Today we’re going to explore the Bendgate issue that broke in 2014, and how it came back to haunt Apple four years later.
So if you weren’t following the Bendgate debacle when it happened back in 2014, then let me explain exactly how it went down. So the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were released near the end of 2014 and generated quite a bit of hype since they had pretty radical designs that featured much larger displays than the previous iPhone 5s, coming in at 4.7 and 5.5 inches.
So customers were excited to get their hands on an iPhone that finally had a screen size comparable to its competition. And after just three days of going on sale, over 10 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units had been sold. And while those huge sales numbers gave Apple a reason to celebrate, things took a turn for the worst when a handful of iPhone 6 Plus owners complain on social media that their new smartphone had bent during normal usage.
One of the first photos of a bent iPhone 6 Plus appeared in this MacRumors thread by user Hanzo, who confirmed that after a long day of mostly sitting, his phone had bent slightly after being in his front pant pocket. And at first, some users in the thread thought maybe he was wearing unusually tight pants or maybe he had inadvertently sat on the phone, but once other iPhone 6 Plus owners chimed in and posted their photos, the story started picking up steam.
It took less than twenty-four hours for the issue to begin trending on Twitter under the Bendgate hashtag. Now one of the first and most popular videos demonstrating the iPhone 6 Plus being bent, was posted by Lou with Unbox Therapy. Which received forty-five million views in its first 5 days of being uploaded.
In the video, Lou proved that the iPhone 6 Plus was easier to bend than the previous iPhone 5s, which raised questions about the 6 Plus’ weak spots, susceptibility to bending, and the reliability of Apple’s own internal testing, which appeared to have failed to catch this issue. So it’s clear that Bendgate was a very popular topic getting Apple a lot of negative attention.
But you might be wondering what was so different about the iPhone 6 Plus that made it easy to bend compared to the previous iPhone 5s. Because if you remember, there were complaints about the iPhone 5s bending in people’s pockets after its release, but the issue didn’t take off on social media as it did with the 6 Plus. And that’s likely because most of the bending users experienced with the 5s was the result of sitting directly on their phone while in their back pocket.
No one had any issues with the 5s bending in their front pocket from normal use. So it never became a hot topic, unlike bendgate with the 6 Plus. So now let me clarify what exactly was wrong with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus that made them more susceptible to bending. It all began with the fact that they were the largest phones
Apple had ever made up to that point. And their designs had to be bigger to accommodate their larger displays. And when you consider that these iPhones weren’t only larger but also thinner than the 5s, it isn’t hard to imagine that maybe they weren’t as torsionally rigid. And that’s where all of Apple’s problems began. Because it was this design that led to owners experiencing slight bending of their devices near the volume buttons or SIM card slot, the weakest points in the 6 Plus’ chassis.
Now it wasn’t long until bendgate went viral and many companies capitalized on this negative press to rub some salt in Apple’s wounds. LG tweeted this photo of the G Flex, their flexible smartphone, and said, “Our phone doesn’t bend, it flexes…on purpose.” While Samsung tweeted this photo of their Galaxy Note Edge, with the accompanying text saying, “Curved. Not bent.”
Bendgate was such a popular topic that even companies outside the tech industry like Pringles got in on the action. So with all these tweets, customer photos, attention, and news coverage aimed at Apple, the company ended up responding to the issue on September 25th with a public statement. And I want to highlight the ending which read, “With normal use, a bend in iPhone is extremely rare and through our first six days of the 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.”
So clearly Apple wasn’t convinced that the issue was as widespread as most news outlets had suggested But many disagreed. Ewan Spence, a Senior Contributor for Forbes, said, “If a customer thinks they have done something stupid with their phone, the chances are they will suck it up and live with it, especially if the damage is minor. A degree or two of the bend would not be enough for many to return their new handset.”
Now, this is where people started to take sides. One group asserted that Apple was trying to downplay the issue to keep iPhone sales up and to prevent refunds or even a recall. While the other side asserted that the issue was being blown out of proportion since it only affected a small number of users.
The debate heated up even more when MacRumors claimed that the Unbox Therapy bend test video may have been faked. Since the iPhone’s clock proved that the video was cut and edited. And if that wasn’t enough, a company called uBreakiFix posted a more scientific stress test video of not only the iPhone 6 Plus but also the Galaxy Note 3.
This test proved that both the 6 Plus and Note 3 bent while under about one hundred pounds of force, although the 6 Plus stayed bent whereas the Note 3 bounced back to its original shape. And Lou with Unbox Therapy ended up posting another uncut video filmed outdoors in Toronto with witnesses, to prove that the device could be bent by his bare hands, without any kind of camera trickery.
All of this bad press caused Apple’s stock price to take a hit. Falling over 3% in less than twenty-four hours. So at this point, most people agreed that the 6 Plus was easier to bend than any other iPhone. And that naturally led to the question of what Apple was going to do about it. Because it wasn’t unreasonable to believe the 6 Plus could develop a slight bend with normal use over some time.
If that was the case, many believed it was Apple’s responsibility to replace the defective unit and to prevent the issue from happening to future devices. And while Apple did agree to issue replacements for affected 6 Plus units, the devices had to pass what Apple called a Visual Mechanical Inspection conducted by the Geniuses at their retail stores. The problem was no one knew what criteria their 6 Plus had to meet to pass the inspection. It was assumed that Apple would replace units that appeared to have been bent accidentally, rather than being bent on purpose which was something quite a few 6 Plus owners were doing, whether it be for social media attention or just out of curiosity.
Apple even had a problem with display iPhones being bent on purpose in their retail stores by disrespectful visitors. And the fact that Apple was quietly replacing select phones angered some users, who felt that Apple was refusing to own up to their design flaw while essentially legitimizing the problem by replacing affected units.
But Apple never officially acknowledged the issue, and likely hoped the bendgate fiasco would die down over time. But unfortunately for them, the exact opposite happened. Because as users 6 Plus’ experienced slight bending, a mechanical failure was triggered where the iPhone’s touch screen would become unresponsive. And a simple screen replacement wouldn’t fix the issue since the problem was caused by two controller chips coming loose from the logic board. And this marked the beginning of a completely new headache for Apple nicknamed Touch Disease. This became a much more serious problem for Apple than Bendgate since some of the replacement units they were issuing also showed signs of touch disease within days of use.
Apple never publicly acknowledged the issue, even though former retail employees claimed Apple was aware of it. And you can imagine that a lot of customers were pretty upset when they were told that the only way to fix their non-responsive iPhone was to buy a new one. So a class action lawsuit ended up being filed against Apple in 2016 and is still ongoing today.
Now I should mention that while this entire bendgate episode was going on, some suspected Apple knew the iPhone 6 Plus was more susceptible to bending all along. Even before it was released. But there was no evidence to substantiate that claim, so it was never taken seriously by news outlets or on social media. Most people figured Apple had simply overlooked the problem or didn’t thoroughly test the 6 Plus chassis. But according to official court documents released just this year as a result of the touch disease lawsuit, Apple did know that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were much more susceptible to bending than the iPhone 5s.
According to their data, the iPhone 6 was 3.3 times more likely to bend, while the 6 Plus was 7.2 times more likely to bend. It was also revealed that Apple began using an epoxy underfill on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus to reinforce the circuitry while relocating the touchscreen circuitry to the display assembly. Apple also used a stronger 7000 series aluminum on the 6s and 6s Plus while reinforcing weak points in its chassis, all to prevent another bendgate or touch disease from happening.
So that was a closer look at the history of Bendgate time. What do you think about this hystory? Leave your comments down below!