iPhone 4 "glassgate" -- Sue!

California resident Donald LeBuhn has filed a class action lawsuit against Apple after, he claims, his daughter dropped his almost new iPhone 4 from 3 feet and the glass shattered. Yes, "glassgate" is back in the news:

LeBuhn's beef starts with the fact that Apple markets the strength of the iPhone 4 glass as "20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic," and is "ultradurable" and made of the same material as the "glass used in helicopters and high-speed trains."

This, LeBuhn claims, is all part of Apple's ruse.

In actuality, he says in the lawsuit, "Months after selling millions of iPhone 4s, Apple has failed to warn and continues to sell this product with no warning to customers that the glass housing is defective."

I'm on record as thinking Apple putting glass on both sides of iPhone 4 was a bad idea from the get-go (and something they're going to change in iPhone 5) but is it really actionable? Should Apple fix up or pay up, or is this just another nuisance suit?

[LA Weekly, thanks Anthony]

Georgia

Senior Editor at iMore and a practicing therapist specializing in stress and anxiety. She speaks everywhere from conferences to corporations, hosts the ZEN & TECH podcast, and should be followed on Twitter @Georgia_Prime.

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Reader comments

iPhone 4 "glassgate" -- Sue!

92 Comments

He's an idiot glass is glass no matter how "tough" its claimed to be. He shouldn't have bought it then, this will go nowhere in court.

Mr. LeBuhn probably lost his job due to the recession probably because he worked in a position which was unnecessary and is looking for cash. He will fail.
As a matter of fact apple should counter sue like they usually do, for stupidity. Both cases have an equal chance at winning.

ooh, this reminds me.. i bit the side of my mouth while chewing gum this morning. here i come wrigley!

Ha. Yeah no doubt. If you sue for everything that isn't perfect, you are gonna be in court a LONG TIME. My biggest pet peeve is the "5 year" eco light bulbs.. They don't last 5 years.. But I've never thought about sueing for it.. stupid

ok yes thats funny and everything lol, but this man paid hundreds of dollars for this product. id be pissed to. but not enough to sue. id actually have everyone tease me about it and when i get another one, id be smart enough to not let a toddler use it

I like the glass - it sets the phone apart from all the other boring plastic ones out there. I'll be disappointed if they remote this for the next iPHone... seriously. Why step backwards and be like one of the boring ANdroid phones. Seriously! The iPhone 4 is in a class by itself, please don't give us something less just because a few morons can't handle it.

If I drop a macbook it breaks also. break strength has nothing to do with hardness or stiffness...the enamel of your tooth is extremely hard and stiff but is also very brittle, hit it and it will chip right off if it is unsupported. The glass on the iphone is basically unsupported, as are all phones. Dont let your kid drop it if you want it to last

Personally, I really like the all glass phone. Front and back it looks and feels better than most if not all i've seen. It's an Apple product, and they are going to stand out from the rest good or bad.
I can't imagine that this person has in normal wear and tear broken that much apple product. I've not broken one yet, and I've had them since the 2g. not to mention the ipods i've owned. Whoever said it was a quick paycheck is likely right

lets not gloss over that if his daughter dropped the phone only 3 feet, she is either a child or an irresponsible midget. either way, she should not have been allowed to play with a new iphone.

He's an idiot. I like the glass on both sides. Any phone is bound to break if you drop it. Personally I've dropped my i4 many times from a lot higher than 3 feet and nothings happened. It's just the luck of the drop and how it lands.

I don't even care that this guy is making a lawsuit for something that is clearly his responsibility, but what bothers me is that there is a lawyer out there who is willing to take such a stupid case. People sue for anything these days. Geez. Why is this even news?

I completely agree. This case should be thrown out and this lawyer should be censured for abusing our judicial system.

I think Apple did mess up with the glass. It so much more prone to shatter then the old screens, it's glass. But it is near impossible to scratch on a daily basis. I dropped my iPhone4 2 feet off the ground and the front screen shattered. So I went to Apple and they replaced it for free no big deal. I dropped my 3g literary every day for 2 years and it never broke. The glass isn't stronger.

Reminds me of the lady who spilled hot coffee on here crotch, because that's where she was carrying it while driving. She sued McD's... because the coffee was hot. Duh and the judge and jury were duh'r...

technically mickey d's had been in trouble for that before before as they had made their coffee a lot hotter than other suppliers. But that has nothing to do with this moron. if you're at all concerned about the ease of which it might break, get an otterbox defender.

The McDonalds case turned on the fact that while the woman could be expected to be burned by the coffee, the temperature that McDonalds brewed its coffee meant that she could not have reasonably expected to be burned to the degree that she was.
The iPhone case, however, is different, because there is no industry-established standard measure of the strength and integrity of a smart phone. In other words, there is no reasonable expectation that a phone won't break when dropped from the arbitrary height of 3 feet (as cited in the article).
Furthermore, there is no substantive evidence to suggest that the iPhone breaks more than any other phone when dropped from the arbitrary height of 3 feet. I also suspect that somewhere in the legal letter there is a clause that states that the iPhone's glass, while stronger than regular glass, cannot be expected to maintain its integrity should the phone be dropped.
The bottom line here is of common sense: if you want to insure the integrity of your device, don't let your child use it. Accidents happen, but there is no excuse for being irresponsible with your device AND being irresponsible by abusing the legal system with frivolous lawsuits.

