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After a User Dies, Apple Warns Against Counterfeit Chargers

timothy posted 1 year,6 days | from the risk-vs-reward dept.

China 457

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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Smart move (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#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).

Re:Smart move (5, Funny)

Tough Love (215404) | 1 year,6 days | (#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 (5, Insightful)

Stormthirst (66538) | 1 year,6 days | (#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 (5, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | 1 year,6 days | (#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 (4, Insightful)

twistedsymphony (956982) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381695)

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.

Re:Smart move (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381795)

The new "lighting" connector is very solid and handy, contrary to micro USB.

Re:Smart move (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381739)

The problem is that the new "lightning" connector didn't pre-date the standard, nor does it support the analog data. It basically just makes you buy their prorietary cables. Yes, you can plug them in either way.

Re:Smart move (1, Informative)

Stormthirst (66538) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381761)

I call bullshit on this. I have a Rio Carbon which was released in 2004 which uses a USB charger as standard.

Re:Smart move (2, Funny)

Type44Q (1233630) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381617)

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 (1)

Stormthirst (66538) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381699)

It's fun to mix it up once in a while.

Re:Smart move (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381757)

What do you think they use to load those butts/asses in the first place?

Re:Smart move (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381681)

Hotel Rooms may not have USB ports built into the walls.

Re:Smart move (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381693)

the part we are talking about, is a USB connection dumbfuck

Re:Smart move (3, Insightful)

Osgeld (1900440) | 1 year,6 days | (#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 (5, Informative)

Alan Shutko (5101) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381571)

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!

Re:Smart move (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381597)

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 (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381727)

Just for fun: Nobody, not even a single person or even animal, has ever been electrocuted and survived in any situation, ever.

Re:Smart move (4, Informative)

Rosyna (80334) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381613)

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:Smart move (2, Insightful)

Tough Love (215404) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381775)

The Apple charger has a standard USB power port.

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

Re:Smart move (0)

sdsucks (1161899) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381675)

Thanks for the reminder of why I never read this place anymore - the idiocy. Think just for a minute, that the counterfeit charger included an AC-DC adaptor... Wow, that opens up a completely new aspect to you?

Jesus fuck. The only thing stupider is that someone actually found your comment "interesting". Can't even imagine the fucking tool that is interested by that.

Re:Smart move (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381751)

What is the charger for an Android phone? Oh right, a standard USB cable. What is the charger for an Apple product?

Half a standard USB cable, and the other half a denser connector. The cable isn't important, though. What matters is the adapter [righto.com] it plugs into, and that's what Apple is claiming.

Long story short, Apple and other brand-name chargers produce fairly well-regulated power that's very unlikely to do things like short out or explode. Cheaper options use cheaper circuits that aren't as well-designed, sometimes with catastrophic consequences.

Re:Smart move (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381397)

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 (1)

jellomizer (103300) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381511)

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 USB charger that doesn't follow USB Specs. Than Apple really should get their butts sued because they are making a misleading product. If I can fit a USB plug in it. It should give me the same power as with any other usb plug.

Re:Smart move (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381615)

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.

Re:Smart move (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381645)

"purchased threw a reputable source"?

Really?

Re:Smart move (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381703)

The whole "if it can fit, it should work" thing never works. Intel made a video adapter that looks identical to PCIe (although some ports can use PCIe as well, but not all). I've also had issues with some PCIe video cards not working with every motherboard with a PCIe port (most likely HP's crappy motherboards were to blame). USB-B will fit rather nicely in an Ethernet port, as if it belongs. PS/2 keyboard and mouse plugs are identical, but only interchangeable on some motherboards. My old Magellan GPS had a standard looking USB cable, but two of the pins were fused together; if it didn't detect the fused pins, it wouldn't charge properly. There's loads more examples of things that will fit, or in some cases are physically identical but still won't work.

Huh. (5, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | 1 year,6 days | (#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. (0)

alen (225700) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381327)

the apple chargers don't just charge. the pins are dynamically assigned, you can connect them into the iphone or ipad any way you want. and they transfer data, unlike the android microUSB ones

Re:Huh. (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381373)

You mean that I can't transfer data with my USB cable?

What kind of Apple fanboy retard are you?

Re:Huh. (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381427)

connect your android phone to the USB in your car and try to play pandora or spotify. i can do it with my iphone, but with my android phones i can only play songs off the internal flash or SD card

Re:Huh. (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381445)

my iphone will connect to my car's USB, i can stream pandora or spotify through the car's stereo and google maps or apple maps will cut into the music and announce the next turn

Re:Huh. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381565)

And it does the same thing over Bluetooth. The cable has nothing to do with it. It's just that the UI on your car (mine, too) was designed around iPhone.

