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In a post-bendgate world, Apple's word is still (somehow) good enough for most

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus has a design flaw which can cause the phone to bend unnaturally. The aluminum used in its construction was not strong enough to stand up to daily usage over a two-year period, causing slightly warped casings that eventually led to disconnections between the display and its touch connection inside the phone.

When it was first discovered, Apple played off the complaints; customers whose phones did experience this defect were harangued on social media and charged $129 to fix the issue. But thanks to internal documents made public due to a class-action lawsuit, we now know (via Vice) that Apple was aware of the problem and worked to make sure future versions of the iPhone would never have the same issues.

Why wasn't this a bigger problem? A combination of the Internet's short attention span, exaggeration on behalf of online personalities, physics, and Apple's impressive crisis management operation came together to make sure we all moved on and happily purchased the next iPhone with its sturdier body.

A self-bending prophecy

iPhones

iPhones (Image credit: iMore)

There used to be a Verizon Wireless store right down the street from my house, tucked away in a corner of an aging shopping center most folks don't visit much anymore. I loved that store on Apple launch day — there were never lines. While most of my friends waited for UPS to show up or stood for hours in front of an Apple Store, it took me just 17 minutes from the time I left my car to the time I returned to pick up my new iPhone 6. Like I do with every new phone I get, I spent the day customizing it and taking photos for the site I worked for at the time. After a couple of hours, I slid the phone in my front left pocket and hopped in the car to pick my kids up from school.

That trip is about 25 minutes, during which the phone didn't leave my pocket. My left leg is usually pressed up against the drivers-side door, so the phone was in between my leg and the door the entire time I was driving. When I got back out of the car, my boss had sent me a link to a tweet about an iPhone 6 Plus bending at the volume rocker for someone. I laughed, skimmed a related article, and set my phone down on the table.

When I finished reading, I glanced down at my phone and noticed it was not laying flat on the surface of the table. I checked, hadn't set the phone down on something, and the table itself was level. My phone was sitting unevenly, face-down, on a flat surface. I moved my phone to the glass table next to my desk to confirm, and it turned out I was right: My iPhone 6 was bent. It wasn't a huge bend, but it clearly wasn't like that when I took the phone out of the box less than six hours prior. I took some video and photographs, reached out to Apple, and reported my findings when the company didn't respond.

Inside the media maelstrom

iPhone repair hero

iPhone repair hero (Image credit: iMore)

The next 24 hours were kind of wild: My Twitter feed erupted with people both in support and accusing me of poor reporting. The BBC asked me on to talk about the problem, which was kinda cool. Lots of people had questions, and I did my best to answer. Was I sure it wasn't just the table that was warped? Why didn't I have the phone in a case? Was I sure I didn't drop the phone? All perfectly reasonable things to ask, many of the same things I would ask if one of my friends were in the same situation. Apple still hadn't responded to my initial request for information, which was unusual, but it was clear the people there were probably very busy.

Conversations quickly leaned to the extreme, and opinions turned dark.

Meanwhile, the tech media had become fully obsessed with #Bendgate. Some wanted to blame the users for wanting "pretty" things, and YouTube celebrities started bending iPhones live on camera for views. I found all of it absurd, and still do. The bend in my phone was almost imperceptibly slight, but it was there. It made me wonder how this phone would hold up to long-term usage, but at the same time, it seemed unlikely that it was some sort of mass epidemic where phones folded in half with the slightest pressure applied. After all, aluminum as a metal isn't perfect: If you put enough pressure on a weak joint, it's going to bend. And Apple wasn't the only company that suffered problems in this arena, either.

But physics and reality don't always mesh with social media fire and indignation. Conversations quickly leaned to the extreme, and opinions turned dark: My iPhone bent in my pocket because I was fat. I did it on purpose for attention. It was my fault the phone bent because I wasn't using it correctly. I'm no stranger to ruffling the feathers of a few techy folks with my thoughts, but the volume and intensity of these comments caught me off guard.

I even got a heads up from a friend here at Mobile Nations that a forum thread was shut down because it was basically all about insulting me, and my pals here wanted me to know they killed it as soon as they found it. I've spent a lifetime learning how to tune these sorts of things out, but even so, the messages carried on for almost a year across social media, email, and anywhere else these people could reach me.

