Apple recalls millions of iPhone 3G power adapters

iPhone 3G sales estimated to be as high as 6 million

Apple Friday recalled all power adapters it packaged with iPhone 3G phones sold since mid-July in the US, Japan, Canada, Mexico and several Central and South American countries.

The number of affected users will be in the millions. Recent analyst estimates have pegged iPhone 3G sales as high as 6 million since its July debut, with the US market remaining Apple's largest. Apple has not stated its quarterly iPhone 3G sales, but CEO Steve Jobs said the company had sold more than 1 million in its first weekend of availability.

The adapters, a redesign from the bulkier version included with the first generation iPhone, pose a shock hazard, said Apple in a release Friday afternoon. The company will exchange all eligible adapters free of charge through mail-in or walk-in programs at its own retail stores starting October 10.

"Under certain conditions the new ultracompact Apple USB power adapter's metal prongs can break off and remain in a power outlet, creating a risk of electric shock," said Apple, which said that although it had received reports of broken prongs, no injuries had been reported.

Apple told users to immediately stop using the small adaptors, which are about the size of the plug end of an extension cord.

In lieu of the adapters, and until replacements are received, users should charge their iPhone 3G phones by connecting them to their Mac or PC with the USB cable that came with their iPhone, Apple said. Alternately, users can turn to third-party adapters designed for the iPhone -- such as car chargers -- or the larger-sized USB adapter that Apple sells for US$29. Ultracompact adapters purchased separately by customers may also be eligible for replacement.

Adapters identified by a green dot on the bottom, however, are replacements that are said to be safe to use. Adapters sold with the first-generation iPhone, and those packaged or sold separately with iPhone 3G phones in other countries, are also not affected.

iPhone 3G owners can order a replacement online starting Friday, or by taking their current adapter to an Apple retail store starting October 10. Online orders, however, won't begin shipping until October 10. Owners will need to provide Apple with a mailing address as well as their iPhone 3G's serial number if ordering a replacement online; those who ask for a replacement at an Apple store starting next month must also bring in their iPhone 3G.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission did not issue an accompanying alert, as it sometimes does when companies recall defective products.

Apple last launched a major safety recall in August 2006 when it recalled some 1.8 million lithium-ion batteries made by Sony that had been sold with its iBook and PowerBook notebooks. Last month, Apple's Japanese subsidiary offered to replace iPod nano batteries because of overheating issues.

This is the first recall for the iPhone, which Apple launched in June 2007 and then relaunched in its current 3G form on July 11 of this year.

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Gregg Keizer

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