Is iPhone 4 "Glassgate" real?

iPhone 4 Scratched

Since Ryan Block, formerly editor-in-chief of Engadget and current co-founder of GDGT, reported Apple was in a secret lock-down over slide-on cases and particulate causing iPhone 4 glass backplates to scratch and break, there's been a lot of debate as to the merit and credibility of the charges.

The Macalope takes particular issue with it in Macworld:

This piece is a hopeless mess of unsourced accusations blended with inflammatory rhetoric and vomited onto the Internet like an Apple rumor ipecac.

Marc Flores of Intomobile points out that, while anything is possible, it certainly doesn't seem widespread like Antennagate:

The reason that the GDGT article is shocking isn’t because it’s another potential scandal, but that it’s the first any of us has heard of the issue. Why is that? The iPhone 4 has been on the market for four months now and several folks have been using slider cases on it since day one. Where is the angry mob?

Our own editor-in-chief, Dieter Bohn, did get a scratch on his iPhone 4 back the day it came out, but that was as a result -- he thinks -- of particulate on a table. And he wasn't using a slider case but Apple's own bumper.

Like I said before though, no one else at TiPb has had a problem and we used all sorts of cases all the time.

Still, Block's reputation and credibility in the industry makes the story impossible to ignore, so we'll be following it to see what, if anything, happens next.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Is iPhone 4 "Glassgate" real?


Except for when Ryan Block caused Apple stock to plummet after incorrectly reporting the iPhone's delay back in 2007, followed by his half-assed apology on Engadget. Credible, indeed.

Why do more people not drop a couple of dollars on front and back screen protectors from eBay. I use these along with a bumper and have had no problems* except for scratches to the screen protector which can easily be replaced.
*Obviously completely jinxing myself here, I'll probably drop and smash the thing tomorrow.

I tweeted my thoughts on Ryans accusations and he was pissed actually tweeted me back. He told me He didnt want me as a follower or reader

I don't think it will be as big a deal as the antenna, but the glass back is a poor decision. There's really no need for it, and it just makes the phone more slippery and fragile. They should go back to the polycarbonate, scratches be damned, it's tougher and lighter.

Loose fitting cases can trap particulates between case and iPhone. Trapped pieces would rub against glass in day to day handling. Glass scratches.
It makes perfect logical sense this could be a problem, but it would take one-in-a-billion set of circumstances for that scratching to rise to a level of more than minor cosmetic problem. Still, it is hard not to agree with Webvex - this seems a poor design decision.

"Block’s reputation and credibility in the industry makes the story impossible to ignore"
Huh? You must be talking about a different Block. Ryan Block's reputation and lack of credibility are fundamental reasons why he is on a third rate website trying to rebuild his profile with unfounded nonsense like this.

I've got a case from "InCase" I think it's the "InCase Snap" and it fits the phone great and hasn't caused any issues.
Beyond that... the phone is going to scratch (no way around that)... Plastic phones scratch too, imho glass is harder to scratch than plastic/polycarbonate.

Front, and back proctors. Take care of your phone. Glass will scratch. The article is just an opinion. I want the facts, how many phones were damaged seriously? Like you said, where is the angry mob?

I like the glass, but my job doesn't have me hauling bricks around for a living. I drive a Lexus because I want something a bit nicer than a Chevy, and I choose the iPhone for very similar reasons. Glass adds to the overall appeal IMHO.
Having said that, I assume glass still breaks even on an Apple device. Shocker... or did I miss the part where Apple promised you'd never ever scratch one of these.
IMHO the idea of any phone breaking/cracking or getting scratched is no news to any of us, but making this out to be something special is BS

The glass back looks cool and all, but I think on the next model they need to make it out of something more durable; I don't know, carbon fiber, maybe? Just as long as it didn't interfere with the signal. And they should use Corning Gorilla Glass for the front. Just some ideas...

I was going to post something very similar as Analog Spirit:
Replacement backs in alternative materials would be pretty easy for even a third party to do: carbon fiber(!), graphite, metal (if it is made to not touch the antenna), and especially wood. No, it wouldn't have an apple logo, but you already know it's an iPhone, so no big.
Surprised I haven't even seen these around yet.

After a fit of face-palm time, I do see there are some available (none looked particularly appealing in my initial search), it is obvious why there aren't widespread: it would void your warranty.
(Unless you cleanly and sneakily put the original back on.)

i mean seriously, @5below i got a 2 pack of heavy duty silicone cases for $5, i could not be happier. iPhone4 is supreme, sorry haters!

