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:
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.
Andrea: "This exact thing happened to my phone over the summer and I went through over three months of hassle trying to resolve the issue. Never was resolved in a fair way for me. I paid to replace the phone.
Apple diagnosed it as a 'jailbreak' done by me. I wasn't even familiar with that term let alone know how to 'do' it."
Dan: "My phone began to malfunction a little over a year after getting the phone. I've been putting up with the problem for about a year now. When it gets hot, like every time I go outside to my car, the screen freezes and I get ghost touches (it's like someone is opening apps and doing things on my phone), and there's a gray flicker at the top of my screen. To fix the problem, I grab the top and bottom of my phone and give it a little twist one way or the other, and the phone starts functioning normally again.
"Next you torque...yes that's right twist your iPhone and it'll work"
A month ago I went to an Apple Store. I told the genius that I have this problem with the phone, and he was aware of this problem. He said that they could fix the problem for $350(?) or something like that, but he said that I could just wait to get a new phone because they are coming out soon. I told him that I'm not going to pay that to get the phone fixed. I said that I'm not very happy with Apple and the fact that they have this unbelievable manufacturing problem in their flagship phone. He said that he was disappointed with Apple too about the problem."
Alexander: "I have been experiencing this problem almost one year after the purchase of the iPhone 6 Plus...just long enough after to not be under warranty. How I dealt with the problem is actually quite simple. You place your right thumb at the bottom right corner of the phone with fingers stretched across the back and you place your left thumb at the upper left corner of the phone with the fingers stretched behind. Next you torque...yes that's right twist your iPhone and it'll work. Clearly a flexgate/engineer flaw/defect that Apple should have dealt with."
James: "I just read your article, I have an iPhone 6+ that had that same issue. I took it to ATT and they tried to tell me it got wet but they couldn't see any indication that the water identifiers were tripped. After fighting with them for 45 minutes and showing them my phone is in an otter box they finally warrantied my phone with a refurbished iPhone 6 Plus, even though the one that had an issue was brand new. Now my replacement phone is doing the same thing.
After this I will never buy another Apple product, their customer service is very poor. They sell phones at the phone carrier's office but then you have to take it to Apple for everything else after 30 days. Their wait times are stupid, I had to wait three hours one day at a store just to be told there is nothing they can do without spending $400."
"Thinking of the time that I have spent in the Apple Store, I can't imagine the amount of time I have wasted there"
Cameron: "I dealt with this issue a couple of months ago with an iPhone 6 Plus that was six months old. I had taken meticulous care of the phone because I had multiple issues with a previous 6 Plus phone that Apple ultimately replaced. When this issue occurred the phone was out of warranty and Apple gave me the run around about my options. Your article describes most of my experience with Apple. After multiple calls to their support line and trips to the Apple Store, my phone was replaced without having to pay the $329 fee. They informed me that they had made an exception for me and not to expect it in the future. The experience was extremely disappointing."
Christopher: "I bought the 6 Plus with the 128 GB when it first came out. At first it worked great, then the camera had issues. They replaced the phone and I was back a month later. They repaired that phone for the same camera issue and it still continued. Well now I am on my 4th, yes 4th phone, that they replaced, and countless repairs. I agree that the iPhone 6 Plus has some major engineering issues that they won't fix.
"I have had five of these phones, three of which had the touch screen issue"
The last issue was with the logic board. I had that phone only two weeks before it started that problem. I recently went in because it became so bad I couldn't even make an emergency phone call if I had to. They looked at it and told me it was an issue with the logic board and instantly brought out a new iPhone. I have been so pissed off with this phone and them just repairing it or replacing it with another phone that has issues. I do believe this will be the last Apple product that I will buy. I find it unacceptable that this is the fourth phone with countless repairs. Thinking of the time that I have spent in the Apple Store, because it's a minimum of an hour, I can't imagine the amount of time I have wasted there."
Jen: "This client was two hours late to our meeting because he was stuck at an Apple store because his phone had lines and couldn't be used. They told him it was a disease the screen had and he had to purchase another phone. He purchased the iPhone 7."
Ray: "I have had five of these phones, three of which had the touch screen issue, (one got stolen). I'm currently on my fifth and waiting to upgrade to something that isn't an Apple product, this is over a two year period by the way. I paid for one of these phones out of pocket which was awful, 324 dollars later and I had a phone that shit the bed in three months. This was my most extreme case obviously. The rest of the phones take about six or seven months to break, and every single Apple employee knows about it. They all say it's common with these phones and I always try and ask for a different model. I even asked for an iPhone 5 because I didn't want to deal with this anymore and they wouldn't budge. Five iPhone 6 Pluses later and I've had it with Apple."
Kristin: "My phone has had problems from the start and I really haven't had it that long. The screen just never really worked right, but just last weekend, I couldn't answer an incoming call, I wiped the screen with my shirt sleeve and then restarted it and it seemed ok. I thought about taking it in for repair but realized I couldn't reproduce it in the store since it only happens sporadically. Thank you for your article. It reassured me that I'm not going crazy!"