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If a Samsung Galaxy blows up in Korea, will anybody hear it?

February 4, 2013: 3:35 PM ET

Judging by Google searches, people are much more interested in exploding iPhones

Exploding smartphones

FORTUNE -- I have it on good authority that the lithium-ion batteries used in everything from iPods to Boeing 787s will, under the right circumstances, overheat and self combust. Just this weekend, according to the Seoul-based Chosun Ilbo, a Samsung Galaxy Note caught fire in the pants pocket of a 55-year-old Korean, leaving second-degree burns on his right thigh.

I'd heard of iPhones exploding and injuring their owners, but this was the first I'd read of the same thing happening to a Samsung Galaxy. Is it that Samsung devices rarely catch fire? Or is it that we just don't hear much about them?

Burned-out Galaxy S III

Burned-out Galaxy S III

A Google News search quickly answered the first question. I found accounts of a Korean schoolboy being injured last March when a Galaxy S II blew up in his trousers and of a Galaxy S III exploding in June when its owner -- an Irishman -- tried to dry it in a microwave.

As for the second question -- why don't we hear more about Galaxies catching fire -- the Google Trends chart above offers a hint. Of the three Galaxy explosions I was able to track down, only the Irish incident registered a blip in Google's search results, and not a very big one at that. On a scale from 0 to 100 where the iPhone that caught fire on a flight to Australia in November 2011 is 100, the exploding Galaxy S III was an 18.

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for

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