I do see a higher incidence of shattered iPhone screens compared to other phones. My sister in law's 3GS completely shattered from one drop onto a tile floor. Pieces of glass have even come completely off in 2 spots and you can see the circuit board under the screen. Although, all areas of the touch screen are still functioning.

Your personal experience is most likely anomalous. I suspect that the number of iPhone 4s breaking as compared with previous models is statistically comparable. It's also probably statistically comparable to most other smart phones.

To all the idiotic comments made above. The guy is suing for FALSE advertising and he has a strong case. It is very probable that he will win or possible quiet settlement by Apple. The glass in fact is advertised as steel. lol. It will be interesting. Apple does exaggerate in their advertising and this will be a big slap on their face.

i think by big slap on their face you mean quickly forgotten and render no effect on apple what so ever.
and the term is slap IN the face.

yeah, i see nowhere on Apple's site that the glass is advertised as steel. Its said to be tough as hell but anyone who knows glass knows you can make them strong to any impact but edge impact.
So, if you are going to accuse apple of false advertising you need to actually prove your assertion that they said their glass is stronger then steel.

Sorry, but I don't recall any instance where Apple expressly advertised that the glass would not break if the phone was dropped. This isn't an issue of false advertising its an issue of false assumption.
There is no reasonable expectation to assume that a phone will not break when dropped. Further, there is no reasonable expectation that advertising stronger glass implies that it will withstand being dropped. The glass IS stronger than normal glass - insofar as it is scratch and shatter RESISTANT. That isn't the same thing as scratch and shatter PROOF.
The meaning of words matter; have you ever bought a water proof watch? You might think you have, but in reality it's sold as water resistant because anomalies often occur, and nothing can be x-proof (because proof implies nearly absolute consistency).

most of the "unbreakable" theory comes from the glass manufacturer them selves with all the websites , apple doesn't mention anything to be unbreakable

Everyone is missing the point. His claim is Apple markets how strong the glass is. Giving you the impression it can with stand a lot and everyone has dropped their phone at one time or another. If he wins it sets precedent and everyone will get a new phone if you drop it.

I dropped my 1st gen 4Gb iPhone and shattered the glass, I sold it for $200 with broken glass. Not bad afterall.

I dropped my iPhone 4 flat on its face onto stone floor tiles -- at the Apple Store! -- earlier this week and after my heart started beating again I picked it up and it was fine.
We've heard the back isn't as strong as the front but dropping a phone is dropping a phone -- a crap shoot. Sometimes it will be fine, other times completely busted. Dumb luck.
Personal responsibility has to count for something though. Apple didn't drop the phone.

I really don't think this father has a leg to stand on. Glass is glass and if it's dropped it's likely to break or shatter. I don't think Apple need lose any sleep over this lawsuit.

Where Apple erred is that only the front glass is the famed super-strong "Gorilla Glass", what they fail to tell customers is that the glass on the iP4's back is of the plain ordinary breakable variety.
Let's hope the iPhone 5 has either Gorilla Glass on its back too, or maybe a back made of that fancy new Liquid Metal stuff the kids got so excited about a few months ago.

I got that from the iFixit teardown report on the iP4. It was widely reported when it first came out. Interestingly, it now seems there's some doubt that even the front glass is using Corning's actual trademarked 'Gorilla Glass' product (I used Google, you can too). Apple may have used some other type of aluminia-silicate 'strengthened' glass for the front panel of the iP4. What they used for the back panel is unknown, but it seems to be a different type of glass than the front, and it's apparently not as strong.

FFS! so are cases sold just for looks?! no to protect. i don't use a case at all and if i drop my iP4 and it breaks then it's my dumbass luck. although i wouldn't get a case for my replacement either, haha

Solution: don't let your kid play with your iphone. Glass is glass, phones can break when you drop them- just like computers. Why is apple getting sued when they're not the ones who dropped the phone? Seems like he's blaming everyone but himself and his daughter. Who is he gonna sue next, the company that made the floor it was dropped on?

another case of someone who is greedy, maybe the idiot should have invested in an otterbox defender if him and his daughter are so clumsy

rediculous. ive never dropped mine personally, but have watched a friend drop his from about 4' onto hardwood floors with no effect. people will sue for anything these days. pathetic if you ask me

This is absolutely bullsh*t. I saw it on macrumors earlier today. People in the U.S. will sue over anything. The president even addressed it in his state of the union, its pathetic.

Wow. He's an idiot. It's glass - you drop it, it's gonna break. No s**t. I hope that they do not remove the glass, I think that it looks rather nice and is much more resilient to scratches than the stupid plastic. You just have to take care of your nice things....

Apple did make a big noise about the strength of the glass. This man has a reason to be pissed. As someone else here is saying, not many probably knew that the glass on the rear is not as strong! Apple should have acted responsibly in marketing the product!

