Last week, #BendGate took the Internet by storm. I’m sure you’re all familiar with it by now, but if not, BendGate was created from an alleged bending issue with Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus. There’s a specific weak point on the inside of the chassis right beneath the volume buttons that allows it to bend very easily with pressure added in the right place. To most, it may seem like a non-issue, but a single video sparked one of the biggest viral moments this year in tech…
Lewis Hilsenteger from Unbox Therapy published the video that I’ve embedded below this article and that’s when it all got worse. In the video, Hilsenteger clearly bends an iPhone 6 Plus on camera and notes the specific weak point mentioned above. Of course, Hilsenteger (who is a friend and music collaborator) had absolutely no idea that his video would cause the Internet to implode, but he assumed it would gain a decent amount of traction based on reports of the iPhone 6 Plus’ bendable properties that had been published earlier that day. 45 million views later, BendGate became a PR nightmare for Apple, somewhat of a conspiracy theory (which Hilsenteger debunked), and a chance for mainstream media to show its true colors…
First off, let’s get one thing straight: The iPhone 6 Plus will bend if enough pressure is applied to a certain area. In fact, a lot of phones will bend when extreme pressure is applied. Everything has a weak point. And you guessed it, if you try to bend something (or have to means/power to do it) it will bend. That’s hardly the argument here though.
As noted in the video above however, it appears that the iPhone 6 has a flawed design that’s being dismissed by Apple and many of its followers. The problem (as mentioned above) is the obvious weak point within the chassis of the iPhone 6 Plus. It is hard to deny. Even display models at the Apple Store have been found slightly bent by kid vandals. Unfortunately, it’s now a thing.
After the eruption of BendGate, Apple responded to the situation with the following 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. We chose these high-quality materials and construction very carefully for their strength and durability. We also perform rigorous tests throughout the entire development cycle including 3-point bending, pressure point cycling, sit, torsion, and user studies. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus meet or exceed all of our high quality standards to endure everyday, real life use.
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. As with any Apple product, if you have questions please contact Apple.
Did Apple include Wired’s review unit? Mat Honan said he had the same issue. Was he complaining? No, but he only had the device for four days before noticing the issue. He simply pointed out that his unit was slightly bent and offered a simple theory:
Like a lot of people, I have a bent iPhone 6 Plus. It’s almost imperceptible, but it’s there: a slight warp right at the buttons on the side. Put the phone screen down on a table, and it wobbles. I haven’t purposefully bent it and I don’t recall sitting on it (but I probably have). So why is this one bending? I have a theory: It might have something to do with it being both very thin and very big and made of aluminum. The Samsung Galaxy Note3 is big, but it’s also 4 mm thicker than the iPhone 6 Plus and doesn’t have an aluminum back that, when bent, stays bent. You don’t hear about big Android phones bending because they are either too thick, or made out of plastic. That’s my theory, anyway.
He didn’t completely dismiss the issue either and also stated that the bending (bundled with a few scratches on the screen) made him concerned with the device’s durability. Well played. I think Mat was very fair with his concern. On the other hand, I’d be completely shocked if any device I was given to review just simply bent. It’s just not normal at all, especially from Apple, but maybe we’re dealing with a different Apple now.
Apple even invited select publications (Wall Street Journal, Re/code, and The Verge) into its own stress test labs to show the different durability tests that are performed on iPhones before the final designs reach the public. Hey Apple, you’re testing it wrong?
According to Re/code, Apple put about 15,000 iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units through an “exhaustive” testing process before giving the launch a green light. Either way, between the handful of related tests that would cause the phone to bend, Apple apparently did not notice the issue.
Consumer Reports also published its own stress test article/video. It put several devices through what appeared to be a legitimate series of tests, but they failed to test the specific area in question. If you put nearly any object in the same place as any of the phones in the test, you’ll receive similar results. Things will bend if you bend them. Consumer Reports wasn’t attempting to debunk the fact that Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus bends, but that it’s not as easy as Hilsenteger made it seem.
