- iPhone 4 exploded and caught fire in an Ohio home while charging in the middle of the night.
- Resident Brian Leisgang and his wife have handed out old iPhones to their children for use.
- It’s rare for old iPhones to catch fire, although normal wear and tear and faulty cables make it possible.
Old technology dies hard, at least for one family in Ohio whose charged iPhone 4 exploded and caught fire while they were sleeping.
Brian Lesgang, who lives with his wife Jennifer and their five children, told Insider that they had no idea there was a fire until the next morning when his son noticed the phone appeared damaged.
Leisgang saw small pieces of the phone scattered across the kitchen countertop near the outlet where the phone was attached to a blanket of black soot. The couple decided to check the home video, and it showed that the iPhone caught fire, though the fire quickly died down.
“It’s really scary watching this video from our kitchen because a lot of our kids sleep with this same phone charging in their bed at night or on their bedside table,” Lesgang said.
Lesgang said that although the family — as well as the house — was safe, the fire could have been a disaster.
Their work surface was usually covered with their children’s “textbooks and homework sheets”, which would otherwise catch fire. The kitchen is also right below their children’s bedrooms.
“We were very lucky to avoid a house fire,” Lesgang said Jan. 9 on Facebook about the incident.
Older iPhones may not always be safe to charge
The phone explosion highlights the potential dangers of shipping old iPhones, something the couple hadn’t considered before handing them over to their children.
“There was no mention from Apple when we purchased the product that it would be a fire hazard after many years of use,” Leisgang said. “And to be honest, letting our kids use and charge the phone never crossed my mind as a potential danger.”
Apple did not respond to Insider’s request for comment prior to publication, though Apple’s public iPhone safety guide provides ways to reduce risk risks, including the proper way to charge it and signs that the phone needs to be replaced or repaired.
Wear and a damaged charger can lead to a phone fire, although it is not common
Thomas Fadol, senior director of operations for iPhone repair service Asurion Tech Repair and Solutions, told Insider that older iPhones exploding “are not very common” and that it “requires a ‘perfect storm’ of problems for a phone to heat up to the point of putting out a fire.”
But the iPhone 4 is now about 13 years old, and older phones may be at risk of fire “due to a combination of natural wear and tear on internal components,” along with “using an older charger,” Fadell said.
It’s also possible, he said, that the charger was damaged, disrupting the flow of electricity to the phone and causing a surge.
“If you are using a phone that is more than five years old, it is best to have both the phone and the charger checked by a professional to ensure the integrity of the main components,” Faddoul said.
Apple responds to the family, describing the phone as “outdated”.
Lesgang said his wife contacted Apple about the incident, but found the company’s responses “unacceptable”.
She was told that Apple did not expect customers to use its products after seven years and described the phone in question as “antique”.
“What I don’t think Apple realizes is that hundreds of thousands of families don’t trade in their old iPhones and iPads, and keep them for their kids to use at home,” he said.
However, Lesgang said that he and his wife’s view of vintage technology has “definitely changed since the accident” and that they are both more aware of the electronics they let their children use. However, they said Apple should make the public aware of the potential danger.
“I really think Apple should take some responsibility for this very real danger and at least create more awareness,” Lesgang said.
“I’m afraid if this happens to us, it could happen to anyone and the next person might not be as lucky as our family escaping from a possible house fire and injury to our children.”