1422: My Phone is Dying

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
My Phone is Dying
When it explodes, it will cast off its outer layers, leaving behind nothing but a slowly fading PalmPilot, calculator, or two-way pager.
Title text: When it explodes, it will cast off its outer layers, leaving behind nothing but a slowly fading PalmPilot, calculator, or two-way pager.


Beret Guy's phone is about to "die". Cueball assumes this just means that the battery is running out and it needs to be recharged, but the phone in question appears to "die" in a way analogous to the life and death of a star: expending its fuel while heating up and expanding before ultimately losing its outer layers and becoming a white dwarf or similar "lesser" star. The technology of mobile phones can be seen as doing things analogous to this on a large scale, especially for people who used landlines before mobile phones became common. However, this is something phones usually don't literally do.[citation needed]

Stars constantly undergo fusion reactions. The pressure generated by these reactions counteracts gravity, preventing it from collapsing the star during its main lifespan. As the hydrogen mostly fuses into helium in the core, the core gradually becomes more dense and the region of fusion gradually moves away from the center. Then, the star grows in size, reaching the stage of a red giant. When most of the "fuel" for fusion has been consumed, gravity will collapse the star into a white dwarf while the outer layers are shed. For stars much more massive than the Sun, there will be a supernova explosion caused by a violent collapse, which is very powerful (and leaves behind a neutron star or a black hole, depending on how much mass is left after the supernova). Stars with more hydrogen fuel tend to burn brighter and faster. Beret Guy's refusal of a charger is probably a reference to this.

Both a supernova explosion and the collapse of red giants into white dwarfs shed their outer layers, which is referenced in the title text. Once extra mass is added to the dying star, analogous to "charging", the process only accelerates. (Randall also explains this in Short Answer Section.) The phone seems to have a certain mass because Beret Guy expects it to go (super)nova. Charging the phone may lead to a type 1a nova.

The comic also plays on the release of two new iPhone models with bigger screens, planned for 2 days after the release of the comic.

The comic could be also explained by the characteristics of Li-ion batteries, which are used in most cellphones. At the end of their useful life, these batteries may grow a bit. In case of severe physical or thermal damage or multiple electrical failures, this type of battery can indeed overheat, leading to a thermal runaway reaction inside. That would result in the battery growing and eventually exploding. Connecting a charger to a battery failing in this manner would probably make the process faster.

The title text implies that after Beret Guy's iPhone goes (super)nova, it will become either a "slowly fading" Palm Pilot, a calculator, or a two way pager: this would be the cellphone equivalent of a white dwarf (evidenced by the faint and slowly fading glow), neutron star, or black hole (evidence: black holes emit "information" in the form of Hawking radiation and have at one time been suspected to be half of a two-way portal through spacetime, along with a "white hole").

Additionally, some particles and atoms decay by breaking into smaller, more elementary particles. It may be humorously implied that a PalmPilot (an early personal data assistant and precursor to the smartphone), a calculator (a very simple electronic device), and two-way pager (a device for sending and receiving short text messages) are the more elementary components that make up an iPhone.


[Cueball stands on the left while Beret Guy walks in from the right, carrying a smartphone.]
Beret Guy: My phone's about to die.
[The phone is now subtly larger.]
Cueball: Where'd you get a big iPhone? I didn't think they were out yet.
Beret Guy: It's my regular one. It's just dying.
[The phone increases in size again. Beret Guy now holds it in both hands.]
Beret Guy: As it consumes its battery, it heats up and expands.
Beret Guy: Soon it will swell to enormous size, engulfing us both.
[The phone is now in the size of Beret Guy's torso; he is clutching it to himself. Cueball is pointing off-panel.]
Beret Guy: Then it will collapse in a violent explosion!
Cueball: ...do you want to borrow my charger?
Beret Guy: That would only make it run out faster!

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


The dying of Beret's phone is similar to the dying of the sun.