Re:Huh. (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381589)

bluetooth would have cost me $2000

i know someone with a Lexus RX and galaxy s3. and getting it to play music over bluetooth was such a PITA, not worth the trouble

Re:Huh. (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381753)

bluetooth would have cost me $2000

i know someone with a Lexus RX and galaxy s3. and getting it to play music over bluetooth was such a PITA, not worth the trouble

Funny, my wife's Jetta has no issue at all playing music from either of our Android phones, nor the Nexus 7 I got her for her birthday, via Bluetooth.

Maybe Lexus just sucks at Bluetooth... another possibility would be that whoever was trying to set up the Bluetooth connection on the RX had no idea what they were doing.

Re:Huh. (1)

danomac (1032160) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381793)

I had the opposite experience; I've had an iPhone, but my current phone is a Galaxy S3. Using bluetooth, I paired my S3 to my stereo and hit play in the media player and it worked. Tried it with my iPhone multiple times, and while both the iPhone and the stereo said it was connected, the iPhone played through its internal speaker.

I googled this problem and I was not the only one that had this problem.

Re:Huh. (1)

robmv (855035) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381635)

I don't need cables to do that, I stream audio using standard Bluetooth to my car stereo and I only plug the charger if a need it to be charged. For a quick 30 minutes ride on the car, I am sure I can live without charging it

Re:Huh. (1)

blackest_k (761565) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381659)

you leave a cable dangling from your cars usb how quaint. Android uses bluetooth same thing just without the wire. Phones paired with the stereo and switches between using the stereo for hands free and usual mobile mode as i get in and out my car. Amazing isn't it? well not really bog standard feature of android.
     

Re:Huh. (1)

deusx (8442) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381665)

Umm... I play Pandora & Spotify all the time in my car from my Android phone. Navigation cuts into the music with directions, too.

Re:Huh. (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381791)

Android will do that as well. If you mount it as a USB device, it won't, as the storage is available to teh charging device (like your stereo) as a data source, something Apple does not do as they do not support USB storage modes.

Re:Huh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381713)

the apple chargers don't just charge. the pins are dynamically assigned, you can connect them into the iphone or ipad any way you want. and they transfer data, unlike the android microUSB ones

No, no, please, do go on about how micro USB doesn't transfer data. I'll just listen as I transfer files to my Android phone via this micro USB cable.

Re:Huh. (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381729)

My Android is old and was low-end even when it was new. And yet it still transfers data over USB just fine (and the USB cable is much sturdier than most of the Apple ones I've seen).

Re:Huh. (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381453)

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.

Re:Huh. (4, Informative)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | 1 year,6 days | (#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).

Re:Huh. (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381749)

It's not just cell phone chargers. I bought a couple of replacement power adapters for my Thinkpad from East Asia via eBay. Horrible construction, barely performed their advertised function, and surprisingly never caught fire.

Re:Huh. (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381789)

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).

And how exactly do you do that? The certification logos on the charger are going to be worthless; the counterfeiter will just put those on right along with the Apple logo.

Re:Huh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381507)

It happened multiple times, last week a SAMSUNG Galaxy exploded on a girl's pant pocket. The device's battery was non original

Re:Huh. (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381573)

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

Android phones are plastic (1)

mveloso (325617) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381685)

Most Android phones are plastic, a material which doesn't conduct electricity very well.

Re:Huh. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381769)

Some chargers are made by a company that puts their own name on the charger, and carefully designs and tests the charger to make sure it complies with the safety standards. This is fine. (E.g. Belkin does this, and Apple even sells their chargers).

Some chargers are made by con artists that hide their own identity, put the Apple name on the charger, carefully put all the logos on so it looks like it complies with the safety standards, and then put in the cheapest possible charging circuit without caring about how dangerous it is. These are "counterfeit" because they have the Apple name there and/or they're sold as Apple products, but they're not really Apple products. They're also freaking dangerous.

profit (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381295)

apple will profit from this.

Not buying it (0, Troll)

afidel (530433) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381301)

I'm not buying it, how could you possibly screwup a USB charger to the point where it would be lethal? I mean the cables aren't generally thick enough to carry enough 220V current to kill someone before they melt and 5.5V DC certainly isn't going to kill someone.

