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iPhones Heating Up: Anyone Playing “Hot Potato” With Their 3GS?


My 3GS has given me (relatively) little cause for complaint since I got it, though there was the one little replacement issue for what I thought were Wi-Fi problems. Turned out to be a persistent issue that hopefully will be resolved with a firmware update, but it’s more superficial than anything else. What I haven’t experienced, and what some people are reporting, are overheating issues with their handsets.

A few users are reporting serious heat build-ups in their phones, with temperatures high enough to even prevent putting the phone to one’s face, according to PC World reviewer, Melissa J. Perenson. The problem doesn’t appear to be widespread, which could be due to it being a hardware defect in only a select few phones, or it could even be due to usage patterns. Perenson was basically doing as much as possible to incur heat, by playing games and browsing on Wi-Fi while the device was plugged in.

The PC World report comes on the heels of photos posted at French blog Nowhere Else which claim to show significant discoloration on the rear surface of a white 16GB iPhone 3GS. Apple Support Discussions also exist with users claiming to have overheating issues. Over at QuickPWN, they’re pointing the finger at iPhone OS 3.0, not the 3GS hardware specifically. Just to be clear, no one is reporting actual hardware failure as a result of heat, just temperatures so high that they make using the phone uncomfortable or almost painful.

Even if usage is to blame, as most people’s experiences seem to suggest, that’s no excuse for the devices to overheat. Apple (s appl) is pushing the gaming abilities of the 3GS, after all, so it has to expect device owners to be using the iPhone for gaming for extended periods of time. And Wi-Fi web browsing is hardly undue wear and tear.

Like I said, I’ve yet to experience any heat issues, and I use my 3GS with my recently purchased Mophie Juice Pack Air to really push the battery life to the max. It does get rather warm when I flick the charging switch, but the front surface remains plenty cool enough to hold against my face without discomfort. Admittedly, I’ve yet to do any marathon gaming sessions, which was pretty standard practice on my 3G, but I plan on doing some later today, so I’ll get a chance to see if that incurs any temperature spikes.

Some are already talking wide recalls, but I wouldn’t be so sure. Apple will definitely try to resolve any outstanding quirks the 3GS may have via a software update before resorting to a much more expensive product recall. And the percentage of users reporting this problem is still small, though vocal, but that could just be because most people don’t use their iPhone for prolonged, intensive tasks, or while charging.

Let us know if you’re having heat problems below, and what seems to be causing your issues.

40 Responses to “iPhones Heating Up: Anyone Playing “Hot Potato” With Their 3GS?”

  1. My iphone was playing music through my ipod player and the light went out. I took the phone out the player and it was very hot to the touch. It would not come back on. Have I destroyed my iphone? What could be the cause of this problem, could it be my battery or do I need to buy a new phone?

  2. I have had no problems whatsoever with my iPhone 3GS until I updated to the new system. I then started to noticing my battery draining within a matter of hours whether my phone was in use or not, I am also experiencing the heating issue with my phone since updating. It is ny belief that the system update is faulty, I’m considering restoring my phone back to it’s orignal settings.

  3. My IPhone has just been heating up and draining the battery, even when its plugged in. sometimes it will loose all my contact names when i open contacts, then ill close it and open it again and i have them back. you know what the deal is?

  4. Just got an -i phone 3Gs for Christmas. I had it in my pocket today and it completely overheated! My husband has the previous i-phone and has never had that problem. My phone screen turned black and it was so hot!!! My pocket wasn’t hot at all, the phone was burning. Hmmmm, kinda disturbing.

  5. I have had my 3gs for about a month and a half and and every now again it just heats up for no good reason. The times that it has heated up were not even times of heavy usage. Has anybody reported this issue and what was the results?

  6. Robert Parhami

    p.s. The only problem with their fix is that if you have to use it in an environment that is outside of their limits (-20º and 45º C (-4º to 113º F)), the phone will behave in an unusual way. For example, if your house or car is on fire, if your are stuck in a blizzard, or if it is just a particularly hot or cold day, and if you need to make an emergency call, you will first have to unlock it, if you can see the screen, and then make the call.

  7. Robert Parhami

    To Chris A, I would recommend that you go learn how to use a Microwave oven, and it was not a hot potato, it was a phone that slowly got hotter and hotter.