There’s one problem though, you’re testing it wrong. According to Consumer Reports, it took 90 pounds of pressure to bend (or deform) the iPhone 6 Plus. Keep in mind, this was right in the center of the device. Had they applied force in the same “problem area,” as described several times in a couple of Hilsenteger’s videos, the Plus would have folded under the pressure. Though, even when bent right in the center, the iPhone 6 Plus showed problems at the same fracture point Hilsenteger had previously described.
It’s also crazy to think that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are nearly half as durable as the previous generation in the Consumer Reports testing. You’d think that would be the major headline. It’s not quite 50 percent weaker, but how often do you purchase a next-generation product that doesn’t hold up as well as the previous one? Don’t we all expect the new version of something to be better than its predecessor in every way possible? Seems like a step backwards in my opinion.
Throughout the middle of the Plus, it bent just as you’d normally expect, but the weak point still showed signs of failure without being touched. Take a look at the image above and you’ll find a harsh bend right beneath the volume buttons. It may be a small fold in the aluminum, but it’s exactly what has been described as being the issue.
I’m not a product engineer and I don’t claim to know everything involved with the iPhone design and manufacturing departments, but there is one aspect that’s very clear. In the image above, you’ll notice the “stainless steel and titanium inserts to reinforce high stress locations” just as Apple has claimed. The problem is, there are no reinforcements in the location that sparked BendGate. Check out iFixit’s teardown for a closer look at the iPhone 6 Plus. I’m not saying this was done intentionally, but in my opinion it’s a design issue that’s not being addressed. If you head over to this Imgur piece published by alleras4 (via Business Insider), there’s a pretty lengthy theory on what could be causing this bending issue as well. I have no way to confirm these findings, but the explanation seems to makes sense. Perhaps we’ll see Apple quietly address the issue by reinforcing the iPhone 6 designs at the manufacturing level. Silently updating components to address issues with the first batch of new products is something we’ve seen Apple do many times before.
Most of the “scientific” stress tests I’ve seen show a machine attempting to bend the iPhone in the dead-center of its backside. If you try and manipulate anything at its strongest point, it’s going to hold up better. That seems to be the case with all of the “professional” tests I’ve seen thus far. Though “professional” does not always equal out to a consumer’s experience and that’s definitely the case here. Most people won’t have this issue with the iPhone 6 Plus, but it’s there and it will affect some units under certain conditions. As Anthony Kosner from Forbes put it, “The user is unpredictable so the product has to be predictable.”
Soon after Hilsenteger’s video made its viral rounds on the Internet, hundreds of people started to question the video’s authenticity, while others began to completely disregard his findings and even go as far as name calling. Are we in second grade or something? I’m a fan of a lot of the sites below, but I was surprised at how everyone was acting towards the entire situation.
There’s no way this video is fake, but some argued that the difference in time shown on the iPhone’s lock screen (changing between shots) left some questions to be answered. It was an easy out for a lot of people. If this were a hoax, no one would have to continue reporting the bad news and greatness would be restored in Appleville.
In light of the claims that his video was “fake,” Hilsenteger took a camera and an iPhone 6 Plus to the streets along with a few witnesses and performed an uncut public bend test. The results were the exact same as his previous video. In fact, this iPhone 6 Plus seemed to give a bit easier. End of story, right? Nope. The iPhone clearly bends under specific pressure, but that’s not the point. We’ve already determined that things bend.
Let’s ignore the facts right now. I’d like to dig into something a little deeper than just debunking claims that the iPhone 6 Plus bends. Random iPhone buyers had the iPhone 6 Plus bend while in their pockets, but maybe that’s just a one-off issue for “nine” people. My beef is with the people intentionally being disrespectful towards Hilsenteger and avoiding the issue without actually performing any tests themselves. Yet they’ll publish this bend test video all day long just to dismiss it with their opinion.
