Apple seems to have an iPhone 8 battery problem on its hands, and it’s not clear yet whether it’s occurring in just a handful of edge cases or in a larger batch of phones.
Over the past week, reports have been coming out about iPhone 8s that have split apart either on arrival. What appears to be happening is that the battery inside the phone is swelling, bending the front of the phone and separating it from the body of the device. So far, there haven’t been any fires — just ruined phones.
Apple has a short statement on the matter: “We are aware and looking into it.”
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The first report came out of Taiwan, where a woman is said to have found her iPhone swollen. Someone in Japan then posted photos of a split-apart phone on Twitter. And in the days since, there’ve been cases in China, Canada, and Greece.
But after Samsung’s Note 7 fiasco, there’s reason to be concerned about what’s happening here — especially since it’s a battery issue. Batteries shouldn’t be swelling in any number, and it’s not clear what the half-dozen iPhones that are having this problem have in common. While it seems to be rare, there’s obviously good reason to want to know what’s going on.
Jaffe suspects Apple’s executives are “in crisis mode” over the potential damage that battery issues could lead to. But while we’ve seen a few swollen batteries already, he says, it doesn’t mean the problem will necessarily elevate into a Note 7-style crisis with phones starting to produce smoke.
“Swelling is always a precursor when there is a battery fire, but the percentage of actual fires are pretty rare,” Jaffe says. “In the Galaxy Note case, there were probably a couple hundred battery failures of one sort or another, but there were only a handful of fires — so that gives you a sense of the proportion of actual fires.”