The Biggest iPhone Controversies
Antennagate, Bendgate, and Chipgate. What are they and should you care?
Apple has faced criticism on nearly every iPhone it's released. In some cases, other cell phone manufacturers have tried to take advantage of these issue to promote their products. Here are some of the large controversies Apple has faced:
Antennagate wasn’t the first issue the iPhone line has had, but it is the the first one to be highly publicized. Users complained that the signal strength of the phone was reduced when bridging the two antennas on the lower left hand side of the phone.
Typically, antennas are found internally, but for the iPhone 4, Apple chose to make the antennas as external metal bands and as a structural element. When a user would hold the iPhone 4 in a certain position, it would bridge two of the antennas and the gain of the antennas would be reduced.
Apple's Response to Antennagate:
Apple announced that customer satisfaction on the iPhone 4 was higher and returns were lower than the previous generation. In addition, Apple gave owners of the iPhone 4 a free case for their phone. Some people even got small settlement checks.
Scuffgate is seemingly an ongoing issue with the finish Apple uses on their products. Starting with the iPhone 5, Apple primarily uses anodized aluminum for their casing. Aluminum is a relatively soft metal that is easier to scratch and scuff compared to the stainles steel Apple used on the previous generation iPhones. Some iPhone 5 customers have also reported scuffs on brand new phones. The scuffs and scratches were more apparent on the darker iPhones.
Apple's Response to Scuffgate:
In some cases, Apples has replaced the devices of users who complained of having scuffs on new phones.
Users noticed quickly after release of the iPhone 6 and 6+ that the duo of phones were susceptible to bending. Quickly, many videos appeared online of people bending their phones and the videos went viral. Throughout the numerous videos online, it was found that the phones typically bent near the volume rocker. Apple’s phones weren’t the only ones affected by bendgate: when Samsung released the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, users also noted that these phones could also bend.
Apple's Response to to Bendgate:
Apple commented that only 9 people complained of the issue and they would replace any phones that were bent unintentionally. Apple learned from this mistake and fixed the issue for the iPhone 6s by changing the alloy of aluminum from a 6000 series aluminum to a 7000 series aluminum. Additionally, Apple increased the thickness of the material in key areas of the iPhone.
The high demand for iPhones could be the blame for chipgate, which is the latest controversy. In order to meet the high demand for the iPhone 6s, Apple dual-sourced their A9 processor. The processors were manufactured by Samsung and TSMC with two different production processes. Samsung-produced A9 processors were made with 14nm architecture and TSMC produced ones were made with 16nm architecture. Some users reported that iPhone 6s plus with the Samsung processor had a shorter battery life when running benchmark tests.
Apple's Response to to Chipgate:
Apple reported that the benchmark test used was not an accurate representation of real world use. This was due to the fact that the benchmark software put a large load on the processor for an extended period. Apple observed, through actual customer data, that is only a 2% to 3% difference in battery life. Customers can determine which chip they have by following this guide.
Why This Matters
So why does any of this concern EEs? It's all proof that even the most careful company can be fallible. Most of the iPhone controversies can be traced back to quality control: either the phones weren't sufficiently tested in real-world scenarios or Apple didn't monitor its outsourcing closely enough. Apple does a crazy amount of testing before each product release, but keeping quality high while producing millions of units is a daunting task and mistakes are inevitable. Apple has maintained its reputation by taking each complaint seriously and offering free replacements for each of its controversies (you can walk into any Apple store in the world and, if your product is still in the one-year manufacturer's warranty period, Apple will instantly replace your phone or other mobile device if it determined to have a genuine flaw). Samsung doesn't do that. Microsoft doesn't do that. They may offer warranties, but the process to get a replacement phone is a massive headache.
It's important to remember that a brand's reputation isn't fully based on the quality of the product, but rather on the customer's perception of the product. Apple makes up for any weak designs with superior customer response.