Apple blames `external physical damage' for iPhone fires

Apple has blamed `external physical damage' for causing a number of iPhones to spontaneous ignite and explode in China, even as it claimed its handsets posed no safety problem.

After similar instances from across the globe related to Galaxy Note 7, a Shanghai consumer watchdog said last Friday it had received eight recent reports of iPhones that spontaneously combusted while being used or charged.

The US tech giant said in a statement to AFP late yesterday, that it had retrieved units for analysis and conducted thorough tests on phones which had experienced "thermal events." Apple, however, brushed off safety concerns.

"The units we've analysed so far have clearly shown that external physical damage happened to them which led to the thermal event," the statement said.

"We treat safety as a top priority and have found no cause for concern with these products."

The company also denied it had been slow to respond after the state-run Shanghai Consumer Council had urged it to address consumer complaints.

The watchdog's report quoted a woman as saying her iPhone 6s Plus exploded in August, which shattered the screen and left the battery and back of the phone blackened.

According to the council, it had recorded a six-fold surge in total complaints against Apple in the past two months, which included sudden shutdowns of the iPhone 6 and 6s even though batteries still had enough power.

Meanwhile, the council released a report on Friday detailing battery fires in eight iPhone 6 handsets. The report also included instances of iPhone 6 handsets powering down before their batteries were depleted. The handsets did not belong to the global iPhone 6 recall range that Apple announced on 20 November to address the issue. 

Apple had seen Chinese sales fall in the past three quarters as domestic smartphone makers competed with high-spec handsets at low price points.