the zap.

    • by Osgeld (1900440)

      shocking and cooking you are two totally different things

  • by plsuh (129598) <[plsuh] [at] [goodeast.com]> on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:23AM (#44381509) Homepage

    See the commentary at the top of the page from this link:

    http://www.righto.com/2012/03/inside-cheap-phone-charger-and-why-you.html [righto.com]

    --Paul

  • by holophrastic (221104) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:25AM (#44381555)

    Are you saying that China has counterfeit electronics? And that they don't meet safety standards? This simply must be a joke.

  • by sribe (304414) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @11:55AM (#44381965)

    Cue the Apple haters claiming that Apple engaged in a conspiracy to manufacture and distribute lethally-flawed apparently-counterfeit chargers in order to destroy the market for 3rd-party chargers and lock up all the profits...

  • by JeanCroix (99825) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @12:24PM (#44382419) Journal
    I am shocked!
  • by mpaque (655244) on Thursday July 25, 2013 @02:26PM (#44383781)

    Pardon me for interrupting the usual /. dialogue with something relevant to the original topic, but Ken Shirriff did a couple of teardowns a year ago that point out exactly why the counterfeit chargers are Not Safe. The safety issues revolve around poor isolation practices between the line and USB sides of some USB chargers.

    Major items include
    1) lack of "double insulated" construction in the internal transformer.
    2) parts placement of line and USB side components on a single circuit board such that paths may be readily formed between line and USB sides from moisture, construction errors, or component failure.
    3) inadequate margins between line side and USB side in overall layout of the charger internal components.

    http://www.righto.com/2012/05/apple-iphone-charger-teardown-quality.html [righto.com]

    http://www.righto.com/2012/03/inside-cheap-phone-charger-and-why-you.html [righto.com]

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