• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 5:35am

'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


  • Yes: 71%
  • No: 29%
20 Jul 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 195

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

Don't blame SCMP which is just quoting the news from CCTV. Why do you folks jump on SCMP?
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.
they corrected already the quote in the end of the article. You should finish reading before you comment.
SCMP Where do you source these so called "experts"? He can't even get something as simple as voltage right.....
Dai Muff
Funny, all my HK electrical equipment is on 220/240 volts. Scary telecommunications expert.
It's difficult to trust the media if the quality of the fact checking is questionable, when blatant factual errors are published it takes away the trust we have in our media and degrades the quality of the news source. While it's not perfect just read the BBC version of this story ****www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23317338 which by the way is free unlike the SCMP.
The standard electrical voltage in Hong Kong is 220 volts AC, 50Hz. The standard electrical voltage in Japan is 100 volts 50/60 Hz.
I am totally unconvinced that the charger shown in the media is able to kill someone through electrocution. For the charger to be able to kill, its primary side which is at 220v has to be shorted to the secondary side of the charger (within the charger) and conduct all the way to the phone, but this would probably blow up some electronics along the way hence triggering some protection such as fuses to operate. Even this had not, the 220v leakage needed to reach the bare hand of the lady and also that the lady had a very good leakage path to the ground, so that a considerable amount of leakage current (only a few milli-ampere if it can go through the heart) can go through her body to the ground to kill her. For this to happen, the lady need to be standing on the ground with her wet and bare feet, and holding her phone with her wet bare hand, and, at the same time, there was a leakage from the primary side to the secondary side on the charger without blowing the fuse. Is this scenario likely?
I thought I read somewhere else that her boyfriend claimed that both the charger and phone were from an apple store?
According to Xiang Ligang said,
he is very uneducated, very irresponsible



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