Even if you aren’t walking around every day with a pocketable handheld by your side, chances are you still have a combustible rectangle somewhere on your person at any given time. Lithium-ion battery-powered devices have become so entrenched into our everyday lives that it can be easy to forget that all that on-the-go power can be dangerous without precautions.

Powkiddy A30 and Retroid Pocket Flip

Reddit users have reported devices going up in flames

Anytime a lithium battery is pierced or swells to the point of bursting, all that power has to go somewhere. If you’ve ever seen a YouTube video of a battery being stabbed, you know what happens. The energy rapidly escapes from the battery in the form of flammable gas like a blowtorch that can easily ignite anything unfortunate enough to be in the surrounding area.

Fried Anbernic SP

This Anbernic 35XXSP was likely on its way to its own summer BBQ

If you’ve spent any time perusing the /r/SBCgaming Reddit you’ve likely seen a post of a user with a fried device. The severity seems to vary, but all have rendered devices unusable, and some people have had handhelds damage their other personal belongings. We have not had issues with any devices that I have been aware of, and these examples are anecdotal reports, but it’s worth noting them just to make sure everyone takes some minor precautions to stay safe.


We are not electrical engineers here at RH. We are hobby enthusiasts just like all of you. These are meant to be helpful best practices to help avoid any potential issues. I cannot speak with any level of certainty as to why these incidents are occurring. I can only speculate based on the information that we have.

When writing about RH and dealing with marketplaces and manufacturers, I often mention that there is an element of gambling to this hobby. You as a consumer are entitled to have a reasonable expectation of quality when buying most products, but in reality, it often doesn’t apply here. This is a space where these devices are being designed and shipped out the door as quickly as possible to cash in while the trend is hot.

These companies are not operating with the same oversights as many other Western-facing manufacturers, regardless of whatever QA stickers might appear on a device. They will and do cut corners to meet dates, costs, SAFETY, etc. It’s just the reality of the situation. If you have an issue with a device, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive any type of support other than perhaps being pointed in the direction of some software assistance. If you request a refund or replacement, you will probably be told to kick rocks. This is the unspoken agreement we’re making when getting these devices at, let’s be honest, some pretty ridiculously cheap prices.

Best Practices

Bloated Retroid Flip

If your device is experiencing bloating, it’s time to ditch that battery

I don’t want to give the impression that following these guidelines will ensure you never have a problem. Just an idea of what steps can be taken to hopefully avoid any handheld combustion.

  • If you’re using wall power, you should ideally charge from a well-known branded charger that is 5W 1-2A or connecting to a PC/Laptop
  • If you can help it, use a USB-A to USB-C cable
  • Use what comes with the device. “But these are e-waste cheap cords!” you’ll say. They sure are, but at least we know that they’re the ones the manufacturer intended to get along best with the device. This may seem silly, but not all USB cables are created equal, and voltage bandwidth may be causing issues here.
  • To aid the health and longevity of your device battery, try to be in the habit of charging it once it gets down to about 40-50% power. Avoid going below 30% when you can help it, and consider that every time you get close to fully draining the battery, you’re likely lowering its shelf life.
  • Every time that you do go to plug in your handheld for charging, maybe just make a habit of giving the device a once-over inspection for any signs of bloating. If you see any signs of swelling on your battery, it is probably best that you remove it from the handheld and safely dispose of the battery ASAP.
  • If your handheld is going to live out its days as a shelf piece, the safest way to store it for battery health is at half-charge
  • Avoid leaving your device in direct sunlight or extreme heat (like a hot parked car) for any length of time

Don’t Leave it

Smartphones have conditioned us to plug our devices in overnight to charge after a day of use. While this works great for phones made by reputable manufacturers that need to meet inspections and international safety standards, it may not be a best practice with some retro handhelds. The majority of fire accounts that I’ve read seem to include something like “I’m glad I caught it before I went to bed”. If you can help it, you should avoid charging when you are asleep or away. If there is any truth to the thought that overcharging is causing the batteries to swell and possibly explode, then it’s just smart to keep an eye on things.


The fact of the matter is that any device with a rechargeable battery contains some level of risk over time. Battery swelling can happen on an Apple device or a Powkiddy. Apple just has a lot more to protect with its QA process. It is my personal opinion that these incidents are the exception, not the rule, but do have to do with manufacturing defects and a lack of quality assurance. The math of releasing a new device on a near-monthly basis and doing appropriate testing to ensure safety and quality standards across the board just doesn’t compute. These things are going to happen.

This may feel like a doomer-ism post preaching to you to chuck out your handheld collection. I assure you, it’s not. I have no intention of getting rid of any devices, and I wouldn’t suggest that you do so either. A little awareness never hurt anyone though, so just keep an eye on your batteries, practice safe charging, and keep on gaming.

Retro Handhelds has reached out to Abernic for comment on these issues as they may relate to the RG35XXSP and will update this article with any response.

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