An Apple store in Amsterdam’s Leidseplein square was briefly evacuated after an explosion. No, it wasn’t terrorism. In fact, its believed that the explosion was a result of an overheating iPad battery. That’s kind of scary, isn’t it? I mean, I say that as I’ve noticed my MacBook seeming a little hot these last couple of days. The fire was quickly put out by Apple staff who put the device into a container with sand. That’s an interesting way to put out a fire, and one that I hadn’t necessarily thought of. It’s also interesting that they had the sand on hand to extinguish this device. Maybe they already knew that this was a possibility?
The fire department was called and the store was evacuated as a precautionary measure. However, three people who were present during the incident had to be treated for respiratory issues. Which speaks volumes to the impact of the explosion. It’s been noted that unrelated issues with iPhone batteries have resulted in “thermal events” in both Switzerland and Spain this year. During one of the incidents, one person suffered minor burns and six others also received treatment for what was likely smoke inhalation.
Apple, like most major manufacturers, uses rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in their devices. Because they’re compact in size they’re capable of holding a lot of energy. However, lithium-ion batteries are prone to exploding if the thin, internal polypropylene layer that keeps electrodes from touching is breached or the flammable electrolyte inside gets too hot, situations that can be the result of production error, damage, design flaws, off-brand chargers, or just bad luck. Apple has had some problems with batteries – such as the recent iPhone throttling situation and expanding MacBook batteries, but fires haven’t generally been the result of any of these.
Thankfully, no one was seriously injured in the incident, but much more serious safety issues have been reported for years at Apple’s Chinese suppliers like Foxconn. Those issues include explosions, fires, and chemical exposure. According to the New York Times and Business Insider, abusive and grueling labor practices at facilities owned by Foxconn have been reported to continue through this year.
This doesn’t really look good for Apple. might remember a few months back that they announced that they had discovered a “limited number” of MacBook Pro laptops suffered from a potentially faulty component that can cause the battery to expand. Of course, Apple offered free replacement batteries for those affected. Apple also announced that it was going to extend the warranty on some of the Apple Watch Series 2 devices after it was discovered that there were issues with the battery expanding.
But why does this keep happening? Is this a big deal? I think the short answer is yes. This is a big deal, and they need to figure out what’s happening. Especially when these devices can set someone back a great deal. Sure the Watches aren’t as expensive as an iPhone, an iPad or a MacBook, but that doesn’t make a difference. Regardless, this is an issue for those who are manufacturing the devices, as well as those consumers who purchase them.