Apple has acknowledged a recurring defect in its two-year-old iPhone 6 Plus, offering customers a cut-price touchscreen repair after months of mounting complaints.
The supersized smartphone, launched in September 2014, has a tendency to develop what has been dubbed “touch disease” when dropped or pressured, rendering its touchscreen unresponsive or causing a flickering black line at the top of the display.
The term was coined by iFixit, a company that helps consumers to repair their electronic devices and other goods, when it first reported widespread incidents of the fault in mid-August.
“There’s no way to tell exactly how many phones are afflicted with what we’re calling ‘touch disease’,” iFixit wrote in a blog post, “but every [repair technician] we spoke to told us that the problem is incredibly common.”
Discontent about the issue has been festering in Apple’s online forums for several months, with hundreds of posts complaining about the iPhone maker’s refusal to admit to what appeared to be a manufacturing defect.
On Thursday, Apple addressed the issue by offering a $150 repair for any iPhone 6 Plus up to five years after it was purchased and refunding the difference to those who had previously paid $329 to fix the flaw.
“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,” Apple said in a posting to its support web page. “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 $149.”
The Cupertino-based company did not say how many customers had been affected.
“After months of refusing to admit a problem, Apple is finally offering customers a fix for ‘touch disease’,” said Kyle Wiens, iFixit’s founder and chief executive. But he said Apple should do more if it is to restore confidence among customers that their devices will stand the test of time.
iFixit, which regularly takes apart devices to evaluate their components and ease of repair, has seen the problem on iPhones that have “never been dropped”, Mr Wiens said, suggesting that the underlying problem is a “structural design flaw”.
“We appreciate the effort they’re making, but this program doesn’t go nearly far enough,” he said, adding that Apple should also replace other affected models and charge a lower fee to fix it.
We appreciate the effort they’re making, but this program doesn’t go nearly far enough
Two years ago, the same iPhone 6 Plus model was caught up in a furore known then as “bendgate”, with some customers suggesting the device bent in their pocket. Apple said at the time the problem was “extremely rare” but switched to a sturdier kind of aluminium for its successor, the iPhone 6S, which was otherwise unchanged in its exterior casing.
The rare Apple defect follows Samsung’s far more dramatic problems with its exploding Galaxy Note 7, prompting a recall that cost the South Korean electronics group billions of dollars.
The move by Apple to repair its older devices comes on the heels of last month’s delay to one of this year’s most prominent new product launches, its wireless AirPod headphones. Apple had said the $159 product would go on sale by the end of October but last month abruptly halted the release, saying it needed a “little more time” to get the AirPods ready.
Earlier this year, Apple recalled certain wall plug adaptors sold in Europe, Australia, Brazil and some other markets outside the US after finding that they might break and cause an electric shock. The chargers were sold for more than 10 years with Mac and some iOS devices.
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