iPod Nano Explodes While Charging

Reader D’s first-gen iPod Nano was chugging power from his PC’s USB port when suddenly he saw it “explode open and start shooting sparks and spewing smoke.” Pictures inside, along with Apple’s response.

Dale sent us his lengthy missive to Steve Jobs:

I am writing this in regards to an issue I have had with an iPod nano, first generation. I have included the relevant pictures of my iPod after this incident and links to related issues.

I had plugged the iPod in to charge on Saturday August 16, 2008. I was using the USB cable that came with the iPod and charging via the USB port on my PC. After being plugged in for somewhere between 5-10 minutes I heard a sizzling sound. I looked down on the iPod just in time to see it explode open and start shooting sparks and spewing smoke. I managed to unhook the iPod from my computer’s USB port immediately. I had noticed that a small fire had started on the table I had the laptop and the iPod sitting on, and I managed to extinguish those flames quickly before any apparent damage could be done to my laptop. Unlike in other cases, I’ve read about, my iPod continued to spew smoke and spit sparks while throwing out some kind of sooty substance from the inside of the iPod for several minutes after removing the cable from the computer. I moved the still spitting iPod from the table and placed it on a book case across the room. I noticed that while doing this, the iPod was still extraordinarily hot to the touch.

I immediately called up the apple tech support line while I opened a window to clear the smoke out of my apartment. After weeding through their electronic menu, I was put on hold for around 15 minutes. This gave me some time to calm down, and after telling the representative that my iPod nano exploded, I was transferred directly to the customer support supervisor at the time. His extension is X86702. He walked me through a 20 minute survey regarding the issue before putting me on hold again to contact the “engineers”. After this, he informed me that he did not get through, but would hear back from them that evening for certain. I was also informed that Apple would replace my iPod regardless at this point even though it’s older. I have to take a few moments to commend him as he seemed to genuinely want to help me. I had asked what I could do to get a replacement iPod ASAP. I was told to go to the nearest apple store and they should be able to replace it. I also asked if it was ok to make an appointment for that evening, and I was told it would be fine as we should have heard back from the “engineers” by then.

After waiting several hours and not hearing back from the supervisor, I attempted to contact him at the extension and number I was given. This was transferred directly to his voicemail and I did not hear back from him that night. I had then traveled to the local apple store in Pittsburgh, PA to see what could be done about the iPod. Here I was told that “it’s been submitted as a request to the ‘engineers’ and can’t be handled”. The support tech at the Genius Bar seemed genuinely concerned and opened a separate case file to see if he could do anything to help me out. He found out that all he could do was submit it to the engineers who would NOT be in until monday. At this point, I became overly frustrated that the original tech had led me to believe this issue could have been sorted out that day. Also I do not think I’m being unreasonable by asking a company to replace the iPod with a different iPod product, as I could easily have been hurt or injured by the one that had malfunctioned!

I had asked the tech if there’s any way he can replace it as the guy on the phone had told me that the local store could swap it out. He then went into the office to confer with the manager and the GM via phone. He returned to tell me that they can NOT exchange the iPod, and can only escalate the claim to the “engineers”. At which point, I became upset that, once again, the original tech was wrong that this could be handled on-site at the local apple store. I once again asked if they could do anything as I’m overly frustrated with the service I’m receiving; I was told that the iPod would be replaced regardless. At this point, the tech went back to the office to confer once again with the manager.

The manager comes out with the tech shortly after and explains to me that no one at apple has EVER heard of this happening (although, I have found articles that counter this), and that she did not believe there was anything that she could do. She asked me to “do her a favor” and wait until monday night (EST) to handle this matter. I informed her that I understand that she’s stuck in a hard situation, but I was promised by someone in the support that this could be handled at a local store, and that the iPod would be replaced. She walks back into the back room, and shortly returns with a phone number. She calls up the GM and puts him on the phone with me. At this point, I want to commend the in-store staff as they seemed concerned about this issue and really wanted to make it right. I really do not wish to paint the store employees in a bad way as they had really tried to help me. The GM is, of course, another issue.

The GM gets on the phone and tells me who he is and he’s sorry to hear this. He goes on to inform me that they CAN NOT and WILL NOT give me another iPod. He mentions that this has to go to the engineers first before he will even CONSIDER dealing with the issue. I mention that I have read the reports of this happening before, and that there are numerous instances. He scoffs at this and implies that this is a completely unusual occurrence and no one he knows of has heard of it.

