Apple Dismisses Bendgate

Apple has been plagued by two iPhone 6 issues in recent days: 1) an update to its iOS 8 operating system wound up disrupting cellular connectivity and disabling the Touch ID fingerprint reader to unlock it; and 2) numerous reports surfaced in mainstream and social media that the new iPhone 6 bends.

About the iOS 8 issue, Apple has been most apologetic. On the reports of the iPhone 6 bending? Not so much.

The Bendgate Blowup

Outcries over “Bendgate,” as the issue has been dubbed, developed shortly after the release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Essentially, when stashed in a pocket of snugly fitting pants, the iPhone 6 Plus bends — and it doesn’t return to its original shape when removed.

After a number of users reported this phenomenon in comments and social media posts online, Unbox Therapy earlier this week conducted a “bend test” and posted a video demonstration to YouTube. It quickly went viral, surpassing 34 million views by Friday.

Apple began responding to the issue on Thursday, telling reporters that the cases of bending were extremely rare and that only nine people had complained about it to the company.

Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus passed several tests of their strength and durability, the company maintained.

The two handsets were made from a custom grade of anodized aluminum, tempered for extra strength. Also, stainless steel and titanium inserts were used to reinforce high-stress locations, Apple told The Wall Street Journal.

Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

No Apology

Now here is what Apple didn’t say:

  1. that in the extremely rare event an iPhone were to bend, the company would replace it; or
  2. that it would investigate the issue further; or
  3. that it was sorry.

Case closed.

Apple clearly has taken the position that this is a non-issue, so it follows that it shouldn’t have to take any action or offer any mea culpas. The question is, is that the best response?

After all, the release of iOS 8.0.1 was a disaster — and Apple not only apologized but also quickly followed up with the release of iOS 8.0.2. Might it have been more prudent for the company to stop the narrative of Apple’s new products failing by acknowledging that some customers were having a bending problem and apologizing for it?

No, said David Johnson, principal of Strategic Vision.

“With the OS issue, they did everything by the crisis management book. They got out in front of it, they fixed it, they apologized. It’s over or soon will be,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Bendgate is about user error or people not treating their devices properly, Johnson maintained, and that shouldn’t be laid at Apple’s feet — nor will it be if the company stands fast.

All the Other Reasons

Admitting fault or even suggesting Apple could be at fault is more than a PR issue, said Vlad Zachary, director of omni-channel commerce at Upshot Commerce.

“They need to consider potential legal implications, consumer confidence in their products, impact on the sales for the coming holiday season, investor relations,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “All these reasons kind of explain why their response was formulated the way it was. If they admit there is a problem — consumer confidence might be shattered.”

Also, there are growing doubts about the integrity of the original claims, Zachary noted.

“In other words, it is not clear what the exact circumstances were when the phone in that viral video bended,” he said.

These are not the first reports of smartphones with bending issues, Zachary added. Reports of the iPhone 5, 5s and Galaxy phones bending have surfaced in the past, but they drew little attention.

“The real news here, in my opinion, is how that user video went viral,” he said, “while previous reports of bending of prior models have remained largely unnoticed.”

Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.

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