NSFW: Bendgate and the Internet echo chamber

NSFW is a weekly op-ed column in which I talk about whatever's on my mind. Sometimes it'll have something to do with the technology we cover here on iMore; sometimes it'll be whatever pops into my head. Your questions, comments and observations are welcome.

A new rumor spread this week that the iPhone 6 Plus was prone to bending, mostly on the strength of a YouTube video that showed an iPhone 6 Plus user bending his. Almost instantly a new meme was born — Bendgate. Or, perhaps more topically relevant, Bendghazi. The incident demonstrates more about how we process information now than anything to do with Apple's manufacturing processes.

These days word on the Internet spreads like wildfire. And even if you haven't watched the video or seen a bent iPhone 6 Plus yourself, you've heard about it. That's the Internet echo chamber at work, where anecdotal information that's popular enough can rebound enough times that it feels like it's a constant stream, even though it's the same thing being repeated over and over again.

What's worse, the Internet echo chamber feeds mainstream media news coverage, so people of all stripes have heard of the bending iPhones. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked in the past few days if I tried to bend my new iPhone 6.

As I said on Twitter, "Have you tried to bend your iPhone?" No. Because I'm not a stupid asshole.

I put a case on my iPhone 6 about 30 seconds after getting it out of the box. And I heartily encourage you to do the same.

Apply enough force to something and it will bend or break, because physics are still a thing. It's how we consume information that has changed so much. I worry that we don't yet have the skills to differentiate signal from noise when stuff like this happens. Many of us certainly lack the critical thinking skills to differentiate that noise from signal, too.

Bending iPhones — or any smartphone, for that matter — are nothing new. Sporadic complaints about bending iPhones go back to the iPhone 4, but given the hundreds of millions of iPhones sold, overall, the number of complaints is infinitesimal.

In context of the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple later told CNBC that it's received a total of nine complaints so far. The company's moved over 10 million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models in that period, underscoring that this is an exceeding rare phenomenon. (Apple doesn't break down iPhone 6 Plus sales, specifically, but they're in the millions.)

If you're concerned about your iPhone bending, here's some advice: Put a case on it. Same goes if you're concerned about your iPhone getting scratched up, scuffed and dinged. It's a nice piece of hardware. Make a little bit of an effort to keep it looking good. It'll improve its resale value, if that sort of thing is important to you.

But if you bareback your iPhone and treat it roughly, expect it to look like crap in pretty short order. And you'll have no one to blame but yourself. Adamantium only exists in comic books - while our devices are made of real-world metals and alloys, we need to care care of them if we don't want them looking like crap.

