Ugh, the iPhone 6’s problems keep coming back to haunt Apple.
Years after the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus made headlines for “Bendgate” and “Touch Disease,” new information made public (via Motherboard) from an ongoing class-action lawsuit on the latter has revealed the two issues might be related.
The new details were discovered in a document made available by U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh, the same judge who presided over the Apple v. Samsung trial. The lawsuit alleges “Touch Disease,” which can cause the touchscreen on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to flicker and become unresponsive, is directly related to its structurally weak aluminum casing.
When “Touch Disease” was first discovered by third-party repair specialists in late 2016, it was widely believed the root of the issue was a result of the touchscreen controller not being properly bonded to the iPhone’s logic board using “underfill,” a glue-like substance.
Per the case document (embedded below in its entirety), the plaintiffs claim the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus’s bendable metal frame, which if bent even the slightest over time from regular use or drops, can cause the touchscreen controller to come loose from the logic board.
The plaintiffs claim Apple knew about the defective design, but still chose to release the iPhones in 2014 knowing Touch Disease would be a consequence.
According to Judge Koh:
“Apple’s internal testing ‘determined that the iPhone 6 was 3.3 times more likely to bend than the iPhone 5s (the model immediately prior to the subject iPhones) and that the iPhone 6 Plus was 7.2 times more likely to bend than the iPhone 5s.”
“One of the major concerns Apple identified prior to launching the iPhones was that they were likely to bend more easily when compared to previous generations,” something that Apple described as “expected behavior.”
Koh further says “After internal investigation, Apple determined underfill was necessary to resolve the problems caused by the touchscreen defect” and then moved to use the bonding substance on iPhone 6’s “until May 2016,” further suggesting the company realized it was indeed the cause of the display issues.
There’s also the fact that Apple switched to stronger grade 7000 aluminum in the iPhone 6S, which made the phone slightly thicker, although that could have been solely a response to Bendgate.
Apple’s not the only one guilty of prioritizing design over preventable issues. I hate bringing it up, but just look at what happened with Samsung’s ill-fated Galaxy Note 7. Its demise was partially a result of cramming a battery into a body that wasn’t thick enough to insulate it.
Apple has traditionally put design first, arguably at the expense of usability (New MacBook Pros, anyone?). Was the iPhone 6 another case where reliability was overlooked because it was busy chasing thinness?