The iPhone 3G S Is a Hot Item

Carl Weinschenk

Everybody knows that it's cruel and dangerous to leave a pet in a parked car in the summer. Apple, apparently, wants people to treat their iPhone 3G S like Fido, Spot and Sammy.


Apple has a potentially significant problem. Reports are cropping up that the recently introduced device is overheating. The problem is worse -- or just more obvious -- with iPhone 3GSes that come in white cases. In some instances, the cases have become discolored. Apple says that the problem may stop the smartphone from charging, weaken cellular signals, dim displays and cause display of a temperature warning screen.


Apple has responded by telling people not to use their devices in hot conditions. The company says the overheating could be caused by doing things such as leaving it in a hot car or using demanding applications such as GPS in direct sunlight for long periods of time. The company is recommending, apparently, that users only get lost at night. The commentary on the Web, summed up at DailyTech, is that Apple seems to be saddling customers with the responsibility for what may be design flaws.


This is an important issue on a couple of levels. The science of squeezing smartphone-level functionality into a package small enough to be carried around in a shirt pocket is intense. A big part of the challenge is figuring out how a device should release the energy that it uses to do its job. Finding out that the device can double as a chafing dish is a sign that Apple may have not done thorough enough design and testing. It is important to track the depth of the problem and, if one truly exists, learn if it can be solved via simple device management tweaks or if it is deep within the core of the machine and therefore more intractable.


The other level is a lot simpler: Poorly designed energy release on mobile devices, whether caused by poor circuitry or battery problems, can lead to explosions and cause product recalls. The last time I checked, there was no application for roasting marshmallows at the App Store.

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