96 Comments
  • An article worth at least a sitting ovation... :)
  • And for heaven's sake, don't sit on the phone.
  • +1 Sent from the iMore App
  • Some nice common sense writing. Something you rarely see in an article on the Internet these days. Of course I'm sure some future comments will find a way to find fault with common sense and logic--they usually do. Sent from the iMore App
  • Well said! Sent from the iMore App
  • Ridiculous how these things become "things" ... I have to believe it is also because Apple is a big fish -- a very big and successful fish -- and people look for any reason to criticize them, even when it exaggerated and blown way out of proportion (admittedly sometimes it is legit, like iOS 8.0.1). But I have a 6 with an Apple leather case and a Power Support screen protector, it feels great in my hands and it is the best iPhone I have ever owned. Not worried about bending and damage whatsoever. Carry on internet, carry on
  • Totally agree with you ! Sent from the iMore App
  • Nice article, Peter. Even though I'm not a big fan of Comcast they get an even worse reputation than they probably deserve because of just this. People too often form opinions on what others say and not from their own experience or research. Listening to others can be a good thing but just realize that it's not always the informed consumers that are the loudest. Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm not an idiot to hide the awesome design of the iPhone inside an ugly case, it's not a solution for everyone and is pretty stupid to say put a case.
    But I agree that the bendgate is blown way out of proportion, all my colleagues who don't even follow tech are like did your iPhone bend? As long as it holds up in my normal use without a case I'm good. Sent from the iMore App
  • The pics of Rene's battle-worn gold iPhone 5s from the article he posted a couple of days ago, looks awesome! Sent from the iMore App
  • WOW. Common sense article. Nice job.
  • Apple has benefited for years from one of the most aggressive online hype machines in history. They've brilliantly used it in order to make things like old Android features such as swype keyboard and a larger design seem new to people. It should come as no surprise when once in a while the media hype gets out of control and they're not able to stay ahead of it. So it's sort of a matter of a company living by the sword and dying by the sword, or this case merely wounded by the sword. Fortunately for Apple, this too shall pass.
  • Indeed, but it is disingenuous to say that having to put a case on it is expected or somehow okay with consumers and this not a real design issue. Many people, myself included, carry their phones with no case at all in an otherwise empty front pocket with zero problems because our phones are not made of aluminum. Mine isn't all scratched or bent at all because it has a plastic frame, and I have been carrying it this way since November. Didn't Steve Jobs himself insist that the iPhone be scratch resistant glass because he wanted to carry it in his pocket with keys without it scratching up? "Put it in a case, dummy" is not a valid response for all consumers unless you tell them before they buy that putting the phone in their pocket without a case is not the intended use.
  • it is disingenuous to say...this not a real design issue
    I am saying quite sincerely that this is not a real design issue. The case stuff is just common sense.
  • I definitely see your point. It's always made me wonder why people complain about the plasticy feel of the Galaxy series when everyone slaps a plastic case on their phone anyway, regardless of brand. However the attention to design bragged about by Apple with the iPhone and HTC with the One does seem odd if they expect u to use a case. What's the point?
  • I think a case on plastic phones its better on Aluminun phones because there are cases that look better than the design of the plastic phone, you catch my point?
  • And I carried my iPhone 5 in my front pocket caseless. I'll do the same with the 6. The case isn't the issue and won't do much to keep a phone from bending (come on, if you use enough force to bend aluminum, are most cases going to matter?). The bigger point here is that this isn't a real problem. First, if Consumer Reports' figures are correct it takes at least 70 lbs of force to start to bend an iPhone 6 (more for a Plus). I flat out do not believe someone can be applying that much force to a phone in their front pocket (with their thigh and hip) and not be in some pretty extreme discomfort. IF they are and don't change things... they're idiots. What I'll bet happened is this. They had it in their back pocket and sat on it. Feeling stupid for ruining a brand new phone, they are, well, lying about it being in the front pocket. And, of course, if you grab and apply a lot of pressure, well, you're an idiot. Of course any phone will bend if you apply enough force in the right way.
  • It all started with a guy who said his phone bent in his pocket. Possibly to get insurance money, or maybe it was a lie. Or he might have been unlucky. Anyways, the internet have tried repeating it by heating up the device and bend it will all its force. They did with the 5s too, and the 5. Idiots believe it, and it becomes huge in the media, which is a place of manipulation and lies. It repeats itself every year, and idiots fall for the rumors made by Samsung fans. A phone is not meant to be bent with force! It's meant to be used with care.