Bending the narrative

Amidst all of the media speculation, social media fire, and YouTube fury, where was Apple in all of this? The company ran its now-typical playbook for these sorts of issues: deflection, repositioning, and targeted information.

After several days of silence, the company told various media outlets that only nine people had come forward with bend issues; PR representatives also walked a handful of reporters through a stress test facility to show how Apple tested the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus for durability against other phones. In Apple's tests, the iPhone 6 was even stronger than competing phones in a few of these tests.

But based on the reports, Apple's tests didn't appear to apply pressure in the place where I experienced my own iPhone 6 warping. For all its high-quality photography and detailed explanations, the iPhone test lab didn't address the issue in any functional way — it was there to assuage the general concerns of the crowd. This was a non-issue, a classic example of people blowing an issue with an iPhone way out of proportion because Apple negativity gets clicks. This was just physics, after all.

Non-solutions to a non-issue

iPhone 6 and 6S

iPhone 6 and 6S (Image credit: iMore)

Internally, however, we now know Apple was fully aware of this problem. (Giving the company some credit, the design team immediately went to work preventing the same sort of issue in future iPhone versions.) But while we may never see another #bendgate, there's a danger in the way both Apple and the tech media have handled these sorts of narratives: By brushing off the problem publicly and providing no real relief for affected customers beyond "buy the next model,"Apple gives users little comfort that the next issue will be addressed in an appropriate manner. (We may already be seeing it with Apple's Macbook Pro keyboard issues.)

Bendgate was a stupid name for a manufacturing defect. But it wasn't a non-existent problem, and affected users deserved more.

When manufacturing as many devices as the tech sphere does, you're going to see a few defects. That's just a fact. But Apple's prominence in this space means that every YouTube and tech blogging personality wants to join the complex dance of simultaneously hyping up an issue for your attention or downplaying it as something you shouldn't worry about. In turn, this keeps Apple from commenting on it publicly for fear of making the story even bigger, and when the signal to noise ratio reaches deafening levels, people tune out and move on to the next thing. Those who suffered problems? You're doing something wrong, and your only recourse is to pay a fee or upgrade.

Throughout all of this, the users lose. We lose transparency. We lose out on knowing about internal fixes and Genius repair programs and outright recalls. We lose money as we shrug and chalk up the extra cost as just part of owning a smartphone or laptop in 2018.

Bendgate was a stupid name for a manufacturing defect. It was overhyped and drove everyone crazy. But it wasn't a non-existent problem, and affected users deserved more than a handwave and some high-quality photographs. When it takes a lawsuit to force a company to talk about an issue more than four years later, we all lose.

Because if this cycle continues, there's little evidence to suggest history won't repeat itself with a different defect, a different problem. And then we lose all over again.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at iMore. He's a passionate futurist whose trusty iPad mini is never far from reach. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Reach out on Twitter!