I think I'm gonna have to Cosign on @blocks comment. He doesn't seem that credible, and I'm sure he only posted this story because his visitor traffic was low

@SheiknetChris: Ahh, I see what you mean now, about it voiding the warranty. Oh well, I still have my Invisible Shield and an Otter Box over that, so my iPhone is very well protected. Overkill? Maybe... Better too much protection than not enough, I say. All I need now is an Aquapac, for when I'm out in the rain.

On the third day I had my phone, it slipped off my lap and dropped no more than 18 inches, which created a one inch crack on the back of the phone. Cracked glass is much more noticeable than scratched plastic or metal. I do not understand why we need bumpers, front screen and rear protectors, etc, if the designers could also focus on function. It's a lovely design, but it cannot be appreciated under all that protection.
I see a lot of Blackberrys and it is very rare that I see one with any form of protection. My last phone was also a Blackberry, and I dropped it a number of times on pavement, and all it got was a couple of scratches on the sides.
Luckily my iPhone 4 had a defective screen and I was able to get a replacement.

Regardless of whether or not these accusations are true, it seems like gdgt is getting desperate to try to drum up interest in their site. A week or two ago Peter sent out an editorial about how great it was that Apple didn't setup an MVNO which was rumored before the launch of the iPhone. That's relevant right now I guess ?
I just wonder about the viability if gdgt. It's a cool idea, but it's not something that people will necessarily visit daily like an engadget or even tipb. I think they realize they need some original content to draw people in, but both of these pieces have kind of been stretching it.

@E-Man: I'm with you on that; I don't mind putting all this protection on my phone, but I wish I wouldn't have to. My previous 2 phones (a BB 8320 and a Samsung Vibrant) just had simple rubber cases and screen protectors on them, and that was it. Apple should make the iPhone at least as durable as a BB; I could drop my BB 8320 all I wanted (within reason), and nothing happened to it. But the iPhone needs to be made more durable, with more emphasis on function than form. Apple shouldn't make it ugly either, but they do need to make the form enhance the function more than it does now.

During "Antennagate," so many people commented that Apple would have known more if they hadn't sent iPhone 4 test models into the wild disguised with cases. Wouldn't they have discovered this problem then if it really existed?

Gees, it seems like every other day, there are more issues being dropped about the iPhone 4. I really really really wanted to upgrade from my iPhone 3GS but I think I will wait until the iPhone 5.

Yeah, this whole thing is starting to sound like click-bait. I personally hate the Bumper because it adds bulk to the iPhone 4. And I think I'd hate slide-on cases even more due to even more bulk. I got a Sena Ultra-Slim leather case, and yes, I need to remove the iPhone from it to use it. But no, I don't use it all the time. Only when I've got the iPhone in my pocket with another object, which is less than half the time...

This is my experience as I've posted it in Apple Store (Belkin Shield, in case you're interested). Some of you might think that I've hit the iphone or that I'm exaggerating, but I know how I take care of my phones and I'm sure I haven't hit it against anything or let it fall... I have requested a metal back replacement from a Chinese company because I think that another glass back won't solve the problem on the long term, but I'm not happy with the design of the iphone 4.
I have also sent an e-mail to Apple to see what they have to say. My iphone back cover is not as cracked as the ones you see in the images where the glass is all smashed, it's just a small crack going from side to side at the same height as the home button. But of course, I'm not happy with having a crack on the glass...
"Well, I got my Belkin transparent shield case through the "iPhone 4 Case Program", I was very happy with it, but today (11th Oct.) I read a piece of news saying that some shields were cracking the back glass panel of the iPhone 4. I thought it was a lie and that it was nonsense to have the back glass cracking like magic. But what was my surprise when I removed the Belkin shield to check the back glass and saw what seemed a scratch. "A scratch?" I thought. And after looking at it very carefully for some minutes, I thought "A scratch that grows!?!?!?!?". And there you are, a crack that shouldn't be. Now the question is: how long will the glass resist until it completely breaks into pieces? I'm taking the phone to Apple Carecenter or whatever it is called here in Spain, but these kind of things are unacceptable in such an expensive device...

I love my iphone4 to bits. imho the glassgate issue seems purely blowned to proportions when i first read about it. a friend of mine bought her first iphone4 a month back and have gotten a casing for it. when she told me her iphone had some scratches after using the casing, i thought she was just kidding. she showed me and true enough i did saw minor scratches. and i here i was, hoping to get a casing for my iphone.. i can't tell if it's true or not, but i hope Apple will address this issue. T___T