Over the past week, by far the biggest tech news story has been ‘Bendgate’, the term used for claims Apple’s new flagship phablet the iPhone 6 Plus was prone to bending or warping in certain circumstances.
After reports first surfaced on social media and online message boards about iPhone 6 Plus phones warping in users’ pockets, YouTube user Lewis Hilsenteger posted a series of videos demonstrating how easily the device can be bent with human hands. After Apple fans noticed the first video was shot over multiple takes, Hilsenteger posted a second video where he bent a phone in a single take.
Apple responded by pointing out the problem affected just nine users in the device’s first six days on sale, a tiny percentage of its user base. At the same time, it posted a job ad looking for a structural engineer.
The news led to Consumer Reports posting the results of a test suggesting iPhone 6 bends at 70 pounds (31 kg) of pressure and breaks at 100 pounds (45 kg), while the iPhone 6 Plus bends at 90 pounds (40.8 kg) and breaks at 110 pounds (49.8 kg).
While this is significantly less than the 130 pounds (58.9 kg) required to bend the iPhone 5 or 150 pounds (68 kg) for Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, it is about the same as a HTC One M8 and more force than most users will apply in everyday usage.
So what is causing iPhones to warp?
On Gizmodo, Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan quoted an Imagur user named alleras4 who noticed most of the videos appear to show a particular set of pressure points being applied to cause the warping. Namely, on the back of an iPhone 6 Plus at a specific spot near the volume controls, while at the same time pushing downwards on the edges of the screen. This is in contrast to the Consumer Reports test, which applied force evenly in the middle of the device:
The red and yellow arrows represent the forces applied and how they affect the profile of the phone, and the blue graph represents the moment caused by the forces. Things to notice: 1. The forces aren’t applied throughout the entire transversal section of the phone but mainly at one side. 2. There’s only one point of the profile giving in to flexion under the area with maximum moment. 3. There’s evident stretching of the upper portion of the profile, no evidence of compression in the bottom portion of the profile (seen with red and yellow arrows).
According to this theory, the reason why the iPhone 6 Plus always appears to bend near the volume button is due to a reinforcing piece of metal inside that is not correctly doing its job when pressure is applied at a crucial point on the device:
So I can get to the conclusion that it’s not about if it bends or not, as seen in the video we know it does where other phones don’t or less so. It’s not about how much force must be applied and if a pocket will do the trick or not. It’s just that under a particular type of flexing, the phone is prone to bend mainly because a metal insert meant to reinforce instead spins in an axis too close to the critical point. If they were further apart allowing better support to counter the flexing and not spinning, it would make it more resistant.
Is more testing required?
In an article quoting Campbell-Dollaghan, JV Chamary from Forbes argues there need to be more tests before writing off the possibility of a design issue with the iPhone 6 Plus, even if it’s not a widespread one:
Consumer Reports should be commended for its scientific approach. They measure forces, their tests are consistent, and their results suggest the iPhone 6 Plus isn’t prone to bending. But headlines stating that this puts bendgate to bed are premature. No matter how rigorous the methodology, you can’t draw the right conclusions from the wrong hypothesis. Trying to fold a phone in half – whether that’s between your hands or on a workbench – doesn’t replicate normal use.
Apple is not the only company left red-faced from Bendgate
A number of Apple’s rivals produced advertising making fun of Bendgate, including HTC, Samsung and LG. Unfortunately, in the case of LG France, eagle-eyed social media users quickly noticed something awry with its posts on the topic.
As Zach Epstein of BGR explains, Apple wasn’t the only tech giant left red-faced by Bendgate:
The company on Thursday posted an image of its curved G Flex phablet alongside text that translates to, “our smartphones don’t bend, they’re naturally curved.” It seems well enough, only there was one big problem: the person who posted the tweet just so happens to be an iPhone user. One would think that an LG employee pitching LG products while mocking Apple would do so from an LG phone rather than an iPhone.
An Android applying pressure
Of course, Apple has not been the only tech company in hot water this past week.
In theory, Android is an open source operating system anyone can use to power a smartphone. In practice, most of the value comes from Google’s app ecosystem, and there are strict rules in place in order to ship a device with Google Mobile Services apps.
Amir Efrati from The Information uncovered documents showing Google’s strict requirements for getting the rights to ship Android devices with apps such as Gmail, Google Play, and YouTube:
Confidential documents viewed by The Information show Google has been adding requirements for dozens of manufacturers like Samsung Electronics, Huawei Technologies and HTC that want to build devices powered by Android. Among the new requirements for many partners: increasing the number of Google apps that must be pre-installed on the device to as many as 20, placing more Google apps on the home screen or in a prominent icon folder and making Google Search more prominent.
For readers who aren’t subscribers to The Information, a similar story was published on Business Insider.
The birth of 3D printing
Finally, Brian Heater at Digital Trends has the story of how 3D printing went from fringe hobby in the 1980s potentially being one of the next big things in tech:
After months of misshapen strands of pasta-like plastic, Chuck Hull had his cup. What he’d created that night in March 1983 was a modest object by almost any measure, but it was one that marked a concept decades ahead of its time, a sci-fi notion birthed into this world on a machine that — as the inventor would later tell The New York Times — “was so kludged together that it looked post-apocalyptic, like some of the equipment they used in that movie Waterworld.”
The strange little cup is the world’s first successfully 3D-printed object, a real-world manifestation of the concept he would deem “stereolithography,” based on the notion of adding an extra dimension to lithography, an 18th-century printing technology. A few years prior, Hull had left a job at DuPont to become the Vice President of Engineering at UVP — a Southern California company specializing in the production of ultraviolet light products.