Apple Confirms Reports of iPhone 8s Splitting Open While Charging

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The iPhone 8 has been out for barely a week, but we’re already seeing a pair of odd reports about the device, in two cases–one in Japan, and one in Taiwan. In one case, the user was charging the phone when she reports it suddenly snapped apart. In the other, a woman in Japan received her new phone, only to discover it had separated in transit. Both devices appear to be iPhone 8 Plusses, and both snapped apart in similiar places, although the Japanese device may have had some separation on both sides. The Japanese phone is shown in the feature image above, while the Chinese phone is below:

ChinesePhoneSplit

PCMag reports the Taiwanese phone split apart while charging and had only been hooked up for about three minutes. The owner was using the official Apple adapter and cord that had come with the phone, while the Japanese device arrived in its current condition. Apple is already investigating the situation and has received the Taiwanese device for analysis, according to the report.

Some sites have described this as an explosion, but that’s not really the appropriate term for what’s happening here. “Explosion” doesn’t have to mean that anything caught fire or burned; the word is broadly defined as “a large-scale, rapid, or spectacular expansion.” This is why Samsung’s washing machine problem last year could be fairly characterized as an explosion (the washing machines disintegrated in spectacular and dangerous fashion) as could the Note 7 (whose batteries literally ignited). If Apple turns out to have the same kind of flaw the Note 7 did, that would also be fairly characterized by an explosion.

There are two basic reasons why this could be happening. One is that the glue being used to hold the phone together is weak or improperly applied. In this case, even a small amount of jostling or a dropped box could be enough to pop an unlucky phone apart. Presumably this would only impact a small number of phones, since if everyone was seeing the problem, we’d know by now. If it’s just a matter of adhesive, that’s probably a small fix.

The less-good alternative is this is the result of the battery swelling inside the phone. While that’s decidedly non-ideal, there are always going to be a few devices with defective components–it’s pretty much inevitable when you buy a product as complex as a phone, some of them are going to have issues out of the box. People may also be more likely to post screenshots or talk about potential defects now than they were a year ago–Samsung’s extremely high-profile Galaxy Note 7 recall could encourage more people to report these kinds of issues publicly.

So those are the two main possibilities. But an even-less-good alternative is something is wrong with Apple’s battery chemistry, just as something went wrong with Samsung’s a year ago. This wouldn’t be a good time for Apple to have that happen, given that the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are already being portrayed as the ugly stepsisters to Cinderella at the ball by pretty much every website that reviews them. The only difference is that in this case, they aren’t absolutely ugly so much as they’re portrayed as homely by comparison to the iPhone X. But Apple needs at least some of its customers to compare the iPhone X against the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus and say: “I like the less expensive one more,” at least, if the rumors of supply issues are remotely true.

No matter what the problem is, we’ll be able to see if it’s widespread or not in fairly short order. Samsung wasn’t able to sweep dozens of reports about dead Galaxy Note 7’s under the rug, and if iPhones start failing en masse Apple won’t be able to keep a lid on it, either.

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