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Apple sued over MagSafe risks

Apple sued over MagSafe risks

Apple's much-vaunted MagSafe power adaptor may actually constitute a fire risk according to a suit brought against the company.

Apple has found itself at the centre of yet another legal tussle – this time over allegations that its much-vaunted MagSafe power connector might pose a fire risk.

As reported over on PC World, the Cupertino-based company's clever MagSafe system – which uses magnetism to keep the DC power lead connected to the laptop, allowing it to quickly disconnect if someone should trip over the wire without yanking your MacBook off your lap – has come under fire (sorry) in the San Jose District Court for posing a hazard to its users.

To be fair to Apple, it's not the clever MagSafe technology itself which poses the problem: according to the complaint, it's where the cable connects to the MagSafe jack itself that can flex enough to “dangerously fray, [and emit] sparks” - shortly followed by the unit itself “prematurely [failing] to work” altogether.

The suit alleges that both the 60W and 85W versions of the power adaptor have been negligently designed and manufactured, and accuses Apple of being fully aware of the problem but steadfastly ignoring it – neither disclosing details regarding the issue or ceasing manufacturing and distribution of the affected devices.

There's at least some evidence for the claim that Apple is aware of the issue: the company's KnowledgeBase contains information on what to do should “the adapter's white insulation separates from the magnetic end of the MagSafe connector.” The suit also points to the almost overwhelmingly negative reviews the MagSafe PSU has received in the three years that Apple has been distributing the design.

The claimant asks that Apple provides a “safe, defect-free” MagSafe power supply to every US citizen that is affected by the issue – or, should that prove impossible for the company to arrange, that it instead refunds the full purchase price of the laptop to all members of the class.

Should Apple cough to the problems and sort out three years worth of power supply sales, or are people just not looking after their accessories as well as they should? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

15 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
ozstrike 7th May 2009, 12:44 Quote
Never had a problem with mine, it's one of the best design features on the laptop tbh.
liratheal 7th May 2009, 12:50 Quote
I don't understand what people do to their magsafes to get the above mentioned issues.

My magsafe adapter (admittedly out of regular use, now, owing to the lack of Mac) has been being used, wound up, chucked in bags etc, for ~2 years. It's not been treated like it's made of glass and spit, either. It's still in perfect working order, with only some marks on the cable, which I bet'd come off with a bit of half-arsed effort..

I think this is PEBKAC rather than bad design. Especially since it's not occurring with every single brick, which you'd expect for something that's supposed to be a massive manufacturing defect..
Johnny Bravo 7th May 2009, 13:14 Quote
Actually this did happen to my flat mates PSU. No fire but it did get hot enough to burn the white plastic and cause alot of alarm. To be fair it's not strictly a major design flaw; wear and tear and hardly be levied at a company but it does indeed happen.
p3n 7th May 2009, 13:25 Quote
When they replace damaged PSU's without question its kinda silly to sue....
Goty 7th May 2009, 13:27 Quote
This is just a result of the litigious society here in the US, and especially the vocal minority of complete idiots in California. I highly doubt the failure rates of the power bricks are anything to be alarmed about.
TGImages 7th May 2009, 14:14 Quote
Mostly user abuse IMO.

I support dozens of laptops for users who regularly travel. A variety of brands although most at Dell. Same machine, same adapter. One user needs a new power adapter every year or so due to plastic separation and fraying. Another user will go 4 years and the equipment still looks like new. Same with cell phones, same with... etc.

Not to say that some stuff does have design flaws but in general treating the equpiment properly usually prevents almost all of these issues.
DarkLord7854 7th May 2009, 15:12 Quote
"When you twist the cable 120 degrees multiple times, the cable can fray and damage! It's a manufacturer defect!"


I don't own a mac, but I have a few friends that do, and I always see them bending the connector in all sorts of weird and sharp angles. I guess people assume that cables that plug in straight are actually not intended to be left in that position..
wafflesomd 7th May 2009, 16:33 Quote
I've repaired one before. It's pretty obvious why it happens.

Most power supplies have a thicker, structured piece of rubber the helps strengthen the joint. The MagSafe's really don't.

Plus, two conductors go from the PSU to the laptop. Though rather than remaining as two individual cables, the ground meshes out and becomes a shield. That, combined with the very thing outer layer of the cable, makes it pretty prone to tearing.

This isn't user abuse, it's just a piece of crap.
Zurechial 7th May 2009, 16:37 Quote
Suing Apple over design flaws seems like a pretty smart way to recoup the losses of paying for overpriced technology.

Whoever said Mac users were foolish? :D

I have to say I like the concept of the socket, though.
With some modification to alleviate this problem it's a design I'd be happy to see gaining popularity beyond the mac.
It'd be especially useful for external hard drives and enclosures - How many drives have been killed by people tripping over the wire?
Psytek 7th May 2009, 17:34 Quote
I don't understand which part of the cable is meant to be dangerous. I don't know anyone whose magsafe emits 'sparks'.
Johnny Bravo 7th May 2009, 17:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Psytek
I don't understand which part of the cable is meant to be dangerous. I don't know anyone whose magsafe emits 'sparks'.

the shielding inside also acts as ground. However cus the power cable is so thin it can bend quite tightly and after some time the shielding frays and eventually strips the insulation on the live central wire. when that happens its shorts overheats and burns.
Digitalize- 7th May 2009, 18:01 Quote
Just wish they would apply the MBA Magsafe to all the Laptop line, right angled connector please!
DarkLord7854 7th May 2009, 18:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zurechial
It'd be especially useful for external hard drives and enclosures - How many drives have been killed by people tripping over the wire?


Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe it's patented by Apple and I highly doubt you'll be seeing magnetic connectors outside of Apple products for many many years..
ZERO <ibis> 8th May 2009, 15:35 Quote
You could always DIY and not half to wait! Also if you made your own you could use a better cable that does not break.
OleJ 10th May 2009, 23:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by wafflesomd
I've repaired one before. It's pretty obvious why it happens.

Most power supplies have a thicker, structured piece of rubber the helps strengthen the joint. The MagSafe's really don't.

Plus, two conductors go from the PSU to the laptop. Though rather than remaining as two individual cables, the ground meshes out and becomes a shield. That, combined with the very thing outer layer of the cable, makes it pretty prone to tearing.

This isn't user abuse, it's just a piece of crap.

I concur.
It happened to a family members MBP and was not caused by abuse.
For some reason Apple disregarded proper sleeving and strengthening of the connecting ends of the power adaptor cable.
There has been countless incidents where either the end near the power brick or the one at the mac end starts melting and short circuits.
It's "just " an engineering flaw and I think it's a shame Apple hasn't adressed it. This will hopefully force them to improve their design.
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