Another Apple “Gate”?

September 25th, 2014

Every year or so, Apple gets embroiled in some sort of scandal over a new product or service. In 2010, the iPhone 4 arrived with high sales. But some people reported reception problems if you held it in a way that covered the external antenna joints at the bottom edges of the device. The symptom was most obvious when you were in a marginal reception area, and it made the difference between getting a decent connection or dropping the call.

Once this phenomenon was captured in a video that was uploaded to YouTube, it was fairly easy to duplicate. It was made worse by Apple’s claim of having improved the antenna system for the iPhone 4. It didn’t matter that mobile handsets, in general, might suffer similar symptoms if you covered the antenna with your hands. Some even had warning labels affixed to the device, or a more detailed warning in what passed for a user manual. Regardless, it was always about Apple.

Steve Jobs didn’t help Apple’s cause by dismissing the problem with a sarcastic remark that you should just hold it differently, and was ultimately forced to hold a press conference to explain everything. Apple also offered to send out free bumper cases that not only protected your iPhone 4, but kept the reception problem from occurring. They also posted videos, for a brief time, showing how other mobile handsets exhibited the same problem more or less.

In 2012, Apple decided to remove support for Google’s mapping system in the Maps app and rolled out their own version. It was buggy in a way easily represented in screen shots depicting melted statues and bridges, and turn-by-turn directions were sometimes wrong. Tim Cook had to apologize and even suggest you use someone else’s app, including the new Google Apps for iOS, till things got better. It did get better over time, but this scandal reportedly cost Apple executive Scott Forstall his job.

The 2014 introduction of the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus were said to be the most product releases ever for Apple. With skepticism over the alleged lack of significant new products and slower growth in revenue and profits, Apple’s stock price had taken a nosedive. With the promise of great new gear, not to mention a seven-to-one stock split, the price had mostly recovered from previous highs.

True to form, a reported 10 million new iPhones were sold the first weekend, and I presume that includes the preordered units that had been delivered to customers. Tim Cook announced that they could have sold more if they had more stock to sell. The iPhone 6 Plus phablet was said to be in particularly short supply, and new orders may take several weeks to be filled.

In passing, I know of one case where shipment of an iPhone 6 was promised the first week of October, yet the unit is already on its way to the customer.

So with stellar reviews, is there any possible downside to iPhone 6 joy? It appears so.

Scattered reports have appeared this week that an iPhone 6 Plus, fabricated of a thin aluminum, might become bent if you physically try, or leave it in your back pocket for a time. This appears to be a matter of physics and not poor construction quality. The device seems solid enough, but you can’t abuse them. Any of these larger mobile handsets can be bent or broken if you apply enough pressure, but some people want to make it all about Apple and nobody else.

While waiting, go ahead and bend your plastic-clad Samsung Galaxy and tell me how much pressure it takes to bend or break. And while you ‘re at it, don’t send me the bill for damage, because I assume you have enough common sense not to try such a stupid thing. The point is that you can bend any of these handsets of you try.

Could there be a production defect involving the new iPhones? I doubt it, because you’d hear an avalanche of such problems under normal use and service. After all, there were 10 million in the hands of customers as of Monday, and perhaps a million or two more when this column was written. With that many handsets around, assuming 15% or so are Plusses, manufacturing bugs or design shortcomings will be front and center.

Already, in fact, there’s an iOS 8.0.1 update that fixes a number of irritating bugs. Unfortunately, this update might disable Touch ID or kill your wireless phone service, so you get a “No Service” prompt. That did not happen with my iPhone 5s, nor with Mrs. Steinberg’s iPhone 5c. Published reports suggest the problem only afflicts the new models, and that it can be fixed by using iTunes to restore the device. At the time of this writing, Apple has pulled the update for further fixes.

iOS 8.0.2 is due shortly. But if your iPhone worked without incident after installing the original 8.0.1 update, there doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about.

As far as the alleged “BendGate” is concerned, as always, I am not going to stick any of my iPhones in my back pocket. And, of course, don’t drop it!

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3 Responses to “Another Apple “Gate”?”

  1. DaveD says:

    Not going to read about BendGate, common sense should prevail but in short supply these days. Those of us who keep a wallet in the back pocket have seen the abuse of a flexible piece of leather.

    I do appreciate seeing a quick update to iOS 8. But, it must have been too quick after reading some basic functions on the iPhone 6s ceased to work. At least, it was quickly pulled. It was good to see some sites with Apple news that announced the update, later announced a warning to not to.

    • @DaveD, I wonder how many people realize that if you stick your wallet in you back pocket, the chances of a pickpocket taking advantage of the situation are greatly increased. Oh well.

      Apple also posted instructions on downgrading 8.0.1, but I didn’t run into any problems since I did not attempt to update an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus.


  2. javaholic says:

    Well, just another controversy to add to the recent spade of Apple incidents they could do without. Unfortunate timing too, considering the built up expectations with iPhone 6 and Tim Cook’s recent “our philosophy’s always been to be the best, not the first” statement.

    It could be argued ‘bendgate’ is a storm in a tea cup that, like antenna gate, will pass over and not take the shine off the true quality of the phone. However seems some customers looking at purchasing the 6Plus already have reservations based on what they’ve seen and heard – particularly when this is a premium phone (Obviously these people like sticking 5.5inch phones in their back pockets. Heck, I rarely leave my 5s in my pocket when I’m sitting down). While credit to Apple for moving quickly to debunk things, one things for sure, their competitors will have a field day with this.

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