    To Wayne, Unlike typical phone users, I am in the business of unifying Mac OS’s with applications that run on other operating systems such as Windows and Linux, by using virtual machine technology. I also design wide area network applications and show companies how to use hybrid voice over IP, land line based and wireless based telephone systems. What I do for a living requires an intense ability to focus. This focus sometimes makes me oblivious to other environmental conditions. I normally assume that the environment I am working in is safe. Yes I did contact the Attorney General so that other “idiots” like me don’t get hurt. I did not know the McDonald lady had won, thanks for the advice.

    To KarenV, I wish I could find this as funny as you do, I had to go to the emergency room a second time this last week, and it may take as long as two months to find out if there were any immediate damages to my health.

    To Sumo, I have been a self-employed with my own corporation for over twenty years.

    Hopes this allows you to understand my previous comment.

  8. I love all the things that my phone can do, but after a hour or so of continuous phone use, my iPhone 3G S got too hot to hold to my ear. I had to hold it away from my ear to continue making necessary phone calls. It also seems that the battery life is less than adequate, not making it through an average day of use. It may be that the two problems are related. In any case, I will be looking for a fix from Apple, or a recall.

  9. Peter

    Although the phone can feels a little warmer with use, the only time it feels particularly warm is when it is plugged in and being used. It has never gotten hot enough that I felt in danger of being burned, but it does seem warmer than normal.

  10. I had a similar experience as the hot cheek idiot

    I too rushed to the hospital today.

    I was hungry and decided to stick my iphone in my mouth and swallow… I got so busy talking to AT&T on the phone i didnt notice that the iphone was made of plastic metal and glass. Before you knew it I was choking. Off to the hospital to tell them Im an idiot.

    Robert, Im sure youll sue apple… the fact that you are unaware that people like yourself make our world a tougher place to live and do business sickens me. I am sure youve never owned your own business with real employees and Im sure youd be the first begger in line to sue your doctor for doing nothing wrong.

    sorry… his post upset me. a numb cheek??? come on.

  11. Wayne

    Your story about the iphone sending you to the emergency sounds made up. If it isn’t, you are a ridiculous fool of a person. The fact that you wouldn’t notice it getting hot is stupid, not putting it on speaker to complete the call (because it’s hot) is stupid, deciding that a call to AT&T was so important as to warrant leaving it next to your face so you would get burned is stupid. The final straw in my mind is that you asked an AT&T store manager to pull the hottest selling phone off the shelf because your dumb ass doesn’t know what hot feels like. Or maybe it’s contacting the Attorney General to get the phone off the shelf before people like you don’t get hurt.

    Don’t take this the wrong way but I am not sure I would be opposed to the phone melting right through your head and killing you. We don’t need this level of stupid in society and since nature doesn’t weed out the weak ones in the herd anymore, I’m inclined to thing the iphone was just trying to set things right.

    Disclaimer: I don’t advocate people actually getting hurt or devices that are truly unsafe and should be investigated. Now if the phone exploded while you were talking on it, that would be different. For that matter, I also don’t advocate people blowing things out of proportion when the fault is squarely on themselves, like the lady who sued McDonald’s because there wasn’t a sign that said the coffee was “hot” (she won).

    • OntheRange

      Wow, Wayne…

      Your a bit agro… if I were to take your approach we should just go out and shoot mean people like you makes the earth an unhappy place.
      Now regarding the person with the phone next to their ear… we do not know much about them and to draw alot of mean conclusions about this person demonstrates a lack of higher thinking.
      The person is obviously a fan of the iphone or they would not have purchased it. They, being sensitive and probably shocked that their phone heated up and caused them to have a reaction to it, and calling the store… is show of concern for others and the product. Yes demanding the phones be taken off the market is a bit extreme… after all we have to wait for over 1,000 or more people to die from a drug before it even gets considered to be pulled.
      With that being said, people have every right to post what happened to them, and should not have to censor their level of experience to match your belief system.
      Bring up the McD’s coffee is not relevant. Coffee is expected to be hot (yes she was lacking some smarts) One does not consider their phone to be ‘piping hot’ with use.
      Considering the mentality of the heads of corporations who are run by pencil pushers… I would strongly consider that they released a phone with defects. Its all about the number game. That is way we have Actuaries and insurance companies know what to charge folks and the risk, and how much money they are going to make.
      I am sure att and iphone are just looking to re-coup their development money and know there is a risk of phones heating up… they are just playing the number game and using your money to do so.
      It business, we as consumers have every right to share our experiences and make decisions on our own thoughts.
      Lean how to be a bit more kind and considerate. Ask more questions before you just pass judgment.

