Man blames third-degree burns on exploding iPhone

Technically Incorrect: A New Jersey man says that he is unable to work after his iPhone 5C emitted a popping noise and caused a burning sensation in his pocket.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

Erik Johnson shows the area of his leg that suffered burns. WABC-TV screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

On Valentine's Day, Erik Johnson's iPhone 5C was aflame, but not with love.

That, at least, is his reported version of what happened when he sustained severe burns on his leg.

Johnson, from Long Island, had just arrived at his cousin's wake. And then, as he told WABC-TV last week: "I had the phone in my pocket, simple little gesture, bent over to get keys and all I heard was pop. Sssssh smoke coming out."

That must have been a surprise. However, the pain only began there. He said: "I was literally jumping up and down trying to get the phone out of my pocket, but I think the phone melted my pockets shut so I couldn't get into it and I had to rip my pants off and throw the pants to the side. A couple of people actually said they could smell my body burning."

Johnson reportedly spent 10 days in a burn unit. He had second- and third-degree burns on the inside of his thigh.

He compared the sensation to that of "branding a bull or something."

This isn't the first time an iPhone or other smartphone has exploded. Phones sometimes spontaneously combust. They've been known to explode while charging. They've even been blamed for burning a house down.

The culprit is sometimes said to be a faulty battery. It also transpires that people use chargers that fell off the back of a dubious truck. In this case, Johnson insists he used an Apple cable.

Apple told WABC-TV that it is investigating. I have contacted the company to ask whether it has reached any conclusions. I will update, should I hear.

Johnson says he just wants his leg back. Perhaps he wants a little more than that. CBS New York reports that he is looking into suing Apple.

The damaged phone. WABC-TV screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET