• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 4:56am

'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”.


Related topics

More on this story

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Thirdly, in technically, most of the nowaday chargers are employing a switching power supply way. Unlike in a low-frequency transformer, a switch-transformer in between the primary coil and the secondary coil would have high electric potential difference, while the worst situation that is likely up to 1Kv even 2KV in potential difference, that is ---- 220 volt AC + 300 volt DC + Peak pulse currents (switch-transformer running).
Once it leakage not always to instantly show out the device failure, likely just the terminal device a zero potential floated upward to 220 volt AC or higher (220V AC + 300V DC + Peak pulse currents), without secondary circuit's DC voltage range amplified up, the terminal device is still running. So, a risk would follow with you this moment.
When the terminal device was metallic parts or shell in its outside, the leakage currents are easy via your body connected to ground.
Firstly, up to now, Without any proof showed out the death of the 23-year-old Chinese woman was using a fake charger or a third-party charger.
In TV reported shown that is a HK version charger of the Apple iPhone, but it had a changeover plug. The plug seat is a difference in between HK and China, but it is absolutely not a pretext at a charger could lead to the electrocuted death.
All of the iPhone charger fit working in 100 - 240V AC power, its design is purposes for Global Travel. Even if the Chinese version iPhone are also the same providing multi-format changeover plugs as the purposes in global travel.
Secondly, although most of the regular charger gotten safety tested like UL, CE, HKSI, 3C, etc...,
However, Apple is ever done their iPhone 3 charger were recalled, --- it could lead to get an electric shock. IBM is ever done their notebook charger were recalled, it could happen fire and electric shock, the recall event was based some accident cases already appeared. There are also more examples.
lauyukeung: You've got this one right more or less. A charger for a mobile phone is simply a switching power supply. It has a tiny transformer. It's insulated well enough such that its power plug doesn't need a third ground prong. So unless the juice zaps from the primary to the secondary of the transformer and then to the device to be charged, she could only be electrocuted when picking up the iPhone while still connected to the charger. The fact that the iPhone remained undamaged says this was not the scenario.
This story sounds fishy to me. As expected, a few readers have already used this dubious episode as another excuse to vent their hate-China madness. These semi-literate English speaking readers are usually totally ignorant in math, engineering, medicine and economics. The sudden death must have some other causes.
I give an A for effort in your attempt to educate them.
A connection between primary and secondary is possible in a working power supply. However, if by design it should not be used for consumer devices. We do not know yet which circuit design was used in the fake.
When a defective consumer charger/powersupply has a rogue connection between the 220v-in and 5v-out, its most likely due to a failed component such as one called a "Y-cap" or perhaps sloppy soldering of the components causing an electrical bridge between in and out. Neither of these would pass CCC approval in the first place. Even though its a product defect, the defect may never result in outright charger failure.
Also - In the summer months, bare feet on a damp tile floor and sweaty palms are
sufficient to conduct electricity in and out. Users who put their iphones in a plastic sleeve
will be safer, by not be touching the exposed metal sides of the phone.
When plugging the charger into an outlet (220V) one has to be careful not to have a finger touching the two prongs of the charger.
The standard electrical voltage in Hong Kong is 220 volts AC, 50Hz.
This could be similar to the story of the iPhone 4 catching fire - Someone did a case modification, and use a shoddy charger, and bam, the frame is putting out AC and not DC.
The charger shown in the photo looks like those designed for continental Europe. I wonder if it is the same type used by the poor girl. Truly tragic... CCTV should really choose their 'experts' better next time.
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...
With your story, you're required to show up for observation at a psychiatric hospital.



SCMP.com Account