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iPhone 6 Bending Hype

Consumer Reports tests iPhone 6 durability
image credit: Consumer Reports

published by Chand Bellur
September 26, 2014 at 7:28 p.m. PST

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are tremendously successful. Sometimes success breeds contempt. In the latest episode of post-product-launch Apple-bashing, the iPhone 6 Plus has been vilified as being unreasonably fragile.

With over 10 million smartphones sold in the first weekend, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have proven to be immensely popular. This has caused a lot of desperation among Apple-haters. As with every Apple product launch, the Cupertino tech colossus is being held to a higher standard than their competitors. New allegations have surfaced that the iPhone 6 Plus is exceptionally fragile and will bend simply by being pocketed. The success of this new iPhone, combined with the power of social media and blogosphere, has created a perfect storm of contempt for Apple.

Does the iPhone 6 Plus Bend?

The iPhone 6 Plus can be bent if enough force is applied to the device. This is true of just about every smartphone of its class. Larger smartphones with bigger screens tend to be more fragile. Given the extreme thinness of the new iPhone 6 Plus, in addition to its aluminum construction, it is possible to bend it.

So far, this has been shown in a famous video where the device is bent by hand. Other claims that the device has bent simply by being pocketed are a bit more dubious. According to Apple, only 9 out of 10 million customers have reported damage to their new iPhone. It has happened, but it is highly unlikely to happen just by pocketing the device. Claims that this issue is more widespread are suspect. It simply doesn’t make sense for someone to Tweet an issue with their new, warranty-protected iPhone, and then fail to contact Apple for a replacement.

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Other smartphones can also bend under pressure. One of Apple’s competitors had a problem with their flagship phone. Some users who pocketed the device would experience small cracks in the screen. Nonetheless, since the news media, blogosphere and social media are laser-focused on Apple, other companies are able to release inferior products without much scrutiny. Their fans will simply make up excuses, while ironically holding Apple up to much higher standards. Apple products are not perfect, but they are better than the competition. This comes from both personal experience and hours of reading certified customer reviews.

When a company achieves the success and market share that Apple enjoys, it creates a large community of critics. Apple is, in many ways, the new Microsoft. Much like Microsoft was once vilified as the “evil empire”, Apple now suffers from this unfavorable distinction.

People justify Apple-bashing out of concern over market dominance. Many of the talking points about Apple being closed and offering over-priced products are no longer true, but still persist. Critics are driven by contentious marketing by Apple’s rivals. They regurgitate unbalanced lists of specifications — an exercise in pseudo-science.

Critics are also driven by a moral imperative. They must stop the new evil empire from growing, hoping that their favorite “morally superior” multinational corporation will achieve dominance. The mentality is riddled with contradictions and conformity. It is almost cult-like in fervor and intensity. This causes Apple to be plagued by unfair and biased criticisms with every product launch.

A Brief History of Apple Product Launch “Gates”

The practice of sabotaging Apple product launches is nothing new. This has been going on for over a decade, as Apple rose like phoenix from the ashes. During the 1990s it was quite the opposite. Apple was the underdog, and Microsoft was the evil empire. Apple fanboys were using every means necessary to shill for a dying platform, but the Macintosh couldn’t bring developers into the fold. Today, you see that same mentality with Apple haters, regardless of which platform they prefer. With Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry fans, Apple faces much more opposition.

Apple does bear some responsibility for this backlash. Their products used to be prohibitively expensive and offered little value. They claimed to be perfectionists, but no technology company is perfect. Having used many different products from several tech companies, both professionally and personally, their products generally exhibit higher quality, but are not perfect. Slogans such as “it just works” came off as arrogant and were ironic, considering the poor quality of iOS 5, which was released in conjunction with the new rhetoric. Their advertising campaigns, particularly the ones with Justing Long and Jonathan Hodgman, came off as conceited and snarky. It kept me away from Apple products.

With the passing of Steve Jobs, Apple found new leadership under Tim Cook. Their new CEO changed the tone of the company. He dropped the “it just works” slogan, and after some key leadership changes, the quality of iOS and OS X improved dramatically. Both operating systems were already more stable and secure than the competition. Apple now focuses on the personal experience of their products and how they touch people’s lives. Many of their competitors have taken on the role of “talking trash”. Such advertising strategies actually alienate potential customers.

Unfortunately, the talking points and rhetoric of Apple haters persist, even when the company has changed direction. The overwhelming success of Apple has created a vocal cadre of Apple-haters. Blogs and social media serve as an echo chamber, amplifying talking points and providing unbalanced lists of specs to regurgitate. The overwhelming success of the iPhone 6 has created a frenzy of Apple hatred, resulting in bend-gate or bendghazi. This is not a new phenomenon. Here’s a brief list of some of the other Apple-gates that were launched in conjunction with new Apple products:

  • video iPod scratches with normal use
  • the Power Mac G4 Cube case cracks
  • original iPhone gets too hot
  • antenna-gate
  • iOS Maps
  • iOS 7 is ugly
  • TouchID touch fade
  • U2 album which some customers didn’t want
  • iOS 8.0.1 fiasco

There is truth to some of these problems, but they are usually overblown or problems common to all devices of their class. When these are real issues, Apple usually takes accountability and acts quickly to ameliorate the problem. Apple is a very large corporation with hundreds of millions of customers. Major news media outlets create headlines out of flaws in Apple products. These stories are amplified and colored by Apple critics on social media and blogs.

Regardless of the issue, you can be assured that with every Apple product launch, there will be Apple haters taking to social media, often under the pretense of an Apple customer experiencing these issues. This makes a small problem seem more widespread. The issue with the bendable iPhone 6 Plus is just another case of Apple bashing. There is some truth to it, but virtually every comparable device can bend or break.

