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Study finds 49 out of 50 fake iPhone chargers present risk of electrocution or house fire

By midian182 ยท 10 replies
Dec 7, 2017
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  1. The dangers of using fake and unofficial Apple power adaptors are well documented. Following last year’s investigation by a UK standards body that found 99 percent of these products were unsafe, a new report by the country’s Electrical Safety First campaign group shows little has changed.

    In conjunction with Apple, the group tested 50 counterfeit and lookalike iPhone chargers bought from online marketplaces and independent discount stores and stalls across the UK.

    All the chargers were put through rigorous mechanical and safety examinations. The results showed that 49 of them failed one or more of the tests, while more than 1 in 3 failed every part of the safety screening.

    23 of the chargers failed an electric strength test, meaning there’s a severe risk of electric shock when using these devices. And almost half failed basic safety requirements and contained inferior internal components or inadequate spacing, which could lead to electrocution or house fires.

    15 of the chargers contained pins that failed strength tests. If they’re not resilient enough, the plugs’ pins could break off inside a mains socket, which could result in an electric shock from the exposed live pin.

    Martyn Allen, Technical Director at Electrical Safety First and author of the report, said: "It is extremely concerning that 49 out of 50 UK chargers we tested failed basic safety checks. This report shows that anyone purchasing an iPhone charger from an online marketplace or at an independent discount store is taking a serious risk with their safety.”

    “The majority of chargers we tested had the potential to deliver a lethal electrical shock or cause a fire.”

    Electric Safety First recommends that consumers check a charger’s safety markings, pins, USB port position, and weight to ensure it is genuine.

    Last month, a 14-year-old girl was electrocuted and died after rolling over her iPhone charger as she slept. It’s suspected that this was a third-party knockoff with a faulty USB power adaptor that allowed the full mains voltage to travel through the damaged cable.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Capaill

    Capaill TS Evangelist Posts: 693   +344

    They should balance it by testing the genuine articles in the same tests.
    And why is it only or mainly Apple chargers that are causing problems - are Android chargers better designed or just simpler and therefore cheaper to produce?
  3. Anton Skryaga

    Anton Skryaga TS Enthusiast Posts: 37   +17

    It's simple - 'Apple' in any article title generates more clicks and comments :)
    All chargers are very similar in design I believe.

    For me looks strange that we can buy (in any country actually) not-well-safety-tested electric equipment..
  4. Kenrick

    Kenrick TS Evangelist Posts: 630   +403

    Apple chargers are one of the best designed usb chargers out there. If you read the article, it is the FAKE Apple chargers that is problem. They imitate the look and case of the iphone charger. Its been like that if you go to Asian countries and check out some chinese knockoff models. Its really hard to tell the difference for normal people what is fake or not. Every government in the world should regulate and stop the import and sale of knockoff chargers.
  5. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,043   +556

    Apple makes there own, and tear downs have shown them to actually be extremely high quality mechanically and electrically, almost to the point of being overbuild. Because of this, they are attractive to rip off. 'Apple cables' on the other hand... those are pretty trashy, with nowhere near enough electrical insulation or stress relief at the connectors.

    But sticking to chargers, no one says 'Samsung changers' (who are on the around the same level as Apple, imo, but a step or two down... never mind their batteries), its just a 'phone charger'. In that bracket, they probably run the same gamut as the third-party/knock-off 'Apple chargers'; most are death traps, but there are a few good third party brands (Anker tends to make good stuff). Electrically, it is really easy to make something work inside of extremely narrow parameters - no changes in mechanical position, electrical feed, temperature, humidity, vibration, shock, the inescapable march of entropy - and it is extremely difficult to make something work consistently across a ide range of parameters.

    Remember, those 'wall warts', as well as USB wall chargers, aren't actually chargers. You phone's charger is internal. What is colloquially known as a "charger" is actually an AC-DC step-down transformer/converter. It only converts from your 120/240V AC down to a 5V DC source for your phone to draw from, and they must be able to supply more current than the phone/device is capable of drawing. If too little voltage is supplied, the device can't charge and dies - damage or injury is unlikely, but not impossible (low voltages can also be caused by a short circuit, even with incredibly high and dangerous currents). If too much voltage is supplied, something will likely pop/melt and the magic smoke will be released forever. If the device draws less current than what the "charger" (step-down converter) is able to safely supply, then everything works normally. If the device tries to draw more current than the "charger" is able to supply, then something in the "charger" will fail, short circuit, and possibly catch fire.

    tl;dr - voltage hurts, current kills, both can do damage when too much is present, increasing one usually means you increased the other, but there are exceptions and it depends entirely on the layout of the circuit, the state it is operating in at the time, and the exact components selected.

    Source for all this: I am an electrical engineer.
    Capaill likes this.
  6. senketsu

    senketsu TS Guru Posts: 828   +554

    Sad what the fakers will resort to for a few dollars.
    or at least fake stuff that won't kill people when it malfunctions
  7. MarkHughes

    MarkHughes TS Addict Posts: 166   +83

  8. SirCanealot

    SirCanealot TS Rookie

    Used to work in a CeX (2nd hand store). After hearing the story from a few years back of a charger blowing up in a girl's face causing serious injury, we started taking fake chargers a lot more seriously. A while later one of them burnt out in the face of a colleague (luckily there was just a bit of smoke, didn't hurt him at all).

    Used to try and snap the earth pin on the charger, that was a pretty good test to me. Should be very difficult or almost impossible to break on a proper charger (try breaking the one on an Apple charger), but sometimes the ones on fakes will literally snap off with no force at all.

    Used to have to explain to customers sometimes that the charger they were giving us with the phone was not acceptable as it could blow up in our faces and kill us, but it was most important for them that they sold the phone to us......
  9. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,938   +3,311

    Just one more reason for me to remain, "king of the Luddites", and continue to make my phone calls on a $35.00, bought at Walmart, land line dinosaur. Fred Flintstone would be so proud of me.
    Athlonite likes this.
  10. You're on the money man. I've known that Apple makes excellent chargers just from the fact that EVERY major brand (Samsung, LG, Sony, Anker, etc.) has "buzzed" (literally) at certain points while charging OR the entire time they're plugged in.

    Slightly off topic but Ikea makes a 3 prong Apple Charger that it sells for $8 that teardowns seem to show to be good quality. Bought two of them. Funny though we don't have Apple phones. But you can't argue with 3 prongs at once.

    mrbrown if you'd like to look at one online and tell us what you think, that would be appreciated. Its called a Koppla.

    Some links for you.

    http://lygte-info.dk/review/USBpower Ikea Koppla UK.html

    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 9, 2017
  11. bexwhitt

    bexwhitt TS Guru Posts: 386   +87

    To make a charger that small that delivers a reasonable amount of power safely, takes very clever design and expense. You are never going to find this in a cheap knockoff charger. Safe money or possibly save your life, your choice.

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