A hoax claims to quote a Harvard study which allegedly states that you can charge your cell phone in the microwave 15-25 times faster than plugging it into the wall.
It’s a hoax.
If you place an electronic device in the microwave, it will no longer be operational and could create a fire hazard. It will also likely damage the microwave and emit toxic fumes.
This hoax first appeared in 2013 and resurfaced in September 2014. A similar hoax circulated in 2013 which claimed an iOS update would render phones waterproof. Let’s take a look at examples of each.
The version which circulated in June 2013 included a graphic that read:
Any iPhone can be charged in a microwave oven, 15-25 times faster than the charger that came with it! Try it now:
Step 1: Plug your cable into the phone
Step 2: Put your iPhone in the center of the oven and coil the cable around it.
Step 3: Set the timer on the oven for 10-20 seconds
Step 4: You now have a charged iPhone!
This works because microwaves use the same principles as wireless charging pads, by rearranging the electrons in your iPhone’s battery, to gather at the negative terminal. Remember to leave your cable plugged in!
Note that the Harvard URL (either with a zero or the letter “O” in the url above) does not exist.
Although the graphic cited a Tumblr profile, we couldn’t find this graphic posted by that popular account, so it’s possible someone attributed this “fact” to that account to lend credibility to the claim.
The video below demonstrates what will happen if you place your cell phone in a microwave oven:
With the release of the iPhone 6 and iOS 8, the hoax resurfaced in September 2014. This time, the hoax was named “Wave” which stated that the new Apple products could be charged in a microwave oven.
Wave is the latest and greatest addition to iOS8. Wave allows your device to be charged wirelessly through microwave frequencies. Wave can be used to quickly charge your device’s battery using any standard household microwave.
The graphic includes a copyright in Apple’s name, and lists times for charging products at 60 or 70 seconds.
It is unclear if any unsuspecting Apple users fell for the 2014 “Wave” variant of the hoax, although some sources have reported this to be the case.
2013 “Waterproof” Version
In September 2013, a similar fake ad was spotted circulating on several social media sites. This claimed than an operating system update would allow the iPhone to become waterproof. The text of this phony advertisement read:
Update to iOS 7 and become waterproof.
In an emergency, a smart-switch will shut off the phone’s power supply and corresponding components to prevent any damage to your iPhone’s delicate circuitry.
The professional-looking ad is believed to have originated from 4chan, a web forum known for internet pranks and memes. According to The Inquirer, a few Twitter users admitted to falling for the prank, with one user writing, “OK whoever said iOS 7 is waterproof GO **** YOURSELF.” Another Tweet stated, “Someone told me to download iOS 7 so my iPhone becomes waterproof. I am now tweeting from my PC.”
Dial 999 Version
An online rumor claimed that dialing 999 would instantly recharge your cell phone battery.
In the UK and several other countries, 999 is the emergency number, which means this hoax has been a burden to emergency operators in those areas.
History of the 999 Hoax
Claims that calling 999 will recharge mobile devices date back to at least mid-2012, and by mid-2013 the hoax had become popular enough for local authorities to respond.
In August 2013, Derbyshire Police told The Mirror:
“There is no way any mobile phone battery can be boosted by anything other than a normal charger.
We have received several silent 999 calls recently which have turned out to be people who are trying to get more charge on their phone.
Every time we get a silent or aborted 999 call we have to spend time ringing that person back to ensure they are safe.
That takes up valuable time which could be spent dealing with a real emergency.
We’re appealing to anyone who hears this myth to ignore it and not waste their time or the time of emergency service personnel.”
In January 2014, the rumor saw renewed online sharing, prompting the Bedfordshire Police to issued a statement in attempts to defuse the hoax:
“This myth has been circulating for some time now and we are not the only force to have suffered from these false calls.
Calling 999 for anything other than an emergency or a non-police matter puts additional pressure on resources, ties up an operator and wastes valuable time that could be better spent helping genuine callers possibly in a life-threatening situation.
The only way to boost a mobile phone battery is to use a charger.”
Police have noted that silent or aborted 999 calls are still investigated to rule out a situation in which the caller was in danger and could not complete the call.
In some areas, police have the authority to disconnect mobile phones which have abused the 999 system.
This isn’t the first hoax with outlandish claims regarding ways to charge cell phones. Last year we wrote about a popular hoax which stated that you could charge an iPhone by putting it in a microwave oven. Some users reportedly fried their phones while trying out that “helpful tip.”
Using a microwave oven on a cell phone will likely destroy your phone and the oven. This hoax has circulated at least twice since 2013. There was also no iOS update which would make iPhones waterproof.
Dialing 999 will also not recharge your cell phone. It will either reach emergency services (if you live in the appropriate countries), or it will do nothing at all.
Originally published June 3, 2013.
Updated October 29, 2014