How To Find The Truth About Bendghazi or Bend-Gate

Don’t believe me. For all you know, I could be an Apple fanboy. For those who are familiar with my site, this is clearly not the case. However, you shouldn’t believe something just because it is on a blog or goes viral on social media. None of these resources are fact checked or vetted. Don’t believe Apple either. They claim that this problem has surfaced on only 9 iPhones out of 10 million sold. Their customer support would be well aware of this number, however, with so much at stake, the numbers could be minimized.

The best way to get to the bottom of these “gates” is to become an informed consumer. You need to do research and read customer reviews from actual customers. Don’t get this information from a tech website, blog, social media, or some geek poseur. Most of these sources have an agenda, and you will be the one paying $80 a month for two years and suffering with defects or missing out on the killer apps. The phone is the cheapest part of the deal, even if you pay a premium price for an unlocked version.

Most carriers, such as Verizon, offer a website with detailed customer reviews for every product they sell. Most importantly, they only let device owners write a review. On Verizon’s site, they even show how long someone has owned the device. If your carrier doesn’t offer this, try to get this information from a website that does, even if you aren’t planning to use that carrier. The most important thing is to get reviews from people who actually own the device. It is far too common for trolls to claim they had horrible problems with a device they never even owned.

It is also a good idea to read reliable reviews from major and trusted publications. The two I would recommend are Consumer Reports and Popular Mechanics. Some of the other “trusted” publications have bias and are funded by technology corporations. Even worse, it is common for major online publications to brew up controversy in order to bait users into reading articles and posting comments. They simply want page views and aren’t concerned about the truth. In fact, the more contentious and untrue an article is, the more attention it will garner.

Even Consumer Reports is not infallible. They fell for antenna-gate and blamed Apple for a problem that is common to all phones. They did not, however, fall for Mapple-gate and felt that iOS Maps was a competent product. I use Maps all the time, and it’s just as good as the major GPS navigation units, such as Garmin, Magellan, TomTom and built-in car navigation systems. The bulk of the data come from NAVTEQ. It is not as good as Google Maps, but it won’t get you lost.

The Bigger Than Bigger Picture

It is never a good idea to throw the baby out with the bath water. When the dust settles, it is unlikely that we will find the iPhone 6 Plus to be inferior to any device of its class. In fact, I expect we will see it stand up to more stress and pressure than any other phablet. Apple has gone to great lengths testing the durability of this device during development. I do think bendghazi is par for the course. It is yet another attempt to take the steam out of an Apple launch.

I already see fan boys and Apple haters predicting that this will be a deciding factor in customer purchases. Even if Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus proves to be slightly more fragile than other devices, is that the only consideration when purchasing a smartphone? Fan boys love to abstract away the details and focus on just a few issues where their favorite product is supposedly superior. Most consumers are not fan boys and don’t listen to these people. At best, fan boys can only influence people in their vicinity. Fan boys tend to lack social skills, and therefore don’t have much sway.

In the end, if the device proves to have lesser durability than the competition, many people will just buy a case. It’s not because they are sheep. There’s a good reason for people to prefer Apple devices. iOS still has many apps that other mobile operating systems are missing. iOS still offers top-notch performance when it comes to gaming and multimedia. These are the reasons I prefer the iPhone. I might just get a case this time, but when the dust settles, most people will find the iPhone 6 Plus isn’t fragile. It was just the victim of the typical smear campaign that comes with every Apple product launch.

UPDATES:

  • There is actually some truth to “bendgate”. A few years after the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launch, devices are now showing symptoms of “touch disease”. The problem is due to the iPhone’s flexibility. With normal use, as the iPhone flexes in one’s pocket, the touch controller sustains damage. Over time, this causes the controller to fail, rendering the iPhone useless. Users see a gray bar on the top of the screen, and the touch screen doesn’t function. In some cases, Apple has repaired or replaced iPhones for free. The vast majority of affected users are being denied replacements or free repairs. A lawsuit against Apple is pending.If your iPhone’s touch controller no longer functions, there are a few options. First, try taking it to the Apple Store. They may fix it or replace it. If you have an AppleCare+ warranty, they are more likely to fix or replace it for free. There are third party repair services that can fix the touch controller. Although this invalidates the iPhone’s warranty, it has probably expired. You may be able to get it fixed for less from a third party service provider. Search for “iPhone 6 touch disease” for more information.The iPhone 6 Plus is more susceptible to “touch disease” than the iPhone 6. This is due to the larger size of the phone, which puts it under more stress when pocketed.
  • Consumer Reports released the results of their smartphone durability test. They confirmed what I suspected — the fragility of the iPhone 6 is yet another attempt to take the steam out of an Apple product launch. Both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are more durable than the HTC One M8. It takes a lot of force to bend or break the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. This will not happen in your pocket, unless you slam your leg into something hard with a great deal of force. Both iPhones are not as durable as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which is encased in plastic. Apple uses an aluminum enclosure because metal dissipates heat better than plastic. The only plastic iPhone, the 5C, is relatively underpowered. With the new 64-bit A8 processor, an aluminum case will prevent the device from overheating. Heat can damage components, especially the lithium ion battery. Heat might not destroy the device, but it will shorten the life of the battery. There is a tradeoff between durability, device thickness and heat dissipation.Overall, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are sturdy devices. If durability is your only consideration, there are better options than the new iPhones. Overall, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are the top smartphones on the market. Whatever your choice, make sure to read reliable reviews from your carrier. Most carriers require that customers own the phone they are reviewing. Don’t fall for the negative marketing, Apple-bashing, and social media distortions. These dishonest attacks continue, even in the wake of Consumer Reports’ research. Once again, there are people posing as Apple customers and claiming their product is defective, but they don’t own or use the product.

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