Dying in your sleep is often thought of as a peaceful way to go. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen for everyone.
Alua Asetkyzy Abzalbek, a 14-year-old girl from Bastobe, Kazakhstan, died last month after leaving her phone on her pillow while listening to music. (1) The girl fell asleep while the phone – connected to a nearby power socket – exploded due to a battery malfunction. Alua reportedly died instantly after severe trauma to her head. However, her family didn’t find out until the next morning as the explosion was just powerful enough to cause lethal damage but not powerful enough to wake them up. The brand of the phone hasn’t been shared.
Alua’s close friend, Ayazhan Dolasheva, 15, commented on social media:
“I still cannot believe it. You were the best. We have been together since childhood. It is so hard for me without you. I miss you so much. You have left me forever.”
A series of exploding phones…
Unfortunately, Alua’s death is not the only case of exploding smartphone batteries in recent times. Earlier this year, an Indian man’s phone exploded in his pocket while the man was being filmed on CCTV. (2) The man survived with minor damage to his leg and quickly left the scene in fear of further explosions, leaving the phone on the floor.
Last year, a woman in Shanghai had her phone explode on the dashboard of her car while she was driving. Fortunately, she survived as well, although barely as she was forced to keep driving because she was in the middle of ongoing traffic. It’s noteworthy that her phone’s battery was recently changed in a repair shop – the Hoho Fast. The shop refused to take responsibility for the incident and simply offered the woman a new battery.
The woman’s husband commented emotionally:
“She was driving alone; no one touched the phone. It just suddenly blew up. She wasn’t charging or even using it at the time. When we bought the battery from Hoho Fast in February, they told us it was genuine. They’re refusing to take further responsibility and won’t compensate us. We asked them for a new phone. They say they can only give us a second-hand one. It’s like they’re squeezing us like a tube of toothpaste. They’ll squeeze us until we run out of patience and give up; then the case is closed for them.” (3)
What causes phones to explode?
While the brands and the models of the phones for these incidents are different, the cause is usually the same – a faulty battery. More accurately – the separators in the phones’ batteries that are meant to prevent the electrodes from connecting. Once the separators malfunction and allow the electrodes of the battery to connect – the explosion is inevitable. This is the same problem that plagued the infamous Samsung Galaxy Note 7 in 2016. (4)
How to prevent exploding phones
Fortunately, this is a rare problem as the lithium batteries in modern smartphones have a lot of precautions for this exact problem. The main issue to look out for is battery overheating as that’s what commonly leads to faulty battery separators. (5)
Here are some guidelines you might want to follow:
- Keep the phone from direct sunlight or hot temperatures in general.
- Remove the phone’s case when charging to prevent overheating.
- Remove the phone from enclosed spaces that might trap heat when charging it.
- Don’t get your phone wet.
- Don’t use knockoff chargers or batteries.
- Inspect your phone’s battery every once in a while for any visible damage, swelling, or other irregularities.