Every time there's a new iPhone there's also a new scare of people being upset by one thing or another that turns out to be greatly overblown. Be it Antennagate with the iPhone 4, or purple lens flare with the iPhone 5, or tricking the Touch ID sensor of the iPhone 5s with elaborate fingerprint duplication, there's always something. Now, with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus we've got a new world-ending catastrophe on our hands, and it's already taken on a name of its own: #bentgate.
The gist of it is this: The iPhones 6 can be bent. That's it. A phone that's made out of a generally rigid but deceptively thin metal shell can be permanently deformed if too much force is applied.
The iPhone 5 and 5s also bend. I've got an iPhone 5 with a slight bend to it, though the cause and time of the curve aren't know. The iPhones 6 and the preceding iPhone 5s and 5 are made out of precisely machined aluminum. It's a metal, yes, but metals such as aluminum generally possess the quality of ductility — they are pliable, not brittle.
If you apply enough force to an inch-thick solid steel rod, it will bend. Same goes for the quarter-inch-thick iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (which, I should note, have far less than a quarter of an inch of aluminum in any one spot). Aluminum is actually a fairly soft metal, ranking at 2.5-to-3 on the Mohs scale of hardness. That is to say, it's about as tough as a U.S. penny (which is actually 97.5% zinc and just plated in copper).
The complaints that circle around #bentgate come from people pulling their iPhone 6 or 6 Plus out of their pocket and finding that it's got more of a curve to it did straight out of the box. The iPhone 6 is 5.44 inches tall while the iPhone 6 Plus is 6.22 inches. That's a lot of area to spread out force along, especially if the phone ends up sideways in your pocket. It's pushing up against your leg, which contains a hard-as-concrete femur bone that's up to 2 inches thick. If your pants are tight enough around your leg, that iPhone will bend. It's a thin piece of metal, that's how it deals with forces beyond the failure threshold — it fails.
Unsurprisingly, most of the bends that we've seen online have occurred at points where the iPhone is weakest — the cutouts for the volume buttons and SIM card slot. Here the thicker frame around the rest of the phone has a hole cut through it that reduces the structural rigidity of the device.
So here are few ways to deal with this:
- Do not put your iPhone in your back pocket.
- Ensure that your iPhone stays upright (parallel to your leg) in your front pocket (having it horizontal looks stupid anyway)
- Put the iPhone in a shirt or coat pocket, or in your purse.
Yes, I know, that won't work for everybody. And I know you won't be happy about spending a few hundred dollars to replace an iPhone 6.
Very few cases would help in this regard — they're all generally more pliable than the aluminum-body iPhone is anyway.
This is what you get with a metal phone. It will be durable, it can be made thin, and it looks damn good. But it can also be bent. Your alternatives are to make it thicker and more durable, build it out of different materials that will change the appearance, cellular reception, and weight of the device (the iPhone 4's stainless steel is around a 6 on the Mohs scale, but weighs nearly three times as much as aluminum), or just deal with it.
Just as we do our best not to drop our phones on hard surfaces because the screen could shatter and we avoid rubbing it against rough surfaces so we don't gouge the back, we should be cognizant of the pressure we're applying to our phones and recognize that too much will damage it. They're not indestructible.
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Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm, and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.