Apple attempts to straighten an ecosystem of irate social media enthusiasts who are using a freak phenomenon of the new iPhone 6, as fodder for more than a few laughs
By Anand Parthasarathy
Social media sites were ablaze last week with tweets, posts and images from early customers of the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, who found that their phones had acquired a slight curvature after a few days. One YouTube video -- IPhone 6 Plus Bend Test-- in particular showing an owner trying to check the bending complaints by deliberately bending an iPhone 6 Plus. He concluded that it didn't need too much force to bend it.
That video went viral -- and it transpired that the bend or warp occurred when owners carried the phone in the front pockets of tight fitting jeans. When you sit down, your body at the hips and the phone seemingly bent to accommodate your contour. The same thing happened when owners placed their phones in their hip pockets. The phenomenon was unsurprisingly, more common with the iPhone 6 plus -- the larger model with a 5.5 inch screen. Both models are much thinner than earlier iPhones -- just 6.9 and 7.1 mm -- and being made of aluminium ( except for the glass screen) they do tend to bend by default.
Apple claims that the phones are encased in "custom grade of 6000 series anodized aluminum, which is tempered for extra strength, combined with stainless steel and titanium inserts to reinforce high stress locations". After 3 days of silence, the company responded: "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."
So were all those thousands of tweets at #bendgate and the dozens of videos at YouTube of users bending their phones in the interests of (costly!) research, just social media frenzy? The respected Consumer Reports site tested the iPhone 6 by applying 25 to 50 kg of bending force before breaking them and concluded:"iPhone 6 and 6 Plus not as bendy as believed". Apple is being rather less than forthcoming and has been quoted in US media saying that Apple Stores would perform a "visual mechanical inspection" if a customer brought in a bent phone to decide if it was eligible for replacement under warranty. They don't disclose what the inspection includes.
The paying public is clearly not happy and is asking why the premium it pays to acquire an iPhone doesn't translate into Apple's legendary quality and carrying the phone in your pocket somehow constitutes misuse.
Meanwhile Apple's competitors are having a field day touting their non bending models. Samsung Galaxy Note Edge now has a new tag line: "Curved. Not Bent". Galaxy Alpha, even slimmer than iPhone 6 boasts: "Galaxy Alpha + Skinny Jeans = no problem". HTC is tweeting about the HTC OneM8: " Designed to withstand the most demanding environments. Like Your pockets". And LG which launched the world's first flexible phone, the G Flex, is now able to say: "Our phone doesn't bend, it flexes.. on purpose".
Going by past experience, when it just ignored similar complaints, albeit more muted, about the iPhone 5, It is unlikely that Apple will make any change in response to Bendgate.
The new phones will reach India officially on October 7 and are expected to cost upwards of Rs 50,000. They are already being offered by unofficial online sellers for Rs 1 lakh. At those prices one is expected to be reverential with an iPhone 6 and not do anything as mundane as slipping it into a jeans pocket. Better change over to loose-fitting slacks -- or buy a hard case for your iPhone. Even better, go back to the days of slinging it around your neck, with a lanyard.