63 Comments
  • Bendgate didn’t become as huge as you suggest it should have because it was caused by a very specific use case. If you put your phone in your back pocket and sat on it yes depending on your personal physics your phone would probably bend. I had a 6 for three years and never experienced any problems because I value my electronics and never thought sitting on it was a good idea.
  • There are lots of situations outside of sitting on your phone which caused this problem, including one outlined in this article. Assuming those who had this issue develop over time didn't value their equipment because you personally didn't have any problems is not only unproductive but totally ignores Apple's own conclusions when internally researching this situation.
  • As someone who had an iPhone 6, I find this article a bit disingenuous. I never had a bending problem. Do you know why? I never abused my phone. If you're going to sit on your phone or put it through other such ill advised treatments, what do you expect will happen? Also, you suggest Apple was aware of this "problem". Well, yes, I'm quite sure Apple was aware of the tolerances of their phones. That doesn't mean they acknowledge it's a problem. If some people are having an issue, sure, it makes sense for Apple to engineer the next version of the phone with higher tolerances, etc. They did just that. However, to refer to individual's abuse of an electronics device as a design problem is a bit of a stretch. A phone is an expensive piece of electronic equipment. If you treat it like a toy as you apparently have, then you shouldn't be surprised by the outcome. Could Apple (or any company) produce a ruggedized version of their phone? Sure, but the device would have very different characteristics including look and feel. These are called design trade-offs, not design problems. I just can't help but see how sad you come off as the poor "victim" who was incapable of taking care of your equipment.
  • @jmurgen Wow I cant believe you wrote that ! Do you read the article ? If it had been another phone manufactuer would you have writting the same comment ?
  • It's true though, I've never once had this issue or seen anyone with this issue. This is simply caused by people exerting their phone to extreme stress by putting it in their back pocket or similar.
  • Thank you for this. This is an honest and fair piece, we need more of this on all tech sites.
  • I have a bent iPad Air 2. Sat on it on the couch. Nobody to blame but my own big hiney. Still, this was a problem and Apple's QC let it slip through. You can't expect them to just to come out immediately with apologies. But one would be smart to wait until they acknowledge it and then get it covered under Applecare (which is way cheaper than Verizon's own plan). Any company of Apple's size is going to push back at first. To do otherwise is to invite ambulance chasers to get on board and make way more money than the victims. They did the right thing in the end. And that's pretty much what one should expect from any company the size of Apple with the size of their legal exposure and hundreds of suits already under way. Would this be another argument for not being an early adopter?
  • Yes you can. You totally can expect them to acknowledge a problem, provide a solution, communicate clearly, and not let it happen again.
  • Isn't the solution not to sit on your iPad?
  • Imagine that, you took responsibility for the mistreatment of your own device. Apparently, it's more politically correct to blame Apple for not designing your iPad to be sat on. You should write an article about it and cry like a self-entitled **** as well.
  • Thank you for taking the time to write this article. Well said.
  • I won't ever trust big companies like Apple to be honest all the time, but I still find they make good products that sure, I will continue using and buying since I have not encountered this happening to me. It's like if a place you like to eat at is in the news for some sort of contamination in their food. I won't stop eating there because I like it and assume that now the issue is out, they will fix it. I didn't get sick, so it is cool. But if I was one that did get sick, I would probably never eat their again. It is all relative. And let's face it, for all the muck Apple does, they will 99.9% fix the issue for their customer if you take the time to call them or visit an Apple store.
  • Bendgate isn't an actual problem in the real world.
    If you are dumb enough to put your phone in your back pocket expect it to be damaged.
  • So...you read the part where in was in his FRONT pocket then right? so...there's that...you know..facts.
  • It would only happen in a front pocket if you're wearing really tight pants. In which case, it would be uncomfortable and you should be aware that you're going to do damage to the phone
  • And you know this how ?
  • I owned an iPhone 6. I also have many friends who owned an iPhone 6. They were all worried about the bendgate news, and yet not one of them including myself had the phone bend. This is because the group of friends I'm with know how to look after technology. It's quite possible that the earlier iPhones were harder to bend, and maybe Apple are going to far with making the phone thin, but it still takes a lot of pressure to make it bend.
