by Tom Kaneshige

Apple Secrecy: Exploding iPhones, Hush Money and a Death

Aug 19, 20093 mins
MobileSmall and Medium Business

Apple's notorious secrecy has taken a dark and dangerous turn.

Reports have surfaced that a couple of iPhones and an iPod Touch are exploding—as in boom!

A teenager in France claimed that he was injured after his girlfriend’s iPhone exploded, sending shattered glass toward his eye. An iPhone 3G reportedly burned a hole in the seat of a car in the Netherlands. A man in Liverpool said his daughter’s iPod Touch made a hissing noise and then exploded.

It gets worse. A story in last week’s Sunday Times, Steve Jobs: The Man Who Polished Apple by Bryan Appleyard, served up this amazing tidbit in the Liverpool case:

Ellie Stanborough’s iPod touch went up in a puff of smoke. Her father, Ken, complained, but Apple said he could only have a refund if he promised not to talk. He refused. “They’re putting a restriction on myself, my daughter and Ellie’s mum not to say anything to anyone,” said Ken. “If we inadvertently did say anything… they could take litigation against us. I thought that was absolutely appalling.”

Apple only began looking into reports of exploding iPhones and iPods following a query by the European Commission directorate that oversees consumer safety. It’s a good chance the exploding iPhones and iPod Touch will be traced to a manufacturer of faulty lithium ion batteries, which often is the cause of overheating in electronic products.

Apple told the Commission earlier this week that “these are isolated incidents and that there is not a general problem,” according to a statement issued by Directorate-General for Health and Consumers. An Apple spokesperson told Reuters that the company was aware of the reports but would not comment until receiving more information.

Apple’s notorious secrecy—a marketing ploy to build suspense around new products—has taken a dark and dangerous turn lately. Last month, 25-year-old Sun Danyong, an employee of China-based Foxconn, which manufacturers iPhones, reportedly jumped out of a window and fell 12 floors to his death.

Danyong was responsible for shipping 16 iPhone prototypes to Apple headquarters in Cupertino. One turned up missing—a serious problem in the secret world that Apple fosters. Foxconn reportedly launched a search for the missing unit that led to Danyong’s apartment and a physical confrontation. Danyong committed suicide shortly after. Coincidence? We may never know.

Exploding iPhones? Hush money? And now a suicide? Perhaps Apple should re-think its culture of secrecy before it blows up in its face.

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