  • Peter, your articles are consistently the most balanced and informative pieces on iMore. I look forward to reading your posts, even when they don't relate to my situations. Keep it up.
  • Thank you kindly! :)
  • Apple loves this shit because it's free advertising. I was at the Apple Store yesterday getting AppleCare put on my phone. I started talking to this lady who brought her daughter in because they wanted to see what the "Bendghazi" hype was all about. She has an old blackberry curve and decided to upgrade after she saw the 6+ in person. Then her daughter talked her into buying her a new MacBook Air for college!!! I could care less what phone a person carries, but these anti-apple people are so fucking stupid, they don't realize they are helping promote the company they are trying to hurt.
  • I consider myself a pretty reasonable person. I usually can cut through the crap pretty well. With the bending issue, though, it took me longer than usual. I think part of it is because Apple had a rough week with Bendgate and 8.0.1 and all. But this is spot on. People are pushing 'news' around faster than logic and the truth can keep up. And because of that, it really took me awhile to sift through the crap and repetition to get the real story, and it's only because I care enough to do so. I pity the general public and the steady ration of misinformation they're fed. It's really gotta be hard to keep up and decipher the truth. Hopefully enough articles like this make their way mainstream.
  • In a world where ratings, clicks, and page views reign, the media can't resist a good scandal or making mountains out of mole hills. It's brutal at times and they just help fuel the spark and make it an inferno.
  • It also doesn't boggle the mind how powerful media can be, when you get lucky and have 43 million views on a video, whether fact or not... for a payday of ~$64,500. for your efforts! Yep... $65.5k based on a $1.50/1000 CPM. How many of YOU would've done that unscientific and Apple-bashing test?
  • It still boggles me that this was even an issue. It goes to show that when you are doing things right, some people will go to any length to find a fault.
  • iOS 8 is in direct contrast to your comment. My wife downloaded 8.0.2 yesterday and there are still situations where she has to reboot to get a working keyboard back. iOS 8= crap so far.
  • If there is an issue, get the phone replaced. This is not one of those companies that allow their phones to brick and nuke with not even an acknowledgement from the company.
    Also, I've had no problem whatsoever with iOS8, So....nah.....
  • It's interesting to see this media outlet take notice of this phenomenon when Apple is involved. Haven't seen this sort of analysis when a race or gender or religion is threatened getting stereotyped by Internet as well. I don't want to think that there is mutual benefit agreement between NSFW and Apple, but that's how it's looking like.
  • Wrong blog buddy. Sent from the iMore App
  • My iPhone is straight as an arrow. The way this thing has blown out of proportion, I guess I'm the minority.
  • If you buy one thing or whatever means that you like it, and you have to take care of it, just like these new unveiled 2 iPhones which were almost past a week were become phenomenon because of their physical performances and so so really amazing, in fact i haven't iPhone 6 plus yet this time, maybe it will arrive my preorder in exact date that what i expected, the truth is i just touch it both this morning in Apple Store and so really smooth and so so amazing performance both unit, and i was tried to attempt it to bend but fortunately it so very hard aluminum metal and i love
    it. We have to use it in a normal way, we have to take care of it because we need these phones for our daily life the second is Apple made this to meet our satisfaction. Well, i believed Apple always made different for us as their client, i don't care with this bendgate mania, i like very much all Apple products because its really different. Leave those people who feel jealousness, these were their roles in this earth to hurt someone different in a way that they can't do nothing else..thanks to Apple with these great products. Sent from the iMore App
  • *soft aluminum metal. Hard to our touch, but aluminum is a soft metal. Random knowledge, not knocking your comment or the phone. Enjoy your day now. Posted via iMore App
  • There are many kind or types of aluminum you have to search, These iPhones meets all the compliance and specifications before it was release, just avoid to put in your pocket for a reason, thats why apple in the second way they provide housing for more protections of your handset... Common sense. Sent from the iMore App
