Apple recalls 1.8 million laptop batteries

Apple Computer is recalling 1.8 million lithium-ion batteries for its iBook and PowerBook notebook PCs, just a week after Dell took a similar step.

The batteries, which were supplied by Sony Energy Devices, could overheat and pose a fire hazard to consumers, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said on Thursday.

Apple has counted nine reports of overheating, including two instances that caused minor burns from handling the hot computers, the commission said.

The batteries were used with the following computers: 12-inch iBook G4, 12-inch PowerBook G4 and 15-inch PowerBook G4. No other Apple PC models are involved.

Affected consumers are advised to contact Apple or log on to Apple's Web site at http://support.apple.com/batteryprogram to check the battery's serial number and request a replacement battery.

"We discovered that some Sony batteries in previous models of PowerPC-based iBooks and PowerBooks do not meet Apple's standards for safety and performance," said Teresa Weaver, a spokeswoman for Apple.

The recall affects only Apple notebooks using PowerPC processors from IBM, not the newer models with chips from Intel, she said.

The affected batteries were built in Sony plants in Japan, Taiwan and China, then sold by Apple between October 2003 and August 2006, both in new computers and as replacements. They include 1.1 million packs sold in the U.S. and 700,000 sold in other countries.

Apple is telling users to remove the faulty cells immediately, so those customers will have to stay near an AC power outlet to use their computers while they wait four to six weeks for a new battery to arrive.

Apple has not yet decided what type of battery it will send users in return, Weaver said. However, the company will collect the faulty ones for safe disposal.

The move comes shortly after Dell announced Aug. 14 it would recall 4.1 million rechargeable batteries for its laptops, the largest recall in the history of the consumer electronics industry.

The defect in Dell's batteries, which Sony also manufactured, happened when tiny metal shards left over from the manufacturing process pierced the battery cell walls, causing a short circuit by touching an anode or cathode. Apple did not describe the cause of its own problem, but it involves the same type of battery.

This new recall could have harsh financial implications for Sony, which pledged to help pay for Dell's recall. However, Apple said the recall will not affect its bottom line.

"We do not anticipate this recall to have a material financial impact on Apple," Weaver said. "Our number-one priority is to recall and replace the affected batteries free of charge."

Apple is recalling the following batteries:

12-inch iBook G4; Battery model number: A1061; Serial number range: ZZ338 through ZZ427, 3K429 through 3K611, 6C510 through 6C626

12-inch PowerBook G4; Battery model number: A1079; Serial number range: ZZ411 through ZZ427, 3K428 through 3K611

15-inch PowerBook G4; Battery model number: A1078 and A1148 3K425 through 3K601, 6N530 through 6N551, 6N601

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Ben Ames

IDG News Service
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