Possible iPhone 7 fire prompts Apple investigation

Apple iPhone

A man in Australia told a local news outlet that he returned to his car after surfing to find the charred remains of his iPhone 7. Two iPhone 7 devices at an Apple Store are pictured above.

(Kiichiro Sato / Associated Press)

Apple Inc. said it’s looking into an Australian man’s allegation that an iPhone 7 ignited and set ablaze the car he’d left it in while surfing.

Smartphones and other devices with lithium-ion batteries are known to be susceptible to fires in extreme conditions, so the lone incident is far from a sign of a widespread problem. But the massive recall in recent weeks of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone — prompted by overheating and explosions — has left consumers and regulators on higher guard.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission voted Wednesday to launch a study of the risks of lithium-ion batteries, a spokeswoman said. The delicate technology within the batteries leaves them vulnerable to explosion if manufacturing, chemistry or design is even slightly off. And the growing number of gadgets with such batteries means the number of failures could rise too.

About 1.9 million Galaxy Note 7 devices have been recalled, according to the commission, which also received almost 100 reports of overheating.

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