Re:Not buying it (2)

Ark42 (522144) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381353)

A single AAA battery can be lethal, if you connect each end with something sharp directly inside your veins on each arm, bridging the 1.5v DC (or less) circuit across your heart.

Re:Not buying it (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381663)

Although we don't have detailed reports, there isn't anything on the newswires to indicate that the victim was trying to defibrillate herself with the charger.

Perhaps she was channeling an old episode of McGyver?

Re:Not buying it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381745)

That is not really relevant. Most people don't have sharp things directly inside their veins on each arm while talking on their phone AFAICT. ANYTHING can be lethal, but context is important.

Re:Not buying it (-1, Troll)

jedidiah (1196) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381409)

Someone else was blithering about all of the bells and whistles of an Apple charger. Perhaps Apple has just created an engineering failure here out of unnecessary added complexity.

They have made their devices so complex that they fail in strange and lethal ways.

Re:Not buying it (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381411)

Those wires can easily carry 1A which at 220V is more than enough to kill you. The exposed metal bits of a device are often connected to a shield ground, and if that "ground" is actually at 220V line potential then it would be easy to kill someone.

Re:Not buying it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381439)

Sounds like one side of the AC line was connected to the phone ground. There would be no current flow unless connected to earth ground, as it might be through a person.

Re:Not buying it (5, Informative)

MBCook (132727) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381457)

No one is being killed by the 5v on the USB bus. The problem is the counterfeit chargers are often poorly designed and can fail in a way that shorts the USB cable to the AC power.

There was an excellent teardown & analysis [righto.com] of a cheap charger last year that pointed out serious safety issues.

Re:Not buying it (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381705)

There are a lot of teardowns of cheap chargers on youtube It's practically a meme at this point.

Many of them are shockingly awful and have very dangerous designs. Not adequately isolating the mains lines from the output voltage can easily lead to killing someone. They almost all have completely inadequate performance characteristics on the output. Noise, ripple, voltage drop that produces nowhere near 5 volts at any significant load.

Official, legit ones are usually very good. Apple and Blackberry are noted to have particularly well built and well designed chargers.

Re:Not buying it (2)

johnw (3725) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381469)

The cable certainly is thick enough for a lethal current at 220V, provided it's applied in the right place. It's easy to conceive of a badly made charger which produces 5.5V between two of its conductors, but at 220V from earth, due to poor isolation. Then all the victim needs to do is earth another part of his or her body and away you go.

Re:Not buying it (4, Informative)

rsmith-mac (639075) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381481)

Take a look at a teardown of a fake charger [youtube.com] and you'll understand why it can be lethal. The creepage distances in particular are atrocious.

Re:Not buying it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381543)

Ignorance is bliss, it seems.

It's not the voltage, it's the current that matters. And where the current flows is also important. It's commonly reported that 30 mA AC is a lethal current. If there is inadequate (or no) isolation on the power supply and the woman was touching some grounded metal device, it's completely conceivable that a lethal current could flow from the 220 V power mains through an improperly designed charger through her body to ground.

Re:Not buying it (4, Funny)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381623)

Current shmurrent. She died because she wasn't holding it right.

Re:Not buying it (3, Informative)

hawguy (1600213) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381545)

I'm not buying it, how could you possibly screwup a USB charger to the point where it would be lethal? I mean the cables aren't generally thick enough to carry enough 220V current to kill someone before they melt and 5.5V DC certainly isn't going to kill someone.

It only takes 100mA - 200mA [ohio-state.edu] of current to kill someone, and every USB cable is designed to carry at least 500mA since the USB spec says that USB hosts can supply up to 500mA of current (and many plug-in chargers exceed that). So it's certainly feasible that a USB cable can carry enough current to kill someone. It's not the voltage the determines the size of the conductor, it's the current.

The USB cable wires may not have sufficient insulation to protect against 220VAC (peak voltage is higher, around 310V if I remember correctly), but that's the point -- 220VAC is not supposed to be supplied to a USB device. But even if it's not certified for the voltage it seems that the individual conductor insulation combined with the plastic outer sleeve of the USB cable would seem to provide at least enough isolation, I think most plastics used for insulation have around 500 - 1000V/mil (1/1000th of an inch) of breakdown voltage.

I'm surprised that a phone doesn't have at least 220VAC of isolation between the USB power and the phone case. Is this typical in phones?