  • Never run for congress Peter. Common sense, honesty, balance, reason? These attributes will not get you elected, but they do make for another great article. When the rumblings of an iGumby first came out I thought it a tad too sensational. Yes, Apple can putz up a software release and even create some hardware flaws from time to time, but manufacturing millions of phones without testing if they could withstand normal user wear, that was just a bit far fetched. Whether determined or stupid, you can bend/break most things. And whether determined or stupid it seems the press can make a sensational story out of most anything as well. Again, don't run for public office.
  • That was tested already. Sent from the iMore App
  • Put it in a good case and don't worry about it and by the way, Don't be Stupid and take care of your stuff. Sent from the iMore App
  • Dude, you said!!, Don't be a stupid ASSHOLE!!! Sent from the iMore App
  • As usual, the Peter & the Macalope can be counted on to knock some sense into the anti-Apple fundamentalists and other assorted fools: www.macworld.com/column/macalope
  • I studied technology but not electronics
    Iam a registered so i know and i understand very well this test. Learn more and thats the best. Sent from the iMore App
  • It's also noteworthy that Peter and the Macolope have never been seen together at the same time. Hmmmm
  • I like this article, jet gita can i ask something, when you buy 1 levis jeans or some signatures stuffs, there's all instructions out there before you wash it for the first time to avoid problems, read it very well. Thats it, with these electronics or phones etc. all instructions were written there before you using it for the first time..ok guys goodluck. Sent from the iMore App
  • I have seen people flipping their phones in their hands like it was a ball. I secretly kept hoping when I saw this and then their phones break, I would then "haw-haw" under my breath. I always have cases/holsters for my phones. Sent from the iMore App
  • It's somewhat funny that people should be told/reminded to not abuse an expensive and relatively fragile electronic gadget.
  • The people purposely breaking phones on Youtube seem to be doing it more out of a desire to see Apple get bad press (and to get pageviews) than as some kind of service for the consumer. I could break my MacBook Air with very little effort just by bending the screen back too far, and that's the equivalent of what we're seeing with these phones being bent intentionally. The question isn't if you can break if you try to break it, but whether it will break accidentally in normal use. So far, there's very little evidence to suggest that it will. I'm not at all concerned about my phone breaking in half (assuming AT&T ever actually delivers my preordered 6+). But I am a little concerned that it might get a little bent or dented in normal use in my pocket -- say, from bumping up against a table or pressing against the hard arms of an office chair. I think these are valid concerns, and I don't think we should be required to use a case just to use our phones safely. I've never used a case on an iPhone before, and I've never broken one.
  • I agree totally. Sent from the iMore App
  • I've never understood the people that use their devices bareback. It's bound to slip out of your hand and break sooner or later! First thing I do is always put it in a case with a rubberized one at that usually that allows for a better grip.
  • You are talking about phones right?
  • What an asshat Sent from the iMore App
  • What the Internet is proving is that they are more morons and assholes out there than we previously believed existed. And a vast majority of them work in the mainstream media. It is the 'I bought a cup of hot coffee but it is not supposed to burn me even though I haven't placed it in a proper container' crowd. Many of these lack of cause and effect and critical thinking groups also reside in Washington. But that is another level of asshole but asholes none the less. Sent from the iMore App
  • Great advice, first thing I do when I get a new phone is put a glass screen protector and nice looking case on it, a case that comes on and off without damaging the phone. My 5S and iPad mini look the same as when I took them out of their boxes. That dumb SOB who bent his new 6+, here I'm waiting for mine on back order and he destroys his for free publicity and did he ever get some. Every MAJOR news sorce did a piece on that dumb SOB, what's that say about the major news sources??? As my very smart father use to say to me, son, don't believe anything you hear and 1/2 of what you see. Great advice, My father gets smarter every day.
  • Peter Cohen proves once again that common sense ain't too common. lol.
    How anyone takes this bend story seriously confounds me. What's the next discovery? How placing a sponge in a plate of water absorbs the liquid?
  • Awesome article! Loved reading it! Sent from the iMore App
  • If I'm spending up to $1000 on a phone, the least l expect from it is for it to have a reasonable build quality and not to bend when I put it in my pocket.
  • If I'm spending up to $1000 on a phone, the least I expect to do for it is to protect it and to protect my investment so I put a case and a glass screen protector on it (on all of them really) so I don't have to worry about it bending in my pocket.