First up, we have the well-respected John Gruber calling Lewis Hilsenteger a “jackass“:
I cannot believe that this “bent iPhone 6 Plus” thing is becoming a thing. Watch this jackass’s video — inexplicably promoted by Time magazine. Should not we be amazed that his phone didn’t snap in half under this pressure? That the glass didn’t fracture? Under pressure like this, bending but not breaking seems like an extraordinary feature. If you feel pressure like this on your iPhone 6 in your pocket, you need looser pants. And if you put your phone in your back pocket and sit on it, I’m not sure what to tell you.
If it’s such a dumb video and he is such a jackass, then why did you bother linking to anything related? Generally, when people resort to name calling, it’s because they’re not loaded with enough evidence to defend their side of the story. Hilsenteger is just showing us how/where the phone bends, but he’s not a jackass for doing so. Just take it for what it’s for worth. Gruber goes as far as calling the bendable properties “a feature.” Are you kidding me? A feature? Regardless of that crazy opinion, he has no right to call someone a jackass, unless of course you have skin in the Apple game, right?
Here’s another delightful comment from Dan Frommer on Twitter:
Sorry, I’m just having trouble understanding why these respectable adults have the right to talk like this without backing their words with actual results.
We get it, you think it’s silly. Trust me, I’m on the same page. This whole iPhone bending this is kind of silly when you think about it. Apple is now replacing qualified devices. Is this a silent admission of fault from Apple? In my opinion, yes. Will they ever come out and say that they made a mistake and released a flawed device? Probably not. Maybe the iPhone 6 Plus S will have extra reinforcement?
The Washington Post spoke with SquareTrade who claimed that it took a “bodybuilder and certified personal trainer” to bend an iPhone 6 Plus, while an average employee struggled to do so. They conducted an unscientific test (much like Hilsenteger’s video), but with a well-built employee stating that he was the only person in their office capable of bending the iPhone 6 Plus. No disrespect, but Hilsenteger is not a body builder, he’s an average guy.
Employee Jessica Hoffman — a 5′ 4″ pianist who, like her colleagues, “considers herself strong,” the company said — couldn’t make it budge, even when applying direct pressure to the weakest part of the phone, near the volume buttons. But her colleague Pace Lu, a bodybuilder and certified personal trainer who can bench 405 lbs., bent the phone “pretty easily” said Ty Shay, SquareTrade’s chief marketing officer.
So why is everyone taking aim at Hilsenteger? You’re entitled to have an opinion, but perhaps there’s an explanation for a lot of this.
It’s apparent that some of these sites are in Apple’s front pocket; a place where many would like to be and few take for granted. People are certainly entitled to their own opinion, but I don’t believe they will voice real opinions if it goes against Apple’s unwritten laws.
As we’ve reported in a recent article uncovering Apple’s PR strategies, there are several publications who will be first in line to glorify and defend Apple. The options are to defend Apple’s precious products or miss out on a keynote invitation and a review unit. Most publications can’t afford to lose this relationship so they either stay quiet or continue to drink the Apple Kool-Aid and stick up for the awesome and flawless iPhone 6 Plus.
Take The Verge for example. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t believe The Verge even published Hilsenteger’s video or any initial consumer complaints on the problem. Yet they picked up coverage on the defending end and ran the Consumer Reports story, Apple’s official statement, and the trip to Apple’s stress test labs which The Verge happened to be invited to see. Why would they avoid covering the alleged issue, but quickly fight back with coverage to dismiss it? In the words of our own Mark Gurman, “Apple feeds the writers who will do its bidding, and starves the ones who won’t follow its messaging.” If you’re not going to play ball with Apple, they will kick you out of the circle of trust. The Verge decided to play ball.
While skipping the initial BendGate coverage, The Verge thought it would be cute to first post a Banana bend test. Maybe they were just trying to lighten up the situation, but from the small paragraph and video, it seemed like they were mocking it more than anything. So without coverage of the initial problem, The Verge followed up with supporting evidence (from Apple and Consumer Reports) that the iPhone 6 Plus does not have an issue.
