Are Knockoff IPhone Chargers Electrocuting People?

A Chinese woman who allegedly died after a shock received via her charging iPhone may have been using an unauthorized third-party charger.

Last week a 23-year-old Chinese woman was killed allegedly via an electric shock that came from her iPhone, which was plugged in and charging. Apple said it would help Chinese authorities investigate the incident. Ma Ailun was using an iPhone 4, and fresh information on the case suggests that her phone was most likely plugged into an unauthorized third-party charger, which may have been the source of the shock. Also this week, a Chinese man reportedly went into a coma after being shocked while plugging his iPhone 4 in.

According to the South China Morning Post, unauthorized chargers can be made with cheap components, and are simply not designed to meet rigorous safety standards. Apple complies with international safety standards for its own phone charger designs. The current theory is that an unauthorized charger, lacking the proper electrical and thermal protection, broke down (possibly through overheating) and sent mains voltage through the charger cable to the iPhone in the woman's hands. In late 2012, a British man suffered a non-fatal electric shock when he bought a knockoff Apple iPhone charger that exploded, presumably under similar circumstances.

Apple has previously suffered its own charger failures when early editions of its tiny iPhone charger unit designed for the U.S. market could be physically broken in such a way they left the metal tines still plugged into the wall outlet, potentially enabling electric shocks. The company recalled the units and redesigned them to prevent this type of accident.

[Image: Flickr user Håkan Dahlström]

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  • Ruel

    C'mon!  What kind of write-up is this?!  Was the Chinese guy holding the charger when he got electrocuted?  He wasn't.  He was holding the Apple iPhone!  They changed the actual story.  Duh. Common Sense.  Use your fr3@kin' head guys - this is another cover-up released by CrApple:  to keep the so-called "immaculate" image of its products.  Look deeper!

  • SpaceCadet

    Apple is at fault for this.
    They have created proprietary chargers that are overpriced.
    Whenever you create an opportunity by price gouging, knock offs will follow.
    If Apple used a standardized micro-usb port on their phones, everyone would be happy and there would not be cheap imitations.  

    I have several knock offs because I want a longer cord than apple supplies.
    Yes, they are poor quality, but i get them 5 at a time for $5 each.

    Funny, but as I sit here, my wife is telling me her iPad does not charge and the cable is breaking.
    Time to reorder from China.

  • iPhone5 user

    A friend of mine works at Apple and the problem has gotten so bad that Apple is even willing to take back the fake cables and replace them with authentic Apple cables. I guess they don't want to be at fault in any way, but I think that's good on Apple's part. (This is at least his store in Toronto.)

  • rizqidjamaluddin

    The issue isn't at the USB-to-proprietary-plug, it's the outlet-to-USB unit. One can argue about the proprietary cable, but that part was irrelevant in this case (as far as we know, anyway).

    USB has a specific set of rules on how to use it to charge, and iPhones (and all other devices that accept USB charging) are built to be compatible with this. If something goes wrong, it'll be in the USB power source, not the cable.

  • ikkf

    Can't say I blame anyone for using third-party chargers. Authentic chargers run at $50 apiece, which is ridiculous. 

  • deV14nt

    So the phone is overpriced by 50-100% and the charger is overpriced by over 400%. Your point?