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The Doctor Says “Don’t Do That!”

I am old enough to remember a very tired joke. I bend my arm and say, “doctor, it hurts when I do this.” The doctor says, “Don’t do that!” As I said tired. It actually dates back to the early 20th century, part of a famous sketch from the Smith and Dale comedy duo that was later “borrowed” by other comedians.

But I thought of that joke when the social networks became polluted with a video from someone who deliberately broke their new iPhone 6 Plus by bending it. This isn’t the first time a smartphone has been damaged by abuse of this sort. But since this product is built by Apple, it was treated as a huge mess, a significant quality control problem. Some called it BendGate (I admit to using that term).

And that’s before anyone bothered to see how many actual people were impacted by this alleged defect. Regardless, the video went viral, with millions of views. Since the person who did this deed actually benefits from targeted ads, potential income may be fairly high.

In any case, once the news had spread to the mainstream media, it didn’t take long for Apple to respond, and the response was designed to stop this story dead in its tracks.

So, according to Apple, incidents of an iPhone 6 or an iPhone 6 Plus bending are “extremely rare,” and that only nine complaints have been received so far. That’s in comparison to over 10 million sales as of last weekend, and perhaps a few million more by the time this column is being written.

Here’s the full Apple statement on the matter:

Our iPhones are designed, engineered and manufactured to be both beautiful and sturdy. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus feature a precision engineered unibody enclosure constructed from machining a custom grade of 6000 series anodized aluminum, which is tempered for extra strength. They also feature stainless steel and titanium inserts to reinforce high stress locations and use the strongest glass in the smartphone industry. We chose these high-quality materials and construction very carefully for their strength and durability. We also perform rigorous tests throughout the entire development cycle including 3-point bending, pressure point cycling, sit, torsion, and user studies. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus meet or exceed all of our high quality standards to endure everyday, real life use.

With normal use a bend in iPhone is extremely rare and through our first six days of sale, a total of nine customers have contacted Apple with a bent iPhone 6 Plus. As with any Apple product, if you have questions please contact Apple.

According to published reports, Apple will actually replace a bent unit if it can be shown it wasn’t abused based on the inspection criteria of your local Apple Genius. It’s quite clear that, if you actually physically abuse the device by deliberately bending it in sensitive places, or dropping it to see test the strength of the glass, you won’t get a free replacement.

I suppose it is still possible a raft of bent iPhone complaints will suddenly turn up, and that Apple will have to reconsider the initial dismissal of the problem. But I wouldn’t assume anything. Right now, it appears that the problem is just being overblown, but that doesn’t give you license to abuse your delicate electronics gear. I’m sure you can also bend your Samsung, HTC, LG or Motorola smartphone under the right conditions, but the videos won’t go viral, so it’s probably not worth the bother.

So the competition will be jumping all over this alleged problem, nonexistent or otherwise. Between BendGate and the iOS 8.0.1 debacle (an iOS 8.0.2 update is now available), Apple’s stock price crashed this week. Once it’s shown the sky didn’t fall, things will no doubt straighten themselves out. At least that’s my expectation, assuming iPhone sales aren’t being hurt.

If the original report of a bent iPhone 6 Plus is bogus, or the attempt was specially calculated to inflict damage by extraordinary means, with a little visual trickery, you have to wonder why it happened. Is it just Apple being in the spotlight, or did an Apple competitor deliberately fund this experiment in order to generate bad publicity?

After all, it’s not that previous iPhones haven’t been vulnerable to damage if you don’t take care of them. Regardless of the tensile strength of an iPhone 6 Plus, storing it for hours on end in a tight rear pocket, and sitting on it is apt to cause damage eventually. Apple cannot violate the laws of physics after all. Even a tight side pocket may stretch the boundaries. If you want to keep one of these expensive gadgets in tip-top condition, you’ll want to treat them with respect. You may also want to consider buying a hard case if you’re the type to abuse your electronics gear.

Of course, I cannot prove that another company financed an attempt to discredit Apple, beyond the usual competitive ads. It is possible, but I don’t know much about Lewis Hilsenteger, the person who posted a video of the original bent iPhone 6 Plus. He’s evidently creator of a review show called Unbox Therapy. The channel clearly earns its keep from targeted ads, as one popped up when I checked out the infamous video.

Sure, maybe it was only done to attract hits and Google AdSense dollars, although I am not accusing Hilsenteger of playing fast and loose with facts. He may have simply taken advantage of the situation.

Still, if the incidents of bent iPhones is as rare as Apple claims, you have to wonder just what’s going on here.