The recently launched iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have been receiving a ton of media attention and mostly because of negative reports that they can easily be bent by hand or when used in skinny jeans.
A combination of YouTube bloggers angling for hits and some owner complaints showing brand new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus units wrecked and deformed pushed the idea across that the new iPhones, thinner than ever, were prone to bending while in pockets.
Apple’s competition, like a pack of rabid jackals, pounced on the opportunity to both attack the new iPhone and promote their own competing devices. LG, Samsung, HTC, and even Lenovo fired off their ‘Bendgate’ salvos. It was funny at first, but then it got ridiculous.
Apple and its PR department were in damage control mode, they invited select members of the tech press to come see how they test the iPhone 6’s to an exacting degree.
Consumer Reports did one even better, and subjected the iPhone 6’s to independent torture tests and also included a bunch of competitor devices. The results were surprising. Not only were the iPhone 6’s not the weakest of the bunch, the Consumer Reports tests revealed that it takes a whole lot to bend and break an iPhone, and any phone for that matter. Read the report and see the gruesome video here.
But yes, the new iPhone’s aren’t as tough as their blockier, thicker predecessors. While the iPhone 6 Plus requires more force to bend than the iPhone 6, it’s pretty darn durable. Certainly more durable the thicker HTC One M8 (oh, wasn’t HTC one of the companies feasting on ‘bendgate’, yes it was). Another surprising result of the Consumer Reports tests was that they proved that plastic phones are actually more pliable before they bend. The Samsung Galaxy S5 required the most force to destroy.
9to5Mac’s take on the whole fiasco is worth a read.
So, is ‘bendgate’ a thing? Only if you have an apelike fascination for bending and breaking smartphones. The fact is, any smartphone subjected to a decisive use of targeted force will eventually stress, bend, break, and fail.
The new iPhone 6’s are thinner than their predecessors. They are lighter, too. While magnificently engineered to a high degree of precision, it is obvious that less mass and fewer layers takes away some structural rigidity, especially if you apply force at the weaker points, where the mute button or the volume rocker is located. The unibody stainless steel frame has holes punched in those areas to facilitate the buttons and is naturally weaker.
Will the iPhone 6’s bend in your pocket? I tested both over the weekend. I even had the iPhone 6 Plus in my rear jeans pocket and at times forgot it was there and might have sat on it by mistake, i.e. normal day to day usage.
And both devices were fine at the end of the day. My advice: get a case for your iPhone 6. I know it covers up the pretty exterior but you will need to protect the device anyway.
Apple’s take? Here’s their official statement, “Our iPhones are designed, engineered and manufactured to be both beautiful and sturdy. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus feature a precision engineered unibody enclosure constructed from machining a custom grade of 6000 series anodized aluminum, which is tempered for extra strength. They also feature stainless steel and titanium inserts to reinforce high stress locations and use the strongest glass in the smartphone industry. With normal use a bend in iPhone is extremely rare and through our first six days of sale, a total of nine customers have contacted Apple with a bent iPhone 6 Plus.” Apple sold over 10 million iPhone 6’s during their opening weekend.
By making the iPhone thinner and larger, Apple may have accommodated larger displays, batteries, and more LTE antennas, but they did reduce the device’s structural integrity. You don’t need to be a physicist to figure that out. This shouldn’t be an issue for day-to-day use by normal and intelligent people but there are always outliers who want to make a point.
Personally, I detest gadget torture porn. I know how much effort and passion goes into building these devices and when I see a blogger do a ‘drop test,’ or run an insidious ‘will it blend’ video, subjecting a perfectly good (and often new) smartphone to unspeakable torture, it makes me mad because it is just so wasteful. But these sites get massive clicks and hits, and the people running them make enough money to buy that tortured device many times over.
As for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple’s never really made devices this big before. The iPhone 5s is really an evolution of the original iPhone which, one could argue, is the most evolved mobile product of all time.
Its size and dimensions as well as capabilities and features were honed through time and slowly iterated and carefully tested. Even the glass-enclosed iPhone 4 (one of my favorite designs), was pretty darn tough. Sure, the glass would shatter if you dropped it, but it could stand up to a lot of abuse. I see a lot of them out in the wild and many still look new.
I see the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 as really the first new devices and form factors we’ve seen in seven years. There will be kinks to iron out and while Apple has said that nine cases of bending have been brought to their attention so far, you know the company is sensitive to the perceived issue.
The good news is, no other company is better qualified to make things right if your iPhone 6 Plus got bent in your skinny jeans. They have the scale of distribution via the Apple Retail Stores and partners and still the best record of customer service in the business. The iPhone is also their most profitable and important product, so they’re going to make sure it is received well by users.
My advice for anyone buying any of these phones is to get a case. It adds a negligible amount of thickness and weight but you’ll get more rigidity and protect the exterior of the device while adding some grip when holding it.
As for ‘Bendgate’, the only thing it really exposed was how things can get blown completely out of proportion and also how competitors can be so desperate to jump on the bandwagon against a product they see as the leader, without first checking their own competing product’s weaknesses.