Beware the Exploding iPhone!

In what seems like a not-terribly-funny spoof of the 1960s TV series, Mission: Impossible, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is investigating reports of cracked, overheating, and even exploding iPhones across Europe. ("This smartphone will self-destruct ...")

France has been the epicenter for many of the incidents, Bloomberg News reports, no doubt thanks to a distribution agreement with France Telecom (NYSE: FTE  ) . Yet customers across the continent appear to have been affected. EU regulators began asking Apple for safety information two weeks ago.

Apple, for its part, told Bloomberg that there are no confirmed reports of overheating and the number of complaints it is investigating remains in the single digits. In cases where iPhone screens have apparently cracked or even shattered, a spokesperson implied that Apple wasn't at fault. 

"In all cases the glass cracked due to an external force that was applied to the iPhone," Alan Hely, a London-based spokesman for Apple Europe, told Bloomberg.

If that sounds like blame shifting to you, it may be. But there's precedent for doing so in Apple's case. In 2006, defective Sony (NYSE: SNE  ) batteries were behind overheating incidents that affected Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , and Apple laptops.

Regulators thus far haven't disputed Apple's claims. Yet this also wouldn't be the first time exploding phones have caused a stir. In 2005, a Thai man sued Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) for the local currency equivalent of $26,000 after his handset exploded while working near power lines. At the time, the incident was one of 20 confirmed cases of exploding Nokia phones.

So Apple has company. And because of history, and the iPhone's popularity, investors can expect the EU to take this investigation very seriously.

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Nokia at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy explodes in the presence of lazy disclosure.


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