  • LOL. I've never wholly trusted Apple, or any for-profit tech company for that matter. It's just their phones are the best of a bad bunch. More "least worst" rather than "most best". Bendgate, antennagate, criminal pricing, headphone jack removal, iTunes requirement to unbrick, inability to change default apps, blah-blah; I simply put up with all those because Apple does other things that matter to me better than the competition. That's all. We all know that Apple and their competition would cut up little children and use their organs for parts if they could get away with it.
  • Did Rene offer an apology to you? Because he was, and still is, a major cog in Apple's ridiculous PR machine (knowingly or not). Every time something like this occurs with Apple, be it bending iPhones, or broken keyboards, he's front and center ridiculing the people who make these issues public. In my opinion, his fake-news-rebranded-as-FUD BS absolutely played a factor in the reaction you, and others, received from Apple die-hards. It wasn't just him, obviously - but he, as Apple's self appointed defender, had a role to play in all of this. I'd love to see some kind of mea culpa from him, but I doubt we'll see anything of the like...
  • Yep. Here are just a few examples where it's mentioned. (not all are written by Rene though) https://www.imore.com/nsfw-bendgate-and-internet-echo-chamber A podcast about it - https://www.imore.com/imore-show-422-iphone-6-ios-801-bendgate-shellshock Written by Rene - https://www.imore.com/samsung-turns-out-karmas-bendgate
  • Those are articles that have not stood the rest of time, to put it seriously lightly. I guess we can assume that the writer who referred to people who don't use cases as "stupid a-holes" wasn't among the imore writers who warned Russell about the forum they had to take down? As for Rene's piece on the Note 7 debacle...it's just wrong on so many levels. First off, that was actually a potentially serious issue that could have threatened people's lives. A Note 7 burned a guy's Jeep to the ground, for cripes sake. So, I'm glad Rene found the whole thing so amusing...and all because Samsung had some fun at Apple's expense at one point. Secondly, thanks to these recent revelations, this is such a hilariously apples to oranges comparison. While they could've handled the issue better, Samsung actually acknowledged there was a problem. They recalled every Note 7 they manufactured, and took a massive loss financially. Apple's way of handling things like this is either ignoring it, dismissing it, blaming it on the customer (you're holding it wrong), or just flat out lying. But yes, Samsung totally deserved the karma that came in the form of a phone that potentially could've killed someone in a house fire.
  • Just a correction on my part, necessary because I skimmed those articles WAY too quickly during my work break; the Rene article wasn't even about the Note 7. I just saw "karma," "bendgate," and "Samsung" together, and figured the worst. I still recall an article written by him in which he was awfully smug about the whole Note 7 issue, though. I'll try and look up later if I feel like it. Whatever the case, my original comment still stands.
  • The fact that you seriously believe Rene actually laughed at something which endangered people's lives, makes me wonder who is more delusional, Rene or you?
  • Trust. . . or Conform?? This isn’t even a bash just directly at Apple either. The same question can be asked for ANY company.
  • I am not surprised this wasn't written by Rene.
  • They must have drugged Rene before managing to publish this.. Fanboys won't be happy.
  • Maybe Russell and the heads at iMore are tired of him being a paid shill and never pointing out problems. The guy freaking vacations in Cupertino. That says a lot.
  • Don't worry. I'm sure Rene will be along shortly with his rebuttal article explaining all of this away with his usual excuses.
  • Considering this is "post"-bendgate, it was already explained. And explained via reasons, not excuses.
  • Speak of the devil...was wonder when you would be coming here to poorly defend yourself.
  • If you're seeing the devil, you're looking in a mirror. Besides, there's nothing really to defend; if this article hadn't been written, bendgate would never have been brought up again.
  • Except for all of the other tech blogs that brought it up when it was discovered last week. And stop deflecting. We know it's you since you immediately run to Rene's defense.
  • Is Rene really taking a page out of Apple Insider's Daniel Eran Dilger's playbook and sockpuppeting as DannyJJK? smh
  • Yes he is. It is really obvious. DannyJJK furiously defends Rene on everything and talks like him.
  • What am I deflecting? Just responding to your comment…
  • Great piece, Russell! It's great to real something fair and balanced from this site for a change.
  • Okay, so I saw the comments and read the article again, I admit I skimmed through some of it because I was looking for some numbers or maybe a snip of the internal documents. After reading it again still no numbers, so all we have is one incident of a phone bending. Frankly in this type of article maybe some real numbers would ad some credibility, I’m not up on the latest in bend gate, I had a 6 for three years, no issue. Maybe less about the cool store he used to go to and more about x% of users experienced faulty issue??
  • Wasn't Rene one of the ones blaming the user for their phone bending? Has he read this? Lol.
  • He is probably yelling in a paper bag somewhere that Russell posted this.
  • The problem is is that the phone's thinness means that the structure is more malleable, however Apple still do various stress tests, and if you don't strain the phone in any way you should never run into issues.
