Reports of iPhones exploding, starting fires and killing people in cold blood have been around since the inception of the handset. They've also been relatively sporadic, seemingly short on evidence, and Apple hasn't given complaints much credence or response. So when we heard a story from France the other day about a security guard's iPhone "exploding" and sending a shard of glass into his eye (though apparently not serious enough to warrant a hospital visit), it was a little hard to believe, but with a few other stories of cracking screens due to overheating cropping up in Europe over the past couple weeks, French authorities have taken an interest in the story. Anecdotally, a teen says his phone "imploded" in Belgium and gave him a headache, a woman's phone cracked without warning, and ten or so victims in France have come forward to complain of similar problems, picking up the interest of a French consumer watchdog group. Apple is naturally not new to the concept of overheating in its battery-powered devices -- in fact, it's just entered into its first full-on iPod nano recall in Korea of the 1st-gen players after numerous reports of battery faultiness worldwide -- but with 26 million iPhones out and about, and the iPhone 3GS tending to run a bit hotter than its siblings, a systemic problem with one or all models of the handsets isn't something consumers or Apple would take lightly.

Herve Novelli, France's top trade official, met with Apple France's Michel Coulomb today to discuss the problem, and so far Apple is sticking to its guns: it claims that reported incidents are in the single digits, and that all cases it's investigated fully so far have turned out to be blamed on "external force" to the screen. Herve and Michel seem to have parted on friendly terms, promising to keep in touch over the issue, and the EU's alert system for dangerous consumer products (inexplicably dubbed RAPEX) is staying in the loop as well, asking the 27 member nations to keep tabs on the situation. Novelli says it's "too early to blame anyone," and we'd have to agree, but we hope Apple keeps up the (freshly) open communication about this issue going forward.

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