Here’s What Apple Is Doing to End Bendgate and the iOS 8 Update Snafu
Unless you’ve been hiding under the proverbial rock this past week, you’ve probably heard of “Bendgate,” the moniker used to describe the new iPhone 6 Plus model’s susceptibility to bending when kept in a user’s pocket. Earlier this week, online gadget review show Unbox Therapy posted a video that demonstrated how the aluminum chassis of the iPhone 6 Plus could be bent more easily than similarly sized devices made by Apple’s competitors. However, Apple’s bad news didn’t end there. Just as the news of the larger iPhone’s supposed hardware defect became a trending topic on various social media platforms, it emerged that the company’s iOS 8.0.1 update was also faulty. The update was issued to correct various problems with the original iOS 8.0 software, including an issue that prevented HealthKit-enabled apps from working. However, the iOS 8.0.1 update created more serious problems, including disabling cellular connectivity and the Touch ID fingerprint sensor.
Needless to say, the two stories put a damper on a week that started out well for Apple after it announced record first weekend iPhone sales of ten million units. However, to paraphrase an old saying, “You can’t keep a good tech company down.” With the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus arriving in twenty-two additional countries during the second launch wave starting on September 26, Apple wasted no time going into damage control.
In a statement provided to The Verge, Apple apologized for “the great inconvenience experienced by users” that the iOS 8.0.1 update caused and promised to issue a fix as soon as possible. Just over a day later, Apple fulfilled that promise and issued the iOS 8.0.2 update that fixed the problems caused by the 8.0.1 update, as well as the issues with the original iOS 8 software.
Although Apple was willing to apologize for the software snafus, the company took a more defensive stance on the “Bendgate” issue. Apple told The Wall Street Journal that iPhones being bent in user’s pockets is “extremely rare” and claimed that only nine customers had contacted the company over the issue. Since the issue raised questions about whether Apple had sufficiently tested its devices for everyday use, the company invited reporters from The Verge to tour a facility where iPhones are put through vigorous stress tests on machines that try to mimic real world usage.
“The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus are the most tested,” Apple SVP of hardware engineering Dan Riccio told The Verge. “As we add more and more features, we have to find out a way to break them before customers do.” According to The Verge, one of the test machines even recreated sitting on a hard surface with an iPhone in a user’s back pocket. “The bottom line is that if you use enough force to bend an iPhone, or any phone, it’s going to deform,” added Riccio.
“As we expected, it’s extremely rare to happen in real world use,” Apple SVP of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller told The Verge. “In this case, as in many things, we tell customers that if you think something’s occurred that shouldn’t have with your device, go to AppleCare, go to the Genius Bar, and let them take a look at it. And we’ll see if your product is having an experience it shouldn’t have, and is covered under warranty.”
Schiller’s response echoes a conversation that The Next Web reported having with an Apple support representative earlier in the week. Both statements suggest that Apple will determine if an iPhone 6 Plus should be replaced on a case-by-case basis, rather than giving a blanket guarantee that all bent iPhones can be returned. In other words, take good care of your iPhone 6 Plus, because it is still possible that an Apple Store employee could decide that the damage to your device is not covered under “normal use.” On the other hand, there is also the possibility that Apple intends to replace all bent devices that are returned, but doesn’t want to offer a blanket guarantee that might encourage users to deliberately bend their phones to conceal other damage that is not covered by the warranty.
The iPhone 6 Plus model’s susceptibility to bending through everyday use will become more apparent in the weeks and months to come, especially after the device becomes available in 115 different countries by the end of the year. Even if Apple declines to reveal the number of bent devices that are returned in the coming months, an increase in the company’s warranty costs would become apparent in upcoming earnings reports. It also remains to be seen if Apple’s defensive response to “Bendgate” will satisfy consumers who may now be hesitant to upgrade to a larger-screen iPhone. After all, what’s the point of a fancy testing facility if the end result is an iPhone that can warp in a user’s pocket?
While Apple was able to quickly correct its flawed iOS 8 update issue, questions remain about the process that allowed such a significant software problem to slip through the company’s vetting process in the first place. According to unnamed sources cited by Bloomberg, a quality assurance manager for the problematic iOS 8.0.1 update was also involved with the launch of the much-maligned Apple Maps. While it’s unknown if the individual in question was directly responsible for the latest misstep, the management continuity from the Apple Maps fiasco suggests that Apple still has to implement some major changes in the way that its software is tested before its release. And remember: no software update can straighten a bent phone, so be aware of where your iPhone 6 Plus is before you sit down.
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