Indeed they do - from Apple's website under the heading "Engineered Glass":
"All the breakthrough technology in iPhone 4 is situated between two glossy panels of aluminosilicate glass — the same type of glass used in the windshields of helicopters and high-speed trains. Chemically strengthened to be 20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic, the glass is ultradurable and more scratch resistant than ever. It’s also recyclable."
All I can say is don't drop that helicopter! At least when you break your iP4's glass panels you can rest assured that the shards are recyclable. That's gotta make you feel better. But on a more serious note, it seems Apple are likely covered by the usual implied vs actual wording trickery all companies use when pushing their wares. They make it sound like it's virtually unbreakable what with all the talk of copters, trains and fact words like aluminosilicate, but that's really just an assumption they know you'll make. They really only specifically say it's stiffer and harder than plastic! Nowhere do they actually say it's bullet-proof or able to be dropped with impunity onto hardwood or tiled floors, but they know that's what most people will assume it means...

Suspend your Apple fanboyism and defensive behaviors for a second and consider -- even if he LOSES this, Apple is going to have to improve the quality of their glass AND their repair policy for all of you over this, whether he wins or not. No matter what, he's doing something GOOD for consumers. So stop whining about how everyone sues until you live in a country where an apology and a bow is all you get when they decide "you broke your phone, loser, so we're not going to honor our warranty, even though we SAID in our ads it wouldn't be easily broken" rather than the permissive US where customers might actually have rights.

This is the company that discouarges screen covers and cases because "our glass is so strong nobody would need it!"

all this proves is that he isnt insured and regrets not being insured.
glass breaks. FACT

I feel this is just another nuisance suit. The customer agreed to purchasing a device knowing what the device is made of. I believe the case should be thrown out.

The McD case turned on the fact that McD made a calculated decision to save money by using cheaper, thinner cups and upping the temp of the coffee. They knew of the danger but did it anyway, knowing they would save tremendous amounts of money...more than the cost of the danger to it's customers.
The Apple case is no comparison.

This seems very odd indeed, in my 6 months with the iPhone 4 I've accidentally dropped it from about 3 or 4 feet about 5 times and the only scars are several very small scratches that you can only see if you look hard, HOW this guy has done this I do not know...

i can't tell you how many things i've bought have broken right after i got them, and all i've thought to do was return it for a new one. god, to think of all the lawsuit money i've missed out on........

So why doesn't he get another one for a online china wholesaler for $15 and change it himself. Obviously the front is more expensive because of the digitizer. What a db.

Really... is it really that easy to break, I've dropped my iPhone 4 plenty of times and have not had it shatter

All u have to do I go to apple.com and watch the iPhone 4 video on the front page where it goes into detail about all aspects of the phone, also it does have the treated glass on both sides and it's compared to sapphire crystal not steel.

Considering that everyone i know almost that has an iphone4 has a cracked screen or has had to replace theirs. id say this is legit as are a lot of other apple complaints. fanboys will rip your head off on here if you say something. 3 feet should not crack it. I dropped my evo before multiple times, dropped all phones i had pretty much. dont get salt because they used to call your iphone "Mr. Glass"
hopefully this guy gets some money back, or apple actually backs up what it dishes out. but why back anything up or change anything when morons on this site will go to the grave with their broken phone saying all is fine and dandy.

I think the case is valid. Apple says that the glass is significantly stronger than other glass. They even go as far to say that is it stronger than plastic. Plastic would not shatter if dropped at that distance. It wouldn't even be scuffed.

Question: Did the iPhone shatter out of nowhere, by just holding it in your hand. OR…did you actually drop the device on some hard pavement, and were shocked that the glass actually cracked…?
Dumb lawsuit. I haven’t had any issues with my iPhone shattering, cracking, etc…and it’s been accidentally dropped a couple times.

I double checked and yep, apple did make all those claims... Especially the plastic one. I guess all they need to do in court is drop a plastic cased phone of equal size and weight and if it shatters like his casing... He loses and if not he wins since it either proves or disproved apples claim.

you said they plan to change the glass back in the 5 , can you make that line a hyper link so we can see the source ?

Apple screwed up with the glass back. The first week I had my phone, I was sitting and it slid off my lap and cracked the back of the phone. The phone had a defective screen and it was replaced. I dropped my second phone in the car, it dropped no more than eight inches and scratched the back.
The best solution is Apple to replace them at cost.

Who woulda thunk that it was a bad idea to design a frequently used device that's prone to being dropped with a glass body was a bad idea?

Are you dead, and do not know it??? Call Cheatem, Scamem, and Lye. We wll take your case. if we do not win you owe us nothing. I am a non attorney spokesperson. We are a sue culture. Glass is glass, hit it right it will break. No disrespect to attorneys, but this is ambulance chasing.

This is ridiculous. If you drop something and it breaks that's on you! If I were to drop my TV and the screen cracked should I get a free replacement? Don't be mad at Apple just because you're clumsy.

Same thing happened to my wife's phone a few months ago. We took it to the local Apple Store and they replaced it without question. Much quicker and cheaper than a lawsuit silly