Re:Not buying it (1)

Shompol (1690084) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381561)

Copper (steel?) wires do not melt easily. If current @ 220V flows through your skull the brain is guaranteed to melt much sooner. Do not count on wires to be a life-saving insulator!
According to a US NAVY story about and electrician who pierced his skin with a volmeter, 5.5V can kill you, but it is more likely that the charger shorted 220 to the metal antennae bezel.

Re:Not buying it (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381601)

I'm not buying it, how could you possibly screwup a USB charger to the point where it would be lethal? I mean the cables aren't generally thick enough to carry enough 220V current to kill someone before they melt and 5.5V DC certainly isn't going to kill someone.

I suspect it wasn't the connecting cable where the fire occurred, but the small box that plugs into the electrical outlet. This box presumably contains components to convert AC to DC power, and if it was made very cheaply and in disregard of safety standards, it could easily cause a fire.

Re:Not buying it (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381629)

simple, they did not put in route features on the ac part of the board, these are grooves milled into the PCB so that high voltage wont flash over to other parts of the board. They also put their traces way too close so you might have 0.254mm isolating AC from DC

and it only takes a few 10's of millamps to kill you, and these cables are more than capible of handling 500 -1000 millamps ... usually the low voltage doesnt have enough punch to break the resistance of your skin, but 220 sure as fuck does

one hand on a hot line, other on ground, your toast

Re:Not buying it (1)

Plumpaquatsch (2701653) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381679)

I'm not buying it, how could you possibly screwup a USB charger to the point where it would be lethal? I mean the cables aren't generally thick enough to carry enough 220V current to kill someone before they melt and 5.5V DC certainly isn't going to kill someone.

Well, having it designed by someone like you should make it a killer.

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

According to reports, a woman in China was tragically electrocuted using her iPhone while it was charging. This seems technically plausible to me if she were using a cheap or counterfeit charger like I describe below. There's 340 volts DC inside the charger, which is enough to kill. In a cheap charger, there can be less than a millimeter separating this voltage from the output, a fraction of the recommended safe distance. These charger sometimes short out (picture), which could send lethal voltage through the USB cable. If the user closes the circuit by standing on a damp floor or touching a grounded metal surface, electrocution is a possibility. If moisture condenses in the charger (e.g. in a humid bathroom), shorting becomes even more likely. Genuine Apple chargers (and other brand-name chargers) follow strict safety regulations (teardown) so I would be surprised if this electrocution happened with a name-brand charger. Since counterfeits look just like real chargers, I'll wait for an expert to determine if a genuine Apple charger was involved or not. I've read suggestions that the house wiring might have been to blame, but since chargers are typically ungrounded I don't see how faulty house wiring would play a role. I should point out that since there are few details at this point, this is all speculation; it's possible the phone and charger weren't involved at all.

Re:Not buying it (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381723)

A fake one could be made any number of ways that could be potentially dangerous, If it's made with an autotransformer, it would be possible to have the "hot" side of the AC line connected directly to one or the other output contact. A slightly more sophisticated system has the AC line isolated only by a single capacitor, if the capacitor shorts or becomes leaky, some fraction of line voltage appears on the output. Many old tube radios were made with similar design, and if you touch any metal including the mounting screws holding it in the case, it can shock you, and if well-grounded, kill you. Millions of them were made this way, only a few people were ever hurt/killed.

      If it's a "chopper" style power supply, a failure could put anything up to 311 volts on the output.

        The wire is plenty adequate to pass lethal current, that's as little as 20 ma. Whether it is actually fatal depends on how well-grounded you are when you touch it.

How? (-1, Troll)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381315)

How is this possible?
No one is going to die by having 5volts applied to their face. Are we sure this is not from the chinese version of the Onion?

Re:How? (4, Informative)

Rosyna (80334) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381499)

No one is going to die by having 5volts applied to their face.

But they do die from having 220 volts applied to their face.

The issue is that the counterfeit chargers short and deliver the mains directly to the head. It doesn't matter what electronic device is involved. hell, doesn't matter if any electronic device is connected to the end of the other side of the USB cable when the circuit is completed.

Re:How? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381741)

Wouldn't the USB cable catch fire first?

Re:How? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381609)

I don't understand how your comment is modded insightful.

Think about the size of these chargers, the AC/DC components are not far apart at all. In a cheap, POS charger it would not be inconceivable for something to crack, break, shift, or otherwise create a short between the AC input to the DC output...running direct to the phone. So yes, I'm pretty sure you could die with 110/240V directly to your face.