  12. Robert Parhami

    I was sent to the emergency room by my Doctor today. I bought the iPhone 3GS 32gb – Black last Saturday. On Sunday I called ATT to review my contract and options with them. While I was on the phone for 15 or 20 minutes or so, the phone started heating up. I was focused on the conversation and as the phone heated up slowly I did not realize that it had gotten really hot. By the end of the conversation I could not hold it to my face. Afterwards the right side of my face had a dull warm feeling. This feeling has not gone away, yet. It has been over two days. I have reported this to the Apple store manager who said he did not have the authority to remove it off the shelf. I also reported it to ATT, they said get treated for now and they would get back to me. I also reported it to the Attorney General of California today. They need to get this damn phone off the market before they hurt more people, now!

    • Chris A

      I don’t believe this.

      If the phone actually burned you to the point you had to go to the hospital, it would have melted. You also wouldn’t have happily kept chatting away as it got hotter and hotter, it would have been a hot potato.

      Your entire story sounds made up.

  13. Lauren

    You said you use the mophie juice pack air with the 3gs. I tried 3 of these cases and they would not work with my phone. Does yours give you any error messages?

  14. I’m holding out on a purchase until heat issues and possibly the camera rattle are resolved. I’m hoping they do it soon, but I may be waiting until the end of August/September before dropping down on an iphone.

  15. I have used my 3GS 32gb with the ATT navigator on a hour and half commute and it was not hot at all, it did warm up when on a long 45min+ phone call but never HOT. The overheating issue sound very suspect to me or at least limited.

  16. Hi,

    my problem is a got a yellow-ish display. Because I got 2 iphones 3G´s 32gig the new 1 1/2 weeks ago and now the 2nd one already with a yellow-ish display background from last Saturday. I brought it back immediatley and got a new one same problem!!! So ordered another one if this is coming in like that I must wait a while maybe before odering again maybe. I called Apple store (Germany) and they are aware of that Problem , HELLLLLOOOO?
    So by putting both ´s :-) next to each other (menue/display/ light high-low) show a completley different background color- one with a clear white white display screen and the other one with an off white/yellow-ish touch.
    Anyone experienced that too? Not heat problem so far just a bit warm same like Nokia N95 sometimes.


    Thx, Kerry

    • I have a Pre. With the standard back on the phone I did notice it at times getting warm during heavy activity (remember, the Pre multitasks so this is when I have several browsers open, watching YouTube or Sprint TV, and talking a bit). However, it was never ‘too hot to handle’… it never got hot, just noticably warm.

      I’m now using the Touchstone charger with it so it has a different back cover on (for the Touchstone to work). With this cover on, it never even gets warm to the touch.

  17. I recently used a GPS app to track my bike ride for about an hour. When I finished, the back of my white iPhone 3GS was extremely warm, but there was no discoloration.

  18. I have noticed the back of my iPhone 3GS 32 gig get noticably warm, although not hot, after only 15 minutes of talk or 30 minutes of watching UTube or using the GPS on Urban Spoon. My 3G 16 gig, that I traded in, never got warm at all, even after prolonged use. I intend to watch this issue closely and if it continues to heat up after only moderate use I may ask them to replace it. Is it normal to get warm like that?

  19. Howdy!!!!

    I have the 3GS 32G white. And well I haven’t seen any discoloration. But when any music or like game that I play with the volume cranked all the way up ( like any gamer would do ) about an inch around my speaker get extremely hot like I can feel it burning my hand and while it doesnt have like a strong scent coming from the speaker, I can still smell something strange. Also I believe it happens when I’m putting in a good beat down on TAP TAP REVENGE the back of my phone heats up but it may just be a combo of my hand and finger placement with the hardware keeping everything tapulous!! But other than the heat issue, not one complant from me!!!

    • iphone 3g 8gig, just upgraded 221 to 312 now calls from 5-45 minutes get hotter the longer the call. i had wifi and bluetooth off. all other programs closed, just a long phone call with 3.0 causes my overheat.