"People think I'm joking at first," Robert Clifford told WPLG-TV of Miami. "I show them the burn and it freaks them out."
Clifford, of Davie, Fla., said the phone felt warm when he took it from his pocket, but didn't think it was hot enough to cause blisters on his ear. He was wrong.
"I didn't know it was a burn," Clifford said. "It felt like I had gotten hit — like someone smashed me real hard in the side of the head."
Most modern cell phones come with warnings that carrying phones alongside small metal objects such as keys, coins or paper clips could cause the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to overheat. The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission
has received complaints of five similar incidents, the TV station learned.
"The battery kept swelling up. It got hot," Clifford recounted. "The heat kept increasing ... the last 10 minutes it started smelling. The stench filled the whole room."
After some prodding by the TV station, Clifford's wireless carrier apologized, gave him credit for lost time and provided him with a new phone.
The company also asked for the old phone back to conduct its own investigation. Clifford's parents refused.