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Electric Shock Risk Sparks iPhone Charger Recall

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Sep 22, 2008 11:09 AM PT

Apple has recalled the new ultracompact universal serial bus (USB) adapter plug that shipped with millions of iPhone 3G handsets. The plugs, according to the device maker, can snap off so that the blades remain inside an electrical outlet, creating a risk of electric shock.

Electric Shock Risk Sparks iPhone Charger Recall

No injuries have been reported, Apple noted, but the company has instituted a new adapter exchange program to get stronger plugs into the hands of its customers.

The ultracompact USB adapters are essentially a small white cube with two prongs and a USB port. Apple hasn't detailed the exact conditions under which the prongs might detach, and the company didn't respond to inquires from MacNewsWorld for more detail.

"Customer safety is always Apple's top priority, and therefore we have voluntarily decided to exchange every ultracompact power adapter for a new, redesigned adapter, free of charge," read a note on Apple's Web site that details the exchange program.

The affected adapters were supplied with iPhone 3Gs sold in the U.S., Japan, Canada, Mexico and a handful of countries in Latin America. The USB adapter has also been sold as a standalone accessory.

The New Adapter

The new adapter looks similar to the old adapter. The blades on the old adapter are almost square at the ends, while the new adapter's blades taper slightly. More obviously, the new adapters have a single green dot on the bottom.

Apple said replacement adapters will be available starting Friday, Oct. 10. To get a new adapter, customers can order them via Apple's adapter replacement program Web site. Alternately, customers can exchange the adapters at Apple Retail Stores starting Oct. 10.

Apple says it also needs to collect its customers' iPhone 3G serial numbers as part of the replacement process.

Recharge How?

Apple recommends that iPhone 3G customers stop using their ultracompact adapters immediately and instead charge their iPhone's via a USB port on a Mac or PC.

Meanwhile, what's the real danger? Can a broken prong easily result in a shock?

"I've never heard of it happening, but yes, if the prongs break off in the outlet, and you can physically touch the broken-off tip of one of the prongs, then yes, that certainly has the beginnings of a serious electric shock," Lawrence Kamm, a consultant and licensed electrical engineer, told MacNewsWorld.

"Now I have to tell you that in order to get a shock you have to touch two things, because current has to flow through the body from one place to another, not just touching a wire. However, you may very well, under these circumstances, be touching ground through your feet or another hand or something like that," Kamm explained. "In that case, the broken off tip is a dangerous thing," he noted.

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