  • This issues occured with people under normal use. Stop trying to make excuses for Apple, Rene.
  • Amazing that there weren't many reports, something that this article omitted. Actually, he included how many reports Apple said there were, but on disagreeing with it, he never stated how many supposed "actual" reports there were. Who's not being transparent now?
  • There was a website called 1ofthe9 that had submissions from people with bent iPhones. Way more than 9. And his point is Apple said it was only 9 phones impacted and clearly it was not. They lied just like antenna gate, Error 53, price fixing on eBooks...I could go on...
  • All companies lie, and yes it's wrong, but you still haven't shown me any concrete information of what figure "way more than 9" is, and what direct source this comes from. Is that website no longer available because, surprise surprise, there were still hardly any people with the issue?
  • Whatever Rene. Tim Cook could **** in a hefty bag and slap an Apple sticker on it and charge you $1000 and you would smile and write about how it is the best bag of **** and Apple does bags of **** right.
  • Still no source of your "way more than 9" claim? Okay…
  • Hey, my iPhone X has a very slight rock just like this video when I put it on a completely flat surface. Oh, wait... it's my camera bump. Problem solved! (sarcasm)
  • I had an iPhone 6 and never had it bend. We are now on iPhone 8 and X, so who cares? Samsung devices were literally exploding and were banned from airlines. Why is this any of this relevant now? Is Apple still selling the iPhone 6?
  • Exactly. Opinions are like as*holes, everyone has one. Invest, be happy, and be kind to others. Its that simple.....for me i guess. #colormyselffortunate
  • Obviously an exploding phone is worse than a bending one, but the point of the article is that Apple knew and lied about the issue. Samsung's response to the battery issue was to fess up, recall and take a $beelllion hit to their bottom line. Apple have a history of blaming shoddy design choice on the user until forced to admit fault by the courts or by the volume of complaints (cf. the iPhone 4 antennae, butterfly keyboards, iPhone CPU throttling) so why should we trust them in the future?
  • Admittedly I'd be less likely to trust Samsung, considering my smartphone should NEVER endanger my life.
  • Not to mention the iPhone bending was more often than not the user's fault (e.g. by putting it in a tight pocket or back pocket). Whereas the Samsung devices exploding happened with every model due to a core flaw in the design/manufacturing process.
  • "People !" "You're using the iPhone wrong!"
    It doesnt matter that Apples own documents show that the iphone 6 was more likely to bend then previous iPhones.
    "You're using it wrong!"
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63ysudto8wc&t=1s
  • It was more likely to bend, of course, but it still only really bent under stress. I knew plenty of people with iPhone 6's and not a single one ended up bent.
  • The distinction though is that there isn't any documented evidence that Samsung were aware of the flaw prior to release; Apple were.
  • I think Samsung were aware, but they were trying to cut costs. They would've destroyed any evidence (probably with an exploding Note) and hoped for the best
  • Again the point is that we have hard evidence that Apple knew about the issue and lied to all and sundry about it. Speculation and whataboutery surrounding the Note 7's battery does not deflect from this.
  • It does however prove that Apple aren't the only company that lies or hides information. It also proves that Apple is usually the only one that is reported on about these issues, as well.
  • What proves what? Are you still comparing bendy iPhones to Note 7s? Because if you are there has been zero evidence other than rumour and conjecture to show that Samsung were aware of the fault until the independent labs found the issue. Of course companies lie but the point of the article is that Apple do it quite a lot and we still forgive them. If I think back over my tech history and devices I've had major issues with I can think of an eMac, Xbox 360, iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 7. All of them stopped functioning at some point and two of them were fixed or refunded by the company responsible in a timely manner (I'll give you a clue which two: they didn't have any fruit emblazoned on them).
  • Apple lie no more than any other company, but I don't think anyone forgives them. Also I've had things fixed by Apple too, so you can cut the Apple-hate out.
  • Maybe you need less of the Apple Kool Aid ? You seem so keen on defending Apple.. in your eyes its like they can do no wrong and if they do you explain it away and make excuses for them. Also like to get the last word in, so I await your reply.
    I dont hate Apple. To get nearly a trillion $ they are doing alot right, and they produce some truly good stuff. I believe we should hold them to a higher standard, but this time they lied. In future I personly will be more cautious when it comes to Apple.
    If anything I am cautious with most tech companies and when they mess up we should hold them to acount be it Apple or Samsung or whoever.
  • Like I said, I don't think anyone forgives Apple. I don't defend them all the time, but in this case they're no worse than any other company. And of course, we should hold them to account
  • How exactly are we going to hold them to account? Have Apple even apologised for this deception?