Apple acknowledges and offers fix for iPhone 6 Plus Touch Disease … but customers pay

I know, we’re all about the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus now. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are so 2014. But still relevant, with millions continuing to use them. And why not? They run iOS10, Apple’s latest. Improvements since have been fine, but incremental rather than revolutionary. But age brings wear, which has manifested as “Touch Disease”, something which Apple hasn’t acknowledged, until now.

Let’s cast our minds back. The 6 and 6 Plus established the basic larger dimensions with which Apple has persisted since (apart from the SE, which is iPhone 5 in size). There was a fuss about them bending (so-called “bendgate”), but that died down as people realised that there are limits to the physical strength of phones.

But it turns out that this bendiness may have contributed to Touch Disease, which is marked by the phone’s touch screen no longer responding to touch, accompanied by a flickering grey bar showing across the top of the screen.

Apple’s response was what one would expect from the bureaucratic depths of any large organisation: denial and obfuscation. Apple would not acknowledge that there was a problem. Some users complain that their posts on the issue on Apple support forums had been “censored”. People with the issue were being told they needed to replace the phone at some considerable expense.

Try not to bend
Try not to bend

Now that has changed, sort of. Apple reckons it is customers’ fault that this problem arises (even though there have been reports of the problem afflicting replacement iPhones straight out of the box). So Apple is now offering to fix the problem for a fixed fee of $228.95, and to refund the difference to anyone who has paid more for a repair by Apple or one of its Authorized Service Providers.

Here’s its statement:

Apple has determined that some iPhone 6 Plus devices may exhibit display flickering or Multi-Touch issues after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress on the device.

If your iPhone 6 Plus is exhibiting the symptoms noted above, is in working order, and the screen is not cracked or broken, Apple will repair your device for a service price of A$228.95.

Apple will contact customers who may have paid for a service repair related to this issue either through Apple or an Apple Authorized Service Provider to arrange reimbursement. If you have not been contacted but paid for a repair that you believe was related to this issue, please contact Apple.

The reimbursement amount will equal the difference between the price you paid for the original service to your iPhone 6 Plus and the A$228.95 service price.

Apple stresses that the service is only for the iPhone 6 Plus. If you have the same problem with the iPhone 6, tough. Note also, Apple is only acknowledging that the problem arises in a 6 Plus “after being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress”, which seems to me to be blaming the customers.

It may be that the class action lawsuit about the matter launched at the end of August has prompted this response. Also it has been reported that up to eleven per cent of iPhone repairs are related to this issue, which must surely have made someone higher up in Apple take notice.

However iPhone 6 users with defective phones are left unhelped. The issue is reported to be a bigger factor with the 6 Plus though.

The problem seems to caused insufficient physical support for some internal components in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and is somewhat related to “bendgate”. Because these phones do flex a little, that puts pressure on one processing board in particular which is not physically well supported inside the phone. It in turn flexes, putting stress on both the main integrated circuit and the solder joints. One or the other of these can eventually start to fail. Touch Disease is the result. The 6 Plus is more susceptible because it is bigger, resulting in a higher level of bending torque.

This does not affect the iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, which featured an interior redesign which provided greater support to those components.

Our early review — in the pre-bendgate days — of the iPhone 6 Plus is here, and of the iPhone 6 is here.