How to Prevent Your Phone from Exploding

Posted by Jeremy Chew
February 10, 2017

Self-Published

The last thing anyone would need with a daily necessity is having it explode, and yet that is what’s been happening with everyone’s most desired “necessity” – smartphones. Or at least it has been happening with the Samsung Galaxy Note7. The Samsung Galaxy Note7 is an almost perfect smartphone. The phablet from the South Korean manufacturer has the speediest performance of any smartphones and is one of the most well-built smartphones.

All of that, until it started exploding all over the world on people’s desks and pockets, leading to Samsung starting a global recall of the Note7 smartphone. People who opted in for the recall has the choice of getting another Note7 replacement (without the risk of explosion), another Samsung smartphone, or a full refund. If you have a Note7 smartphone and you have yet to replace it, you best be on your way now!

But what causes these smartphones to explode? The Note7’s catastrophe or the many isolated incidents throughout every year with different smartphones of different brands – what causes the explosions? A simple one: What has the most energy condensed into a smartphone? The very battery itself.

Preventing the Dreaded Smartphone Explosions

A lot of people who use smartphones tend to overlook the fact that batteries contain electrical energy that are acquired from wall outlets or power banks. And we all know that electricity is extremely dangerous! That is why it is important how we charge our smartphones and what we charge it with to ensure safe charging.

Why the Batteries Explode

Smartphone batteries these days are made up of lithium-ions, and inside of these batteries are two electrical conductors – or electrodes – on opposite sides, each one holding positively-charged ions (cathode), and the other holds negatively-charged ions (anode); think of the plus and minus signs on your battery.

Here’s a simple step-by-step explanation on how energy transfers in lithium-ion batteries:

  • When the battery of the smartphone is used, lithium ions move from the anode to the cathode.
  • During charging, the lithium ions moves in the other direction; from the cathode to the anode.
  • Electrolytes (a chemical) help to move lithium between the two conductors.

And the causes of exploding batteries:

  • The two conductors in a battery touching one another, channelling energy (and heat) into the electrodes, causing an explosion – commonly a defect.
  • Overcharging; too much lithium-ions being pushed into the battery of the smartphone and pushes its limit.
  • Overheating which can happen anywhere, such as being in a locked car or in a hot environment.
  • Charging too fast, causing the lithium ions to form into a plate, blocking the rest from filling up the battery properly.

All of this can cause the battery to short-circuit, causing a dangerous explosion that could seriously injure people and their properties.

How to Prevent Exploding Phones

Taking care of your smartphone’s battery is actually simpler than you think, and even so, a lot of people overlook the importance of taking care of the battery. Smartphones with removable batteries have got it slightly more convenient when it comes to battery life span, as it can simply be replaced when the battery loses efficiency. However, most smartphones today come with batteries that are sealed-in, which provides slightly better power efficiency but lacks the easy-access to the battery, meaning you’ll have to send it in to the service centre for a very much dreaded wait.

Staying Away from No-Brand Chargers

When it comes to preventing exploding phones its best we go down to the root of power: the chargers. When you think about it, chargers interact directly with electricity and acts as a gateway between all of that raw power and our precious smartphones – so why is it people still pay little to no attention about the chargers? That we’ll never know, but we can certainly help it.

Cheap after-market USB chargers are an abundance in the Southeast Asian region, and it can be easily bought everywhere, even in the night markets right next to butchers (not literally, but you get the idea). These chargers are also ridiculously cheap, starting out at RM5 onwards. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. These cheap chargers transfer electrical power from the wall outlets to your smartphones, but often without any form of circuit protection or power management chips, leading to the possibility of overcharging your smartphone and prone to overheating, which can cause smartphone explosions.

Chargers from the original phone manufacturers and reputable brands often come with circuit protection and power management chips in the charger that control power output and know when your smartphone is charged full to prevent damage. So make sure your chargers are from reputable brands and not no-brand chargers!

The Cables Matter Too!

Like baking a cake, every little part of the whole charging process of our smartphones matter. The charging cable that we use on our smartphones can affect the charging quite significantly. The charging cables of our smartphones are very much like the chargers themselves; they have a power limit that they can transfer. Let’s say for instance that your smartphone’s charger outputs at 2.1A (ampere), but the cable can only carry up to 1.5A; this will cause your smartphone to charge inefficiently.

However, the more dangerous part of the cable is the quality of the cable itself. Cheap no-brand cables tend to use very low quality components which are prone to damage, which in turn will expose the inner wires and cause a short circuit, increasing the possibility of damaging your device and even causing fire. Once again, like the chargers, make sure your charging cable is of a good quality!

Keep the Smartphones away from Heat

This almost goes without saying: Overheating is bad. It doesn’t just apply to electronical devices, but in general, too much heat is bad for everything – except when you’re roasting that delicious chicken in the oven; even then, you need to keep temperatures in check.

Batteries in our smartphones work best in the normal temperatures of our daily activities, but they can be very dangerous when left in extremely hot places such as an enclosed car under direct sunlight or next to a computer’s exhaust fan. When these batteries heat up, they start to lose their efficiency, or worse – they explode. Make sure to charge your smartphones in normal temperatures, and if you notice the phone heating up, you might want to unplug it for a moment to be safe. Oh, don’t put it in the freezer either, the lithium inside can freeze up inside.

When it comes to expensive products like smartphones, it is a great idea not to skimp out on the chargers. After all, you want to make sure the smartphone will last long and be safe whenever it is with you.

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