More Bad Batteries: Recall Expands, but Experts Say Don't Panic

Apple Computer Inc. followed in Dell's footsteps Thursday, recalling 1.8 million lithium-ion batteries after nine notebook computers overheated, slightly burning two people.

Apple's move comes after Dell, which is the top PC maker, recalled 4.1 million lithium-ion batteries. In Dell's case, several of the recalled computers actually burst into flames, which was not the case with Apple, Reuters reported.


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The batteries are made with power cells from Sony, which are also used in the batteries that run cell phones and other portable electronics. Both companies pointed to “contamination” in the Sony battery cells as the culprit in the overheating issue. Tiny metal particles left over from the manufacturing process can become loose and cause short-circuits or even fires.

Sony stated that the recalls would cost the Japanese company between $172 million and $278 million.

Experts told PC Magazine that consumers should not overreact. "It's not like one second it's perfectly cool and the next second you have fire on your lap. If it's a cell that is failing, it will be heating up and will have warning signs,” said Larry O'Connor, president of Newer Technology Inc., a replacement battery manufacturer that makes batteries for Apple notebooks. He pointed out that the chance of overheating is about one in a million.

Analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies told the Associated Press that investors are not likely to punish Apple. "When you view Apple, you've really got to see a company that's doing well on all levels of products," he said. "You've really got to judge them on the whole. Like with any company, you might have a hiccup here and there. What I really would have had a problem with was if they had covered it up."

The batteries were sold with Apple iBook G4 and PowerBook G4 computers from October 2003 through this month, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Intel-based models, MacBook and MacBook Pro, are unaffected. The Dell-branded batteries are in Latitude, Inspiron, XPS and Precision notebooks sold from April 2004 through July 18 of this year.

If you own one of the affected models, remove the batteries and use an AC power source instead. Call Apple at 800.275.2273 or go to www.apple.com/batteryprogram if you are unsure whether your computer batteries are part of the recall. Get more information on the Dell recall at www.dellbatteryprogram.com/

"A recall is just a recall," said Ted Schadler, consumer technology and media analyst with Forrester Research. "We get them for baby strollers and refrigerators and no one seems to freak out,” he told PC Magazine. “Remain calm, all is well."


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