Apple has a history of pretending nothing is wrong with its products when it’s obvious to all outside observers that there’s something very, very wrong. Such was the case back in the days of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus when buyers claimed the phones bent too easily. Later, many owners had issues with so-called “touch disease” when the phones would stop responding to touches. Apple denied these problems were widespread. Newly revealed documents suggest that not only was Apple aware, but it was actively working on engineering changes to mitigate the issues. All the while, it continued gaslighting iPhone owners.
The issue with bending iPhones (or Bendgate) popped up almost immediately after the slimmer, all-aluminum iPhone 6 launched. Owners reported that simply leaving the phone in your pocket during the day while seated could bend the chassis. The phone was constructed from 6000 series aluminum. The frame was designed to be thin and light, but there was little support around the buttons along the edge. Thus, the phone would bend out of shape, and aluminum doesn’t snap back into shape after bending like plastic does.
Apple claimed its phones were no more likely to bend than others, but the documents spotted by Motherboard show a different story inside the company. The full documents are still sealed as part of a class-action lawsuit against Apple. However, Judge Lucy Koh made parts of them public in a recent ruling on the case.
Apple’s own internal testing prior to launch identified bending as a potentially severe drawback of the design. The company’s engineers calculated the iPhone 6 was 3.3 times more likely than the iPhone 5s to bend. Meanwhile, the iPhone 6 Plus with its larger footprint was a whopping 7.2 times more likely to warp.
Later internal analysis of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus began when users reported the so-called “touch disease” defect. This was a result of a display controller chip on the motherboard coming unseated over time. Apple found this was related to excessive bending and flexing. Still, it publicly maintained there were no engineering defects with the iPhone 6. The company quietly made changes to the chassis to reinforce the areas around the touch controller, but it still charged owners $149 for replacement phones after acknowledging the issue in late 2016.
The case is still ongoing, but the judge has denied a motion for the plaintiffs to be certified as a class. She cited a lack of detail on how damages would be paid in the event they win. Lawyers say they will submit a new motion soon, but the preliminary facts we have don’t look great for Apple.
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