I mention to him that the guy at tech support had told me this can be replaced at the local store. Once again, he says that NOTHING will be done until the engineers look at the iPod, and until he talks with them on monday. I ask why that is, and he says “to make sure there are no safety issues or concerns.” I asked what were the issues regarding the safety, to which he replied “there are numerous things that could probably cause this”. I asked him to name a few, and was met with “the list is too long to mention.” I found this odd, as he had told me before he had never heard of this issue, yet could think of a long list of things that could cause an iPod to explode and catch fire.

I continued to ask what the safety issue would be if he just replaced the iPod. To which he said “it could be the cables”. I told him that the tech support on the phone informed me that i should not use those cables, and that they would be replaced when the iPod is. The GM informs me that they DO NOT replace cables. I continued to say, but, if he was to replace the iPod and the cables, that it would eliminate any safety risk. He assured me that was not the case. I then informed him that it sounds like he was accusing me of intentionally doing this to my iPod. He claimed he wasn’t, but I pointed out that if you replace any and all apple hardware involved, there’s no safety issue, UNLESS the issue is with my existing hardware that’s not apple. he informed me that that was not the case. I informed him that if this was due to a defective iPod, replacing the iPod eliminates the safety issue. He told me that it might not be that case. To which I asked, what exactly safety issue there was if the fault was NOT with apple software. He repeated that they need to look over the iPod to determine any safety issues before even considering replacing the iPod. I became very frustrated at this point that he was trying to use double speak in order to make excuses and push the blame onto me.

At this point I offered to leave the faulty iPod with the apple store to send off to the engineers as needed, but that I wanted my iPod replaced as I was promised by the tech on the phone. The GM informs me that the tech was in no way, shape, or form allowed to make that guarantee to me. At this point, and I am ashamed to say, I lost my temper with the GM. I told him that I was not pleased at all with this service since I was promised that the iPod would be replaced, and yet it was not going to be. The GM informed me that he wasn’t even sure if it NEEDED to be replaced let alone if apple WOULD replace it. After this turn, my language became peppered with profanity. The GM continued on to tell me that he’s not going to do anything about the issue, and that I could sit there all night and tell him how he should handle it, but it is NOT now he will handle it.

In other words, the GM wanted to take up more of my time in order to try and push the blame on me for the iPod breaking, completely negate anything I was told originally by tech support, and try to get me out of their store as quickly as he could without doing anything to resolve the issue.

After reading another issue or two, it appears as though apple is now saying that even if it is a faulty piece of equipment and does damage to other objects or people, that it is NOT their responsibility to replace it unless you have a current warranty. I had not picked up the extended warranty due to the fact that, at the time, I had not received word of any issues. Now, I am fully regretting that decision as I’m sure that they would not allow me to take out a warranty now to cover the issue. This upsets me as they have made a precedent to replace products, even out of warranty, if the issue is due to a severe product malfunction such as this.

After this, I can fully say that I am not pleased at all with how this issue has been handled by apple. I have been informed of an email address within the Apple company, and I plan on sending a copy of this email, along with the pictures to that address also. From the various stories I have read, of which I have included links, it has been made clear that this is NOT an isolated incident as Apple would have me believe. I do not feel that Apple has been doing a sufficient job of resolving this matter in any way, shape, or form. Based on the other reports, I do not have much hope that this matter will be resolved in any timely fashion, that my iPod will be replaced, that I will be compensated for anything, that I will get an apology for their tech support making claims that they were not permitted to, or for the store obviously not being on the same page as tech support. Frankly, in my search for information regarding the iPod, I’ve found other reports that claim this type of fault for other issues. This ranges from problems with computers, to mp3 players, and even to censoring comments and forum posts regarding bugs with their products. By bringing this up, I hope to make it known that these type of issues appear to be common with apple. Like other manufacturers, they sometimes produce faulty products, however, they seem to want to protect their corporate image and pockets more than make up for their faulty product. In this case, it was a known issue with this model of iPod and the company did not seem to make any motions to address the issue. I hope that by making this public, people may be able to avoid this issue happening with their own electronics, and that they may be prepared for what they would have to deal with in the process of attempting to resolve the issue. While Apple may produce numerous ad campaigns that make them seem almost invincible, their products are like any others: buyer beware.

The fiery Nano:

Dale’s burnt desk:

The pictures look awfully similar to other iPods that have spontaneously combusted.

This iPod exploded yesterday and we don’t see the harm in giving Apple a day to sort out what went wrong. Still, we’re not sure how the engineers can do much without the physical unit, and it would seem wise for the Apple store to have an unspoken policy of ‘Return Exploded iPod, Get 1 Free!’

Update: Apple agreed to replace the iPod.