Re:How? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381649)

It's possible by having the charger fail in such a way that it's not 5 volts any more -- or that the 5-volt pair is at a substantial voltage relative to earth ground.

Re:How? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381719)

But a cheap USB cable is not going to carry 220v very far. The cable will likely burnup first.

The Quick EE Version (Re:How?) (1)

EXTomar (78739) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381773)

Relying on vague memory of EE classes of 15 years ago: A badly built power transformer wouldn't shock someone with the transform voltage but the direct line. Poorly constructed circuits short from melting stuff contacting metal they shouldn't. If the circuit shorts and there are no GFI or fuses or other safety features, the power lines instead of being 12V DC or 5V DC or whatever are now 120V AC.

Safety features like fuses and GFI cost money where if one is seeking to make a fast buck on knock offs throwing out a few of them will make it even more profitable.

I have a non-apple charger for my MacBook... (1)

ninjagin (631183) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381339)

... 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.

Re:I have a non-apple charger for my MacBook... (1)

alen (225700) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381401)

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

and risking to damage a computer that costs over $1000

Re:I have a non-apple charger for my MacBook... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381627)

Yup, penny-wise, pound-foolish.

Re:I have a non-apple charger for my MacBook... (1)

earlzdotnet (2788729) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381451)

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-brand chargers that the touch screen messes up)

I'm sure Apple make a good margin off their chargers, but you can only reduce the cost so much before you have to reduce quality and safety as well

Re:I have a non-apple charger for my MacBook... (1)

mlts (1038732) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381535)

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, and don't want to fire up a generator or the car's engine.

I wouldn't say that Apple makes the only safe chargers out there, otherwise there would be piles of dead Android users and lots of litigation due to that.

Re:I have a non-apple charger for my MacBook... (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381763)

I have a real one, and it does the same thing. In fact all of them I have had (including the old flying saucer style from the TiBook era) do that. It's the inrush current, not a defect.

     

I've been zapped... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381351)

Using my official iPad charger charing my iPhone 4S while using the apple noise blocking headphones. Maybe the charger should be grounded.....

Nice deflection! (-1, Flamebait)

blackicye (760472) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381365)

Way to go Apple!

Allege that the alleged victim was using a third party charger, and insert marketing for bonus points!

Re:Nice deflection! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381755)

Don't you have a bridge to crawl back under? The Google fanboy trolls have become way worse than the Apple ones were 3-5 years ago...

Not impossible with some legitimate chargers. (3, Insightful)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381391)

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.

Re:Not impossible with some legitimate chargers. (2)

i kan reed (749298) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381493)

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.

Re:Not impossible with some legitimate chargers. (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381651)

shocking and cooking you are two totally different things

On first glance at the headline... (0)

taiwanjohn (103839) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381471)

I was expecting a story about credit card fraud. Not that this is any better...

Counterfeit Charges (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381483)

I accidentally read counterfeit charges and though Apple wanted to prevent people from filing lawsuits or something.

Faulty charger and metal casing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381513)

A faulty charger can add the mains voltage to the USB voltage. A connected device will still charge.
With an Android device you will not notice it as the device has a plastic casing. With an Apple device you have a metal casing connected to the USB connector. Grab this with wet hands and you get electrocuted.

So saving a few bucks on the charger is definitely not the way to go. There are Youtube videos showing how el-cheapo charger ignore any safety standards.

"vary widely in terms of safety and quality" (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381549)

Especially in China.

Wait a minute... (4, Funny)

holophrastic (221104) | 1 year,6 days | (#44381555)

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

This is possible, and I have experienced it (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381671)

I have an MS degree in electrical engineering (not that it matters) and I have had a personal experience with a bad charger design (generic USB charger in this case with an Android phone).

The issue is that it was not a floating ground design and it was not a three prong plug. In short, the ground being sent to the phone is one of the legs of the 120v line. In my case, I had the phones headphone out connected to a cable to run into a stereo receiver. The key here is that the ground line was exposed and it brushed against my skin while I was holding a properly grounded device. I got to feel what 120v feels like. Luckily for me, it was just brushing against my skin, and my connection to ground was not perfect.

Anyway, I now have switched to three prong usb chargers, and I am glad Apple is making this a more publicly known issue.

Made in USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381697)

Yes the charger was counterfeit, it was actually made in USA.

Genuine Apple parts never go wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381701)

remember the explding batteries a while back?

Devilish marketing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#44381737)

They profit from everything: "Do not buy third party accessories, they'll kill you; buy ours and you won't die."

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