Obviously, it’s not about traffic for these major publications. They don’t want to present Apple in a negative light. Doing so would possibly result in being put on Apple’s blacklist. It’s just sad that some of them resort to disrespectful words and mocking over examining at the actual issue. I’m sure most of them have the resources to run independent tests.
Pocket-Lint also went on Apple’s defensive side for BendGate. Interestingly enough, the site embedded Hilsenteger’s video in two different articles related to the matter, but was quick to dismiss the claims with a simple solution: “don’t put your iPhone 6 Plus into the front pocket of your trousers or jeans.” Really? So now I can’t put a phone in my pocket? That seems silly.
Along with that, Pocket-Lint was also one of the first to claim that the entire video was a hoax (along with a Reddit thread publicized by Business Insider claiming the same). Pocket-Lint’s article begins describing Apple’s official statement on the matter, then continues by pointing out the inconsistencies they believed would prove the video to be fake. This accusation along with several comments on YouTube, tweets, and similar articles prompted Hilsenteger to create a new and uncut version of this bend test to put these allegations to rest.
Forbes is one of the few publications that objectively looked at BendGate. Anthony Kosner’s article was unbiased and pointed to valid points on both sides of the fence. Hilsenteger made the video because he assumed it would gain a fair amount of attention, but it was also to help inform potential buyers of an issue that could affect the iPhone 6 Plus; Apple offered reporters a look into its own testing labs and Consumer Reports ran a series of bend tests to prove the iPhone 6 Plus was a tough and tested device. Though as Kosner pointed out, both Apple and Consumer Reports were testing the wrong thing. Either way, we know it will bend and that’s only a small part of the issue at this point.
So what’s the real problem here? Well, instead of looking at the actual issue at hand, it seems that the mainstream tech media would rather preserve its relationship with Apple. It’s funny how this “game” works. Even though BendGate isn’t something that will affect everyone’s device, it’s still an issue that was relevant enough to grab the attention of nearly every major publication, news outlet, cause a social media and PR storm for Apple, and gain the attention of over 45 million people on a single YouTube video. Everyone is so afraid of having their Apple card revoked that they will instead turn to finger pointing and name calling to take the blame away from Apple or keep quiet and save their seat in the next keynote.
Another major problem that was recently brought to my attention is the fact that some people are deliberately bending the 6 Plus to prove a point. Keep in mind, this is happening after Hilsenteger’s video blew up. There is absolutely no need to intentionally bend an iPhone 6 Plus now. Stop it. It won’t make things any better. For those that are actually having an issue, let the Apple Store know and they will take care of it.
I love Apple. I’m a huge fan of its products and services. I own a Mac Pro, 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus. I love it when they do great things, but I’ll also be the first to point out the flaws. BendGate has not affected me at this point and I have no plans to return my iPhone 6 Plus because of what I’ve seen or heard. If I happen to experience bending with my 6 Plus, I’ll definitely speak out about it and take it up with the Apple Store for further inspection. I wouldn’t let any of this noise get in the way of purchasing an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. It’s not going to just bend right out of the box. In fact, it likely won’t happen to most people.
Thousands of flawed products are released every year, but Apple happens to be in a targeted position. There’s a standard of quality to be expected from an Apple product and some believe that the iPhone 6 Plus misses the mark. Is BendGate a real issue? Definitely. Will your device be affected by it? Likely not.
It just seems like more of us should be focused on what’s better for the individuals out there in the world. The person who is spending $600-$900 of their hard-earned money on a phone that they plan to keep for one to two years. Instead it seems like a lot of people are looking out for their loyalty to these major companies instead. Who are we working for? The People or the brands?
Apple owes us a truthful explanation of the weakness of the device and the plan on addressing it in the future. Like Antennagate, people who ACCIDENTALLY bend their iPhones should get repairs paid for. That should happen whether it is this month or 24 months into ownership. Apple should also not penalize publications for investigating and asking questions about the quality of their devices.
Update: BendGate issues aside (which haven’t affected my iPhone), I’ve published my review of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Here’s the original BendGate video in case you’ve somehow missed it:
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