Because Apple won’t publicly acknowledge the fact that the touchscreens of thousands of iPhone 6 Plus devices are spontaneously breaking due to a known engineering flaw , customers have been left in the dark.
After publishing our second article about the phenomenon , which is being called “touch disease,” my inbox flooded with stories from people who—many out of blind brand loyalty to Apple—have continued replacing their iPhone 6 Pluses with refurbished units that are just as likely to break as their old ones.
As we’ve detailed in those stories, “touch disease” is an iPhone 6 Plus flaw related to “bendgate” in which the two tiny “Touch IC” connectors, which translate touchscreen presses into a machine input, become unseated from the phone’s logic board. It can be recognized by flickering gray bars along the top of the phone, and is associated with intermittent or total touchscreen failure.
"Apple called me, but when they called my screen was frozen and I could not answer the phone."
Replacing the phone’s screen will not fix the problem—the only way to fix it is to have a micro soldering expert replace and resolder the Touch IC chips. Apple does not perform this repair, and does not tell its customers that there are some independent repair professionals who can perform this repair and can prevent it from recurring by installing an extra metal shield that stiffens the logic board.
Instead, the company has told its Geniuses that iPhone 6 Plus touchscreen problems are a known issue, but has not publicly acknowledged the issue. A class action lawsuit has been filed in an attempt to force Apple to deal with the problem, or at least admit that the issue exists. Thousands of iPhone 6 Plus owners have joined the suit. Apple PR has ignored four separate requests for comment from Motherboard as well as requests for comment from every other news outlet that has asked about this issue.
Several independent iPhone repair companies will fix touch disease for far cheaper than the $329 Apple charges to replace touch disease-afflicted phones with refurbished ones. I cannot vouch for the skills or success rate of any given repair professional, but here is a short list I’ve compiled of companies that do mail-in touch disease repairs:
Apple Pie Repair
Stop N Fix iPhone Repair
In the last 24 hours, I’ve gotten emails from 27 separate iPhone 6 Plus owners who have encountered this problem and were unaware that Apple internally considers it a known issue. Many of them have been put through lengthy tech support protocols on obviously broken phones only to be told that they would have to pay $329 for a refurbished phone that is still fundamentally flawed. Others have had to put up with months of forcefully bending or twisting the phone in order to get its Touch IC connectors to intermittently work for a few minutes, hours, or days before the problem inevitably resurfaces.
In some cases, Apple will replace the phone for free, even out-of-warranty. But Apple store geniuses we spoke to said that such a replacement is up to the whims of the manager on duty at any given time.
Here are some customer experiences from the emails I’ve received—in some cases, I asked for additional information about what they had been through. They’ve been lightly edited for length and grammar, and are published in an attempt to show that Apple turning a blind eye to touch disease continues to hurt some of the company’s most loyal customers.
Cherish:“I originally purchased the phone new, around April 2015 (via Sprint). I did not pay for extended Apple Care. The problems started on August 16, before I updated to iOS 9.3.4.
I assumed that it happened because I hadn't downloaded the update, so I did that. It took a long time because I couldn't hit ‘OK’ or "’Agree’ when the screen was frozen and I'd have to wait for the screen to become responsive so I could advance it or put in my passcode.
That update didn't help, so I started deleting apps. I thought maybe the Facebook app was using too much memory. (I have a 128 GB and only use about 40 GB, so even that seemed strange). No luck, so I went to the Apple store.
It was about 8:30 PM when I arrived and they were busy. When I told them the problem they assured me it was most likely a software glitch and I could handle it over the phone with a specialist. So they had me fill out the form on one of the Macs and I set up a time for the next day.
"Missed a lot of great photos during a friend's wedding weekend because I unfortunately relied on my iPhone to be my camera"
Apple called me on August 17, but when they called my screen was frozen and I could not answer the phone. They left a message saying they would call back. I went to my rental car, connected the Bluetooth and used that to answer. I gave them my alternate cell number so that solved the calling issue. I was on the phone with them for an hour after that and they insisted for most of the call that this is a normal occurrence and is often resolved by restoring the OS.
Restart. Forced restart. Software update. Backup to computer. Full wipe and restore backup. Everything took longer because I could only advance the screen when it was responsive (getting through the ‘Hello’ and setup easily took 10 minutes each time). At the end of it all, there was no resolution. They told me I would need to take it to the Apple store and probably have the screen replaced for a crazy amount, and even then they weren't sure if that would resolve the issue since the source couldn't be pinpointed.
By that Saturday, a few days later, the phone was better. Not 100 percent normal, but not freezing nearly as much and I'd even had a day with no problems. I canceled the appointment thinking all was good. The following week I was traveling again and the problems started the day before I left. With no time to reschedule an appointment I left town and dealt with days of screen freezing and stalling. Missed a lot of great photos during a friend's wedding weekend because I unfortunately relied on my iPhone to be my camera.
The past month since then has been almost like a pattern. Three or so days of screen freezing all day long, which usually lasts 5-10 minutes, then the screen works for 1-3 minutes, then it stalls again. Sometimes it delays the touch actions, so when it starts working again all kinds of apps open and things are typed. Sometimes it freezes midway thru typing the password. It can take 3 minutes just to write a one line text. I always hated using Siri but I found that's the only way to send a text when the screen freezes.
I have searched online week after week for a solution and the Apple site gives the same ‘restart’ and ‘restore’ suggestions. Your article was the first thing I've noticed that actually made sense in terms of what I was experiencing.
I have tried to slightly bend it (*gasp*) a few times and magically that has kicked it back in gear (usually after 4-5 twists and bends), often working for a couple of days before going back into crazy, freeze mode. I try not to do that because it worries me, but it seemed to be the only thing that even sorta worked sometimes.
It was disappointing that Apple hasn't done more about this known issue. I got a lot of teasing from my Android friends as they watched me frantically swipe across my screen with no success.”
Paul:“I’ve lived with this problem on and off for almost two years now. It started happening almost as soon as I got it. I got a screen change under warranty, and had to get a refurbished phone the day after because the screen change did nothing. A few months later it started showing the signs again, and now I can't use it. As a kicker just a couple weeks ago, the phone stopped connecting to my cellular network and AT&T said it was a phone problem, not carrier. I had to order an iPhone 7 Plus but I feel cheated out of my money as I paid full price for my 6 Plus and could've used it at least another year or even two, if it worked properly.”
Katasha:“The top grey bar would almost flicker all the time, and that's when I knew my phone wouldn't respond to my touch. So, after dealing with this for a couple weeks, I ended up at the Apple Store, where I was told yes, it was a problem, but not something that could be fixed, nor was it covered, and I exchanged my phone for $329, to get a new one, because what else was I to do?”
One reader, Tracy , sent me a lengthy exchange she had with Apple Support on Twitter after she had already taken the phone to an Apple Store. They made her go through hours of diagnostics before ultimately deciding that yes, her phone had the exact same problem thousands of other phones have had.