The consumer technology industry generally follows a few rules when it comes to developing new products: faster, thinner and (often) bigger. But the push toward increasingly svelte devices has a clear end point: No device can become thinner forever before running into the obvious challenges posed by physics and daily use.
Earlier this month Apple wowed the world with its new line of iPhones, both of which are larger and thinner than the previous versions. And consumers can’t get enough of them: 10 million phones were sold last weekend, breaking the previous record set last year by the iPhone 5S and 5C.
And SquareTrade, an electronics insurance company, found the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to be sturdier than most phones both in drop tests and water resistance.
But some users of Apple’s new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are finding that their superslim glass and aluminum devices aren’t holding up well in a less harsh environment: their pockets. Under the combined stress of human weight and a pair of tight pants, the phones are bending, usually around the volume buttons where the aluminum casing is thinnest.
What is to blame? The fashion trend toward skinnier and skinnier pants? The technology trend toward slimmer and wider devices?
Ryan Richardson, an AT&T cable technician from Birmingham, Ala., says his iPhone 6 Plus bent even in his baggy work pants.
“I keep my phone in my front pocket all the time, all day, every day — have for the last nine years,” Richardson explains. Earlier, he had been on the MacRumors.com forums defending the iPhone 6 Plus against those who criticized its design. But when he checked his own phone after about 48 hours of pocket time, he found it had warped.
“This whole thinness thing is really driving me insane,” Richardson says. “I would rather have a thicker phone with a bigger battery, and not have a camera lens sticking out of it.”
Richardson says he plans to wait to see if Apple addresses the issue before bringing the phone in for a replacement.
Twitter users around the world weighed in on the new Apple controversy under the hashtag #bendgate. Like previous controversies involving the tech giant, #bendgate is highlighting the divide between those who adore Apple products and those who think the hype is overblown.
And this isn’t the first time the Apple Internet fan base has erupted in anger over a design flaw of an iPhone. Back in 2010, the antennas of the iPhone 4, which were the first to be fused into the frame of the phone, lost reception when touched a certain way. Independent tests confirmed what many on Twitter and across the Web reported.
That design flaw had real consequences for Apple: Public pressure forced an appearance by late-CEO Steve Jobs, a class-action lawsuit, and a free case program.
Jobs caused a stir when he suggested it was the fault of the user. In an email sent to a customer, he said: “Just avoid holding it in that way.”
As for now, new iPhone users would be well-advised to sit carefully.
Update at 4:34 p.m. ET Thursday: Apple Responds
Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller said Thursday that iPhones are “designed, engineered and manufactured to be both beautiful and sturdy.” She said just nine people have contacted Apple due to unexpected bending with the iPhone 6 Plus. Bending of the phones is “extremely rare” with normal use, Muller said.