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iPod Nano Buyers Get Burned, Literally

Apple may have another serious design problem on its hands. The company is offering to replace iPod nano devices sold in Japan amid reports the portable music player's battery is prone to overheating to the point of causing burns.

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reported that first-generation iPod nanos sold between September 2005 and December 2006 exhibit the problem, and that users suffered minor burns from the devices on four occasions. METI reported 60 incidents in total in which iPod nanos developed potentially dangerous overheating.

Apple said its offer to replace the music players comes after talks with Japanese officials.

"We've worked closely with METI to make sure first-generation iPod nano customers who are concerned with their battery have the latest information," an Apple spokesperson told the Reuters news agency.

Apple's troubles in Japan come on the heels of Antennagate, an embarrassing foul-up that ultimately led Steve Jobs to offer iPhone 4 buyers free cases. The cases, or "bumpers", are meant to insulate iPhone 4's finicky antenna from the so-called "grip of death" bug.

The antenna reportedly stops functioning if grasped in the lower left corner.

Apple on July 23rd released a downloadable app that allows iPhone 4 customers to get the free case. The company has said the program could cost it up to $175 million. Mark Papermaster, a top engineer who bolted from IBM last year to take over Apple's iPhone engineering unit, left Cupertino last week after just 15 months on the job in the wake of Antennagate.

The company did not state whether Papermaster's departure was related to the iPhone's problems. To top it all off, Apple was sued earlier this month by consumers who claim the iPad stops functioning if exposed to direct sunlight.