Apple’s Bendgate Controversy Heats Up Amid Conflicting Test Results

Are the claims about the malleability of Apple’s new iPhone 6 Plus overblown? Soon after Apple released its new devices, gadget review show Unbox Therapy posted a video that showed researcher Lewis Hilsenteger demonstrating how the aluminum chassis of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus could be easily bent with his bare hands. It wasn’t long before the video went viral and hashtag #bendgate became a trending topic on social media amid claims that the devices were becoming warped simply from being carried in users’ pockets.

After some commentators suggested that many similarly sized smartphones could just as easily be deformed, Unbox Therapy posted a follow-up video that appeared to demonstrate that the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the HTC One M8, and the Motorola Moto X (2014) could not be as easily bent. Apple finally responded to the controversy on September 25 by giving a tour of its iPhone testing facility. As noted by The Verge, one of the tests that Apple demonstrated in its facility was a “sit test” that simulated someone sitting on a hard surface at an angle with an iPhone in their back pocket. The Cupertino-based company also told The Wall Street Journal that only nine customers had contacted the company over the “extremely rare” bending problem. “IPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus meet or exceed all of our high quality standards to endure everyday, real life use,” said Apple in a recent statement provided to Business Insider.

Of course, it comes as no surprise that Apple’s own researchers would conclude that an iPhone rarely gets bent through normal usage, for the same reason that taste tests performed by Coca-Cola tend to find that its beverage tastes better than Pepsi. However, a recent test of smartphone durability conducted by independent researchers at Consumer Reports may help quell the “Bendgate” controversy better than Apple has. A video of Consumer Reports’ smartphone stress tests can be seen above.

Consumer Reports’ smartphone stress test results contradicted some of Box Therapy’s claims about the relative durability of each smartphone. While Box Therapy found that the HTC One (M8) and the iPhone 6 were less susceptible to bending than the iPhone 6 Plus, Consumer Reports found the opposite to be true. Consumer Reports found that the HTC One (M8) and the iPhone 6 were the easiest devices to bend with deformation at 70 pounds of force. On the other hand, the iPhone 6 Plus only began to deform when 90 pounds of force was applied and the screen didn’t separate until 110 pounds of force was applied. “While nothing is (evidentally) indestructible, we expect that any of these phones should stand up to typical use,” concluded Consumer Reports.

However, not all of Consumer Reports’ test results contradicted Unbox Therapy’s conclusions. Like the researcher at Unbox Therapy, researchers at Consumer Reports found the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 to be an extremely robust device that held up to better than any of the six devices tested. While Apple’s latest devices are not the toughest smartphones on the market, Consumer Reports noted that “our tests show that both iPhones seem tougher than the Internet fracas implies.”

So will Consumer Reports’ test results finally end Apple’s “Bendgate” troubles? Don’t count on it. As long as there are anecdotal accounts of devices warping in users’ pockets, the perception that Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus is more prone to bending will likely persist regardless of whatever conclusions are reached via scientific tests. Unbox Therapy’s Lewis Hilsenteger also recently posted a follow-up video in which he demonstrated how easily the iPhone 6 Plus can be bent in front of witnesses after some commentators accused him of faking the original test. Whether or not you feel this is an accurate way to test a device’s malleability in normal use situations, it does appear to show that the iPhone 6 Plus can be fairly easily bent by hand. It should also be noted that Unbox Therapy’s Hilsenteger isn’t the only product reviewer who has raised questions about the durability of the iPhone 6 Plus.

In a largely positive review of the iPhone 6 Plus, Wired’s Mat Honan noted that, “Like a lot of people, I have a bent iPhone 6 Plus. It’s almost imperceptible, but it’s there: a slight warp right at the buttons on the side. Put the phone screen down on a table, and it wobbles. I haven’t purposefully bent it and I don’t recall sitting on it (but I probably have).” While it’s unknown if Honan is one of the nine customers cited by Apple, as long as there are stories of unintentionally bent devices like his, Apple’s “Bendgate” troubles are unlikely to fade away anytime soon.

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