by Tom Kaneshige

Bear Grylls on How to Turn Your iPhone Into a Survival Tool

Dec 02, 20113 mins
Consumer ElectronicsPhysical SecuritySmartphones

Ever seen an iPhone turn red-hot and emit plumes of smoke? Well, it happened recently on an Australian airline. Just puncture the battery and you may find yourself with your own smoking iPhone, according to survival expert Bear Grylls.

Last night, I watched a rerun of the survival show Man vs. Wild starring Bear Grylls. He was showing how to start a fire using a mobile phone. The phone was waterlogged and far from a cell tower, of course, because simply calling a rescue team wouldn’t be much of a show.

Grylls stuck his knife into the battery, and as soon as the lithium touched the air, the whole thing began to smoke wildly. I immediately thought of Apple.

This week, an iPhone 4 started glowing red and emitting dense smoke aboard an Australian airline. But flight attendants quickly extinguished the phone.

Truth is, though, any phone with a large lithium battery that gets punctured will start to smoke (as Grylls demonstrated).The warning is stamped right on the iPhone’s battery: “WARNING. Potential for fire or burning. Do not disassemble, puncture, crush, heat, or burn.”

“Phones explode all the time,” says Kyle Wiens of iFixit, a website that provides free repair manuals and advice forums.

Of course, you can’t read the warning unless you unscrew Apple’s tamper-proof Pentalobular screws and remove the back panel glass. The geeks at iFixit, however, recently released a transparent back glass panel for the iPhone 4S ($29.95).

Now you can see what Apple has got cooking inside. After all, Steve Jobs believed a true craftsman cared about all facets of the work, even those most people can’t see.

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.” -Steve Jobs

(Note: The puncture point in the damaged iPhone in the first image is in the heart of the lithium battery, as shown in the second image.)

I’m not qualified to judge whether or not the iPhone 4S’s internal design is a work of art. But after watching Grylls show off his survival skills, I now know how to turn a work of art into fire. Check it out.