There is increasing pressure on Apple to explain why it's ignored the fact that touchscreens on thousands of iPhone 6 Plus devices have stopped working, leaving consumers on the hook to replace devices that have a fundamental engineering flaw. Lawyers who filed a class action lawsuit against the company in California earlier this fall have signed on three additional law firms to support their case, and an additional class action lawsuit related to the issue has been filed against Apple in Utah.
For the last month, Motherboard has been following "touch disease," a flaw in iPhone 6 Plus phones that causes the touchscreens to become unresponsive. Swapping out the screen itself doesn't correct the underlying issue, which is caused by two "touch IC" controller chips coming loose from the phone's logic board. The flaw is believed to be related to the phone's larger form factor and unreinforced logic board, which can cause it to flex or bend even under normal use—you may remember "bendgate" from when the phone was first released.
Read More: A technical explanation of 'touch disease'
Apple will not perform logic board-level repairs for consumers, which require soldering and reseating of millimeter-size components. This means the only Apple-sanctioned "fix" for a touch diseased phone is to buy a new one.
One of the major problems is that Apple has been replacing touch diseased iPhone 6 Pluses with $329 refurbished ones, some of which are showing symptoms of touch disease within days or weeks of being replaced. Over the course of my reporting, a total of five separate current and former Apple Geniuses have confirmed to me that Apple is well aware of the problem but will not tell customers about it.
Court filings by Apple show that the company is at least aware of the fact that it's being sued in federal court over the issue in both Utah and California, (there is also a class action suit in Canada).
A September 20th filing in the Utah case claims that "[Apple] has requested an extension of time to respond to the Complaint." A filing submitted by Apple earlier this week in the larger California class action suit asked to combine the two cases into one, presumably so Apple can focus its legal resources to just one suit.
"Given the similarity between the [Utah] and [California] actions, it would unnecessarily tax judicial resources if these actions were to proceed in separate class action lawsuits—especially where the [Utah] and [California] Plaintiffs purport to represent the same putative class of all consumers who purchased an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus," Apple's lawyers wrote in the filing.
"With these lawsuits hanging over its head, Apple won't be able to ignore the issue forever"
Apple has still said nothing publicly about "touch disease" and has ignored five requests from Motherboard for comment spread out over the course of a month; no other media outlet that has been able to get Apple to comment on the issue, either. Since running my initial story about touch disease, I have gotten hundreds of emails from consumers who have had to buy new phones to replace their broken iPhone 6 Pluses and several Geniuses have told me about the internal protocol Apple requires its employees to use when a touch diseased phone is brought to the store.
Richard McCune, an attorney at the California-based McCuneWright law firm who is representing plaintiffs in the California suit, told me that nearly 10,000 people have contacted his firm asking to specifically join the lawsuit (a form to submit information is here).
Friday night, McCune filed an updated lawsuit against Apple that has added several plaintiffs and adds three separate law firms to the legal battle. The new complaint has been embedded below.
"Each of the firms (who had their own clients) brings strength to the case, including Stephen Larson of Larson O'Brien, who is a former Federal Judge," McCune told me in an email. "With these firms working with us, we believe it gives us the best chance of obtaining a positive result in the case for the owners of the phones."
For the time being, Apple continues to pretend like touch disease doesn't exist. But with these lawsuits hanging over its head, it won't be able to ignore the issue forever.