The Sun does not have enough mass to explode as a supernova. Instead it will exit the main sequence in approximately 5.4 billion years and start to turn into a red giant. It is calculated that the Sun will become sufficiently large to engulf the current orbits of the solar system's inner planets, possibly including Earth. (via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun) Oicebot (talk) 04:43, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

I thought, this might be a TARDIS reference. -- 07:03, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

The main page of this explanation mentions White Hat... he's not even in this comic, only Beret Guy and Cueball. Not sure about editing policies/things here yet, so figured I'd mention this on the talk page :P Hope this helps! Tanos (talk) 06:43, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

Fixed. --DaB. (talk) 10:55, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
And anyone is welcome to edit the comic. Thanks for the input! Nealmcb (talk) 16:06, 17 September 2014 (UTC)
Sorry - t'was me. Note to self: Do not edit in the morningTier666 (talk) 16:27, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

Reference to the iPhone (and may be other smartphones) which becomes bigger and bigger with every release. At the same time iPhone becomes less popular and it is 'dying' this way. So - the bigger iPhone becomes the closer it is to 'death'. And it was like a star among other smartphones. In the title text it may be a jesting prophesy - one on future generation of iPhone will be like a set of some separate devices. 07:42, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

I had a similar interpretation of a symbolic equivalency between the iPhone and a star (playing on the double meaning of "star" — the celestial body, and that of someone or something that has great fame). Though, not with it getting bigger with each version, but rather within the lifespan of each version (each version grows in fame until it dies with the release of the next version). 05:31, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

The first paragraph assumes that the phone is going to become a white dwarf and the supernova is not mentioned until lower down. Personally, I read the "collapse in a violent explosion" comment from the fourth panel as implying that it was already on its way to becoming a supernova(-analog) and the charger would speed it up. Unless red dwarfs actually explode and leave white dwarfs (which I didn't think they did, but maybe I'm wrong there) concluding that it's analogous to the white dwarf doesn't make sense to me, at least. Thoughts? 08:42, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

A red giant will have its outer layers blown away (though not in anything like the violent way of a supernova) and the core that remains is a white dwarf. A much larger star that goes supernova will often leave behind a neutron star or, if the star was really massive, a black hole. 12:57, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

There is a conspiracy theory that Apple allegedly kills iPhones just before the release of a new model. This comic seems to make a play on that. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~) -Unusual conspiracy. Presumably it's to make sure old customers buy the new iPhone, but wouldn't most Apple fans do that anyways? 12:37, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

There are plenty of Apple customers who aren't 'Apple Fans'. And I've heard similar theories about software that encounters a major bug or glitch _just_ after the free warranty runs out. 15:29, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

Lol, I didn't even notice the phone was getting bigger until the last panel. Derp. Zowayix (talk) 14:20, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

I have an old iPhone3 which have popped open by an enlarged battery after having been sitting in a box unused for a few years -- but it would be great if somebody could provide a scientific reference to whether this is normal and expected Spongebog (talk) 18:55, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

The two way pager in title text might be a reference to black holes, under the assumption that they act as worm holes to other regions in spacetime. It could explode and leave behind a slowly fading PalmPilot (netron star), Calculator(brown dwarf), Two way pager (blackhole). 15:14, 17 September 2014 (UTC)BK

Somewhat relevant, but mostly just funny, link: http://www.sluggy.com/comics/archives/daily/140820 Smperron (talk) 20:43, 17 September 2014 (UTC)

"However, this is something phones usually don't do.[citation needed]" Do we really need a citation that normal phones don't consume their battery, grow in size and explode, leaving a white dwarf behind? There was the story a while back about iPhones exploding in peoples pockets, and I know that Li-ion batteries can expand and burst, but rarely do they leave white dwarf stars behind. Andyd273 (talk) 15:48, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

Personally, I found this [citation needed] hilarious, and urge you to keep it.-- 15:52, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

"Additionally, some particles and atoms decay by breaking into smaller, more elementary particles. It is humorously implied that a PalmPilot [...] are the more elementary components [...]" no it isn't implied at all? I see no similarity here. ‎ (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

"Charging the phone may lead to a type 1a nova."

shouldn't it be Type Ia supernova? the link should also point to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_Ia_supernova 02:02, 20 September 2014 (UTC)

There's no difference. The "I" is a roman numeral. 04:33, 25 September 2014 (UTC)

Citation needed? That I agree with... unless you're referring to the Note 7. In which case... citation found! --JayRulesXKCD (talk) 11:33, 13 October 2016 (UTC)

Black holes don't exist: https://www.quora.com/How-do-I-engage-the-scientific-community-to-disprove-the-premise-of-100-years-of-black-hole-and-gravitational-singularity-formalism-as-of-2016. faster -> swiftlier; physical -> somatic, mekanic; would -> should; larger, bigger -> greater; not theòry unless proven; which "peoples"? Lysdexia (talk) 17:50, 25 July 2019 (UTC)