Bendgate

By Xinye Ji

Tunnel Vision

For those of you who may not have been following, Apple has been getting a lot of flak for the build quality of their iPhone 6+s. The phenomena has been aptly been dubbed bendgate. So what is the root cause? Is Apple at fault? How does this affect Apple in the grand scheme of things?

A Little of This, a Little of That

According to Apple, only a low number of phones have been reported to have bent. So in theory, the end users of the iPhone 6+ are simply breaking the phone through excessive use. Truthfully, only time will tell, as the new pair of iPhones have barely been out for a month. On the flip side, if we say that the structural composition is compromised this brings up an interesting argument. I personally believe it’s a mixture of both.

Bend

Misconceptions

A lot of people are blaming the aluminum alloy of the phone. Certain users argue that it is actually the actual problem is the geometry of the phone. In other words, the physical structure of the phone is somewhat compromised. To be more precise about it, the stress is concentrated right at the bottom of the volume rocker. Even if Apple opted for a harder aluminum alloy, the point of failure would have still been the same.

If you look at other phablet devices like the Galaxy Note 3, they don’t bend. This is not necessarily because of the Note 3’s magnesium alloy chassis, but because of it’s I-beam shaped cross sectional frame. (You know, the same structure that holds up the foundations of buildings.)

Moving Forward

Was Apple blinded by the chase of the super thin phone? Yes. Were users who experienced issues with their devices somewhat wreckless? Perhaps. While we aren’t sure what percentage or number of people will experience bendgate first hand, perhaps putting a giant phone in your pocket isn’t the best idea. All we can really do is make sure to learn from those lessons and move on.

What can we learn from this fiasco? Well obviously for the hardware designers, don’t forget that engineering has it’s place in product design too. However, this lesson also can be extrapolated to companies like us at Cogent. Even though we don’t design hardware (yet?), we can take Apple’s oversight as a healthy reminder to not be blinded by tunnel vision when considering the design of our products.

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