It’s common for people to charge their devices while they sleep, but last week the activity proved dangerous for a 13-year-old girl in North Texas. The girl had plugged in her Samsung Galaxy S4 before going to sleep, when she woke up a few hours later to the smell of something burning. After searching for the source of the smell, she found that her cell phone had been wedged under her pillow as it charged. The underside of her pillow was scorched, and the phone had been totally melted.
“We have a reasonable expectation that the products we buy are going to be safe,” the girl’s father said to FOX 4 news. He
claimed the phone overheated, which caused the battery to swell and start a fire. According to a representative for Samsung, the battery in the Galaxy phone was an aftermarket replacement, which could have contributed to the problem.
Samsung also notes that the charging phone was smothered by a pillow, which restricted airflow and could have cause the burning. The manufacturer specifically warns against this in the device’s instructions. However, Samsung states that they will still replace the girl’s phone, pillow, and mattress.
“Samsung takes product quality and customer safety very seriously,” a Samsung representative said. “We have offered the customer a new device, and we are working to retrieve the product so that we can investigate what happened. We strongly advise all customers follow the guidelines of CTIA for care and handling wireless batteries. Additionally, our user manuals warn customers that phones must have adequate ventilation and airflow and should not be covered with material such as bedding.”
A similar story preceded the case in Texas, alleges one reddit user. This Galaxy S4 owner also claims he woke up in the night to his phone smoldering. He claims the phone was smoldering, and the power cord melted into the phone, even though he was using the original battery and charger. Despite being told by Samsung that he would receive a replacement, he claimed to still be waiting a month later.
Of this incident, Samsung stated, “We respond to and investigate all consumer inquiries and work to resolve complaints to consumers’ satisfaction. We have been in touch with the consumer and are working to replace their device.”
Though Samsung upholds that third-party replacement batteries and poorly ventilated charging areas are to blame for phone fires, Samsung phones are not the only ones which are liable to overheat. There have also been reports of Apple iPhones overheating and burning up.
Several iPhone 4 fires were documented in 2011 and 2012, when one woman claims she woke up to “popping and sizzling” when her charging iPhone overheated in her sleep. However, the woman claims Apple was not as accommodating as Samsung, calling the results of her incident as a “classic corporate runaround,” without Apple offering to replace the phone.
The iPhone 4 incident also was attributed to faulty third-party batteries. Consumer Reports published an investigation last year, which outlines proper phone handling for avoiding mobile device battery overheating. The piece recommends staying away from low-quality, aftermarket replacement batteries, keeping phone batteries out of the heat, and allowing charging devices proper ventilation.