Apple attributed fires in a number of iPhone 6 batteries in China to external factors after a report from a consumer protection agency went viral on social media, Reuters reported.
The Shanghai Consumer Council released a report on Friday detailing battery fires in eight iPhone 6 handsets.
“The units we’ve analysed have clearly shown that external physical damage happened to them which led to the thermal event,” an Apple representative said in a statement to Reuters.
The report, which follows shortly after Apple received numerous complaints about iPhone 6 models shutting down unexpectedly, comes at an awkward time for the smartphone giant as iPhone sales in China fall.
Apple reportedly reduced orders from component suppliers for its new iPhone 7 models due to weaker than expected demand in many markets, including China. The new device did receive an initial boost from Samung’s Galaxy Note 7 battery debacle, but analysts said the uplift was short term and has since faded.
iPhone shipments in China plunged 31 per cent to 7.5 million units in Q3, with Apple’s market share falling to 6.2 per cent from 10.3 per cent in Q315, according to Strategy Analytics.
After an internal investigation, Apple has insisted the power-down issue is not widespread and has only committed to replacing batteries of some iPhones manufactured in September and October of last year. That limited battery recall was issued on 20 November.
The China Consumer Association urged Apple to provide more detail on the shutdown problem, which causes handsets to power down before their batteries are depleted, and to expand the battery recall after receiving complaints from customers with iPhone 6 models produced after October 2015.
Some analysts are comparing Apple’s limited recall and decision to blame the fires on “external factors” to Samsung’s delayed global recall of the Note 7 and subsequent halting of production, which has tarnished the reputation of the world’s largest smartphone maker.
Apple said its investigation found no additional causes of the shutdowns – if the company is right the problem should fade, but if it isn’t, Apple could face a public relations disaster like its bigger rival.