How to damage an iPhone backup battery

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After working reliably for over a year, my Richard Solo Model 1200 backup battery for the iPhone unexpectedly caused some major grief. However, I believe that at least part of the blame for the trouble resided with me. With my iPhone’s battery running low, I connected a fully-charged 1200 to the iPhone. I then stuck the connected combo into my pants pocket. Although this was something I had done numerous times before without incident, I believe this was the precipitating cause of the problem (more on this point in a moment).

When I later removed the iPhone and battery from my pocket, I could not get any response from the iPhone. The screen remained dark no matter what button I pressed. I disconnected the 1200 from the iPhone. This had no effect. The iPhone remained completely dead.

Later, after returning home, I connected the iPhone to its charger. This too had no effect. Even after waiting 30 minutes or so, the iPhone showed no sign of life; its screen remained completely dark. I was starting to get concerned that the iPhone had been permanently damaged.

As a last resort, with the iPhone still connected to a power outlet, I reset the iPhone (simultaneously pressing and holding both the Sleep/Wake and the Home buttons for at least ten seconds). This did the trick. The screen finally lit up and the battery icon appeared. However, in a further unexpected and unwelcome surprise, the screen indicated that there was zero charge left in the iPhone’s battery. In other words, not only had the Solo backup battery failed to charge my iPhone, it had led to a loss of battery power beyond what would have occurred if I had never connected the 1200 to the iPhone in the first place.

The good news was that, after waiting a couple of hours, the iPhone fully recovered its charge and all seemed well again.

What the heck had happened? As an initial test, after confirming that the Richard Solo battery was charged, I reconnected the 1200 to the iPhone. This time a message appeared that said: “This accessory is not made to work with iPhone.” This had never happened before. I tried disconnecting and reconnecting the battery several times. Exactly what happened on each occasion varied a bit. For example, on one try, no error message appeared but the iPhone’s battery icon did not shift to indicate that charging was taking place. Clearly, whatever message did or did not appear, something was wrong with the Solo battery.

As it turned out, Macworld Expo was just around the corner. While there, I brought up this incident with some friends. One of them had had the exact same thing happen. After some discussion, we concurred that the immediate cause was almost certainly a bent wire in the battery’s dock connector. From a brief inspection of the 1200, I could see no obvious damage, but I assumed it was there.

In my case, I assumed that the damage resulted from unintended pressure applied while the connected phone and battery resided in my pocket. Problems with the dock connector are a known source of the “accessory is not made…” message (as noted in this Apple support article). I suppose I should consider myself lucky that the damage was restricted only to the Solo battery’s connector and not to the iPhone itself.

As for the completely drained iPhone battery, I can only theorize as to the cause. My friend suspected that the damaged wire may have led to a reversal in the direction of current flow, so that power was going from the iPhone to the battery instead of the reverse. I can’t confirm this, but it would certainly account for the symptoms. I contacted for a reply, but did not receive an answer.

In any case, I’ve learned my lesson. In the future, whenever I have any accessory connected to my iPhone, it will staying far away from my pants pocket.

Aperture 3.0.1

Follow up to last week’s column on Aperture 3: Apple has released Aperture 3.0.1, which fixes at least some of the issues covered in the column. For example, Apple now cites the problem where Aperture quits on launch as “resolved.”

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