These days, our mobile phones are an essential part of our daily lives, and are so much more than a telephone to call someone. We take photo’s, link up with friends and family via social media, check our diary and plan the months ahead on the calendar, see what the weather will be doing in a few days’ time, catch up on the news, find the destination for our next meeting, record voice notes, watch the latest movie and more.
But is your mobile phone, in addition to being vital piece of equipment, a possible hazard to your safety? Could it blow up and start a fire in your home, your vehicle?
According to pcmag.com, “the average smartphone is unlikely to explode but it does happen”. Generally, the problem is not with the phone but with the phone charger or the lithium-ion battery that powers the device. These batteries contain a careful balance of positive and negative electrodes to allow for recharging. If the battery is damaged in some way, such as being exposed to excessive heat or the casing of the battery is compromised, this chemical balance is affected, causing the inner components of the battery to break down and create a volatile reaction that can lead to an explosion or fire.
Overheating of the battery and other problems
Overheating may occur if the phone is charged for longer than necessary (such as overnight), using the phone for calls while it is charging, or if the phone is charged in very hot temperatures, such as inside a car on a hot day. The interior of a closed vehicle in direct sunlight rises from 26 degrees to 38 degrees in just five minutes, while 28 degrees becomes a life-threatening 45 degrees in eight minutes (which is why children and pets should NEVER be left in a vehicle). Even if standing in the shade, an open vehicle in 28 degree heat will reach an interior temperature of 31 degrees in less than ten minutes.
Another issue is that lithium-ion batteries degrade with age and recharging, causing them to swell, resulting in bulging screens or back panels. The more you charge your phone, the faster this deterioration will occur.
If you frequently drop your phone – be careful. The impact of falling may affect the battery components, resulting in damaged terminals or protective casing.
Faulty or incorrect chargers are also a major cause of exploding mobile phones. Only ever use the charger that came with the phone. It will have the appropriate current or voltage for the model phone – using the incorrect one will speed up battery deterioration and increase the risk of seeing your phone (and vehicle or home) go up in flames!
What to look out for….
Bulging screens and back panels.
A phone quickly losing power despite not being used excessively.
A phone that gets very hot very quickly.
Never use fake, cheap or counterfeit chargers.
Check that your charger is in good condition. Get a replacement if it has exposed wires or if there is cracking on the outer casing as damage like this may increase the risk of an electrical fault occurring.
Don’t let your phone fall to below 30% charge too often as it puts strain on the battery, and instead of always charging it to 100%, aim for 80% which lithium-ion batteries prefer.
Keep your phone away from heat and direct sunlight.
Never cover the phone while charging or it may overheat.
Keep your phone from working too hard: don’t use it while charging; turn off data to let it ‘rest’.
If your phone acts strangely after being dropped, take it immediately to a service provider to get it checked.
NEVER leave your phone charging for long periods without checking on it.
Charge your phone away from potentially flammable materials such as curtains and bedding.
Finally, never overload a socket while charging. While loadshedding tends to make us all rush to recharge as soon as we have power, be careful – and this advice doesn’t only apply to charging mobile phones but relates to any electrical device. It’s safe to use one extension cable in a double plug socket, but it would be dangerous to plug one extension cable into another or to have two extension cords plugged into one double socket.