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Apple Offers Program to Fix iPhones with 'Touch Disease'; Customers File Class Action Suit

Apple has a problem, and they are trying to make it ours.

The touch displays on a large number of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models have stopped working reliably and exhibit a flickering gray bar across the top of the screen. Dubbed “Touch Disease,” it’s the number one complaint at Apple Stores, representing about 11% of all iPhone issues. It’s also been detected by independent repair shops. Currently, it’s only been an issue that affects the 2-year old line, the iPhone 6 and 6+, and not the 6S or 6S+.

According to iFixit, one New Orleans repair shop found that up to 100 units a month exhibit this touch issue, and another repair shop owner in Missouri thinks that this is a ticking time bomb that will eventually affect most of this generation of iPhones.

After a prolonged silence, Apple responded this week to the growing number of complaints and blamed the problem on their customers. They claim that it’s caused by an excessive number of times that the phone is dropped on a hard surface by its owner. They have offered to repair the defective iPhone 6+ phones for $149. They have not yet addressed the iPhone 6.

As one who has developed many hardware products, including Apple products, I find Apple’s explanation almost laughable. During development, consumer electronic products go through a battery of industry-standard tests to ensure their product will perform reliably for many years, typically five years or more. Products need to pass testing that drops, vibrates, and exposes them to a range of extreme temperatures and heavy physical abuse. All moving parts are exercised, such as buttons and switches, to simulate many years of use. This is standard practice used by all reputable companies.

For a failure to occur on a 2-year-old product in such a large number of units, it has to be caused by a manufacturing defect, a design defect or a bad part, not by the customer. Such a defect might take a long time to show up, induced perhaps by heavy use, but it should not be blamed on the customer for using the phone in a normal manner.