  • A well built phone should not require a case or a screen protector. My Nexus 5 cost me $350. My Moto G cost me around $200. Neither of these phones have a case or a screen protector. I can't physically bend these phones with my hands and they definitely don't bend in my pocket. These phones are built like a tank. Money doesn't grow on trees where I come from. I just wouldn't spend close to $1000 on a phone that is structurally compromised, or that requires me to spend more money on a screen protector and a case.
  • Good one Peter.
  • Amen. Nicely stated!!!
  • I am shocked at how stupid people are these days. Common sense has completely disappeared from society. More than ever people take everything and accept whatever is fed to us by the media. In the mean time, I'll continue to enjoy my unbent iphone 6 because I'm not stupid enough to ruin it. Sent from the iMore App
  • If common sense has completely disappeared from society than you either don't live in society, or, have no common sense. Posted via the Android iMore App!
  • hahaha
  • Thank you! At least somebody still has a brain in this crazy internet world! I had given up on people with common sense, you just revived my hope! This was refreshing! Sent from the iMore App
  • common sense from the perspective of an iPhone user is not the same as a general consumer... A consumer has options when purchasing a smart phone, and when advertised that a phone which costs more than $600 has superior build quality, they expect a "superior" build quality. At least, on par with the competition, like, Nokia, Blackberry, HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Sony or LG. Therefore the defacto standard for common sense is that a case is an accessory and not a requirement - at least - when it comes to spending top dollar on build quality.
  • I don't think this will even bother Apple in the future. from what I can tell, the general public hearing about the bend issue don't realize that the issue is that the iPhone 6 supposedly bends under pressure. Instead it seems they think that the bending is being marketed as some feature.
    I have had 4 different people see my phone so far and they either ask, "does it bend?", or the last one that saw my phone said, "I heard that the new iPhone bends, can you bend it?"
  • You're wrong!! Android doesn't bend! According to the losers on Facebook, if you want a phone that doesn't bend, get an Android. I swear as God is my witness, they say stuff like this.
  • Interesting results in the consumer reports video. The testing in the video is still flawed though and doesn't disprove that the iPhone 6 plus is weak as rumoured. The pressure was placed in the centre of the phones. The earlier video of the guy that bends the 6 plus with his hands clearly places most of the pressure from his thumbs at the iPhone 6 plus weak spot where the volume buttons are. To truly test the strength of all these phones they really need to do it all over again putting the fulcrum point at the phones weakest design points. The results would be far more realistic and interesting then. Think about the scenario of an iPhone 6 plus bending in a front trouser pocket. Most people put their phones in their pockets with the top side up. This means that the volume buttons of the iPhone 6 would be at the pelvis if the pocket was shallow enough. With the person sitting down driving a car the fulcrum point in this situation would be around where the volume buttons are and not the centre of the phone as tested in this video. Then there's the fact that we don't know if they only tested one of each device, given the possible variability in alloy composition and phone construction quality amongst different manufacturing batches it is possible that these devices could in fact perform better or worse in these tests if multiple handsets were put through the same testing. This is how most legitimate scientific testing is done as a larger sample is required to be scientifically accurate and not just one. I'm still going with the iPhone 6 plus is too weak at the volume buttons until this actually proved otherwise. Consumer reports mustn't have a good understanding of physics if they can't figure something this simple out.
  • I'll do the test! Can I use your phone for the test? Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Bravo, that is the best way take their phones for test. I will not give you my phone for test because i love it and i have to take care of it by myself just
    like caring of my children, i will be the one to take care because its mine. Sent from the iMore App
  • to the writer : if you put your phone in a case then what's the point of aluminum look and feel that apple and you in the reviews praise? whats the difference between an iphone in a plastic case and a cheap plastic huawei ? (im talking about the feel of holding it)
  • $600
  • The point is that there are plenty of accidents you can encounter on a daily basis and you want to protect your investment and to keep the device is optimal working condition.
    At any point in time you can drop it, spill water on it, people put it in a back pocket and then sit on it...any number of things.
    The design is there for your enjoyment any time you want to. Common sense says that if you are going to go running after a cab and you might drop it on the cement sidewalk, you don't want it to get damaged. It's simple.
  • Get em Peter!!! Sent from the iMore App