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  • Aug 23, 2014
  • Updated: 7:09am
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'Fake' iPhone charger cited in electrocution death probe

New details reveal victim may have been using an unauthorised charger for her iPhone 4

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2013, 11:34am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 July, 2013, 8:48am
 

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A woman killed by an electric shock while using her iPhone may have been using a non-Apple-made battery charger at the time of her death, Chinese state media reported.

The victim, 23-year-old Ma Ailun, had been using what appeared to be an unauthorised iPhone 4 charger, CCTV reported on Tuesday. According to Xiang Ligang, a telecommunications expert interviewed by CCTV, the charger Ma had been using may have been a "knockoff"' - a fake. 

“Knockoff chargers sometimes cut corners,” Xiang said. “The quality of the capacitor and circuit protector may not be good, and this may lead to the capacitor breaking down and sending 220 volts of electricity directly into the cell phone battery.”

Ma, a flight attendant with China Southern Airlines, had been charging her iPhone 4 on July 11 in her home in Xinjiang. She had been electrocuted after picking it up to answer a call. Earlier reports had said she had been using an iPhone 5 at the time, but CCTV investigations confirmed that the exterior of the device was a stainless steel iPhone 4 - not the aluminum iPhone 5.

Another possibility was the charger had been intended for use in Hong Kong, Taiwan or Japan, Xiang said.

“Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan all use an electrical voltage of 110 volts,” Xiang said. “Mainland China uses 220 volts. If the charger was made to accommodate only 110 volts, then it’s possible it may have broken down and [overloaded.]”

Xiang's comments are not entirely accurate - Hong Kong has a standard electrical voltage of 220, although 120 voltage outlets are found in some hotels. Japan has a standard voltage of 100 volts. 

Xiang said that normally, the electric current from an overloaded charger would overheat the phone’s casing, damaging the circuits inside and rendering the device unusable. In the case of Ma’s iPhone 4, however, authorities said the phone could still be started normally despite severe traces of burning on its exterior. The phone’s data cable, charger, and plug were all intact.

A police investigation is underway. A spokeswoman for Apple said the company was “deeply saddened to learn of this tragic incident and…will fully investigate and co-operate with authorities in this matter”.

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This article is now closed to comments

hodfords
Yes - An "Expert" from China tells us that Hong Kong uses electrical voltage of 110 volts..... It really adds to his credibility.
The worst part is the poor girl probably paid the full retail price for a "real" charger, thinking that she bought a genuine article when in fact she was given a fake. I can testify that the only time I bought a charger in China I was conned and it broke after 2 weeks and I paid full price.
p.s. - I took it back to the Apple support centre which said it was a fake...
tedwilson
Never buy anything electrical in China and expect it to work properly. They are masters at copying anything from high end watches to Zamboni ice resurfacing machines and even a Rolls Royce. If you value your iPhone, just use the charger that came with it.
whymak
"Never buy anything electrical in China and expect it to work properly."
Only a moron will make such a statement. Just about all iPhones, iPads, HP personal computers are manufactured in China.
andypl
I thought I read somewhere else that her boyfriend claimed that both the charger and phone were from an apple store?
impala
So the bottom line appears to be that she used a cheap, badly designed, ungrounded charger intended for 110V on a 220V power outlet. The charger's step-down (to the iPhone's 5V or whatever it is) circuit got fried, and the phone got the full 220V, which of course it couldn't handle. And neither could she.

Lethal. Stupid. Unfortunate. Tragic. Front (web) page news all day for an article that mostly consists of CCTV quotes by some 'expert'? Come on please SCMP.
Dai Muff
Funny, all my HK electrical equipment is on 220/240 volts. Scary telecommunications expert.
jcjchung
I bought an non-apple iphone charger in Shenzhen and exploded in the middle of the night (next to the bed). It charred the wall. Phone was fine.
whymak
With your story, you're required to show up for observation at a psychiatric hospital.
Laisee.com.hk
Hong Kong is 220Volts. Japan is 110 as is USA. [ he was not entirely accurate, he was absurdly inaccurate.]
However, most Iphone charges as is mine are Universal, i.e. they can adjust on the fly. If you buy a laptop or a phone these days from a 110 voltage country they will work in 220 volts country.
Suspect the phone itself was a fake. This is really not headline news.
newgalileo
It is headline news here in China as the news spread all over the social media. My Chinese friends immediately told me not to use the phone when charging. Not everyday someone gets killed by a phone. Now it seems that it is a fake charger, and that makes sense to me (I am an engineer). Pity for all the so-called "specialists" quoted who probably never studied electronics and make it all worse: so, you can't shave when the shaver is plugged in? Or don't use your laptop when charging? 110V in Hong Kong? I agree the SCMP should chose their "specialists" a bit more carefully.

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