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Apple Now Giving Tours of the Torture Room Where They Didn’t Catch the iPhone 6 Plus Bending Issue

Apple may not be any more prone to launching bad products than the next company, but their response when caught out by a major design flaw is unusual (to say the least).

News broke earlier this week that the iPhone 6 Plus had a structural weakness around the volume buttons which increased the risk that the phablet would bend.  (I’m not calling it BendGate any more, I promise.)

There’s even a video showing just how easy it is to bend an iPhone 6 Plus using only your hands:

After the story broke, Apple responded with the claim that only 9 customers had complained. I for one don’t believe that for a second; with millions of iPhones 6 sold the number of bent units would have to number in the thousands.

According to The Verge, the tests include:

Apple was mum on how much the new iPhones can actually take, something it considers a trade secret. It pointed only to 25 kilograms, the amount of weight Apple puts on top of the iPhone’s screen to test it for the bends. Next to a machine that does this thousands of times is a small set of weights: this isn’t actually the full amount of weight the phone can take Riccio says, just what it can handle while being capable of "bouncing back" to its original form. Even so, there are limits.

Along with that three-point test, there’s what’s known as a "sit test," which simulates the stresses iPhones undergo while in pockets. And not just any pockets, either. There’s a test for when people sit on a soft surface, when the iPhone is sat on, as well as what Apple considers the "worst-case scenario," which is when it goes into the rear pocket of skinny jeans and sits on a hard surface — at an angle.

And so they have all that equipment and didn’t catch the design flaw? Okay, but I hope I am not the only one with a feeling of deja vu.

The thing about the current brouhaha is that Apple’s response reminds me a lot of their response to the iPhone 4’s antenna problems in 2010 (again, not calling it AntennaGate). As you might recall, that iPhone model had a novel antenna design that wrapped the antenna around the edges of the iPhone in such a way that if you held it like  a smartphone your fingers would short out the antenna and you would lose the signal.

At first Apple denied the problem, but they later admitted to it and offered a free case to anyone who complained. And then Apple offered tours of their testing facility.

Apple has yet to offer an across the board response to the current issue, but doesn’t the response so far remind you of Apple’s reaction to news of that earlier design flaw?

The only difference between 2014 and 2010 is that we don’t have visual evidence that Apple knew about this issue in advance. The same cannot be said for the iPhone 4, because back in 2010 Steve Jobs was shown holding the iPhone 4 in a very weird way at the launch event:


That is not a comfortable grip, not unless your hands are huge. It’s also arguably not a natural way to hold a smartphone. While that doesn’t prove that Apple knew about that issue, it does make you wonder, does it not?

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Rob Siders September 26, 2014 um 2:15 pm

In a follow up video at Unbox Therapy—in which he tries to bend a Galaxy Note 3 (it survives)—he said he tried to bend the iPhone 6 Plus back into shape… the chassis cracked at the weak spot, as well as the screen glass.

Rob Siders September 26, 2014 um 2:21 pm

In another follow up, he bends the iPhone 6 (among others). It takes a slight bend, but he bent it back. He also tries the HTC One M8, which is similar in size and construction to the Plus. It survives, too.

Nate Hoffelder September 26, 2014 um 2:31 pm

I saw that, yes. I wouldn’t say he bent the Note; it flexed under pressure but but then reverted. The Plus got bent, permanently.

Nate Hoffelder September 26, 2014 um 2:52 pm

Here’s that video where he bends the Note 3:

Timothy Wilhoit September 26, 2014 um 2:57 pm

There was interesting article in Forbes on Wednesday called "Designed for Trouble?" and they were describing where the bends were happening:

"It’s around the side mounted volume buttons. But less obvious at first glance is that those buttons align with another “feature” that’s new to this year’s iPhone. The Apple logo on the back panel is a separate piece of stainless steel that’s bonded to the aluminum through a cutout."

The article goes on to say: "The Apple logo cutout in the back takes out approximately 1/6 of the casing from the center and a cutout for the power button opposite the volume buttons further weakens the metal in the very same horizontal slice. " Aluminum isn’t a hard metal anyway…If you apply much stress in that horizontal slice where the structural integrity has been seriously compromised, it will bend. The "only nine complaints" response strains credulity. If Apple had sold 10 million anvils (not that anvils get good phone reception), there would have a lot more than nine people complain that, somehow, they had managed to damage their anvil "through no fault of their own."

Nate Hoffelder September 26, 2014 um 3:05 pm

I hadn’t read that the logo cutout may be contributing to the issue (it doesn’t surprise me), but it was pretty clear that the volume buttons were.

Name (required) September 27, 2014 um 7:39 am

Do not underestimate the power of bare hands when bending or breaking stuff:

Patrick September 27, 2014 um 3:15 pm

Seems everyone has their own study/opinion on this.

Mackay Bell September 27, 2014 um 5:22 pm

Oh my goodness! Apple is doomed. They actually made a product that someone can deliberately break? Everyone knows all consumer electronics are supposed to be indestructible. Who would think that a super thin cell phone with a large screen couldn’t withstand someone trying as hard as they can to bend it in it’s weakest spot?

Apple has been struggling desperately since it was found out that the iPhone didn’t get perfect antenna reception. Since then consumers have been super mistrustful of all their products and sales have been tanking. This latest revelation clearly means the iPhone 6 and 6 plus are DOA.

People will shift to buying whatever those millions of white box Android whatever things are that keep selling and lowering Apple’s market share of phones over 35 cents. If it wasn’t for Apple’s majority share of the US and Japanese phone market, and all affluent customers around the world, they wouldn’t have any sales at all.

How long can they continue selling premium phones at a premium price and taking the lions share of profits away from other struggling manufacturers when someone can bend their phone by forcing their thumb against the volume buttons? How odd for them to show off their factory to prove they actually test these things?

I’d be willing to bet Apple hasn’t considered how many times you can pound their phones against a brick before it breaks. But I’m sure someone will try.

And let’s not forget they fall apart in industrial blenders. That was proven long ago.

Nate Hoffelder September 27, 2014 um 5:26 pm

LOL The snark, it burns!

Rob Siders September 29, 2014 um 2:10 pm

The Washington Post said late last week this wasn’t a real thing (citing Apple’s report that only nine people had complained). Apple fans have now claimed the original video was doctored/staged/faked in some way. Unbox Therapy responded with this:

Nate Hoffelder September 29, 2014 um 2:15 pm

If you scroll up, one of the links in the post leads to a different video, this time from the German site ComputerBild. They got the same result.

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