When Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) released its first large smartphones — the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus — a design flaw led to the so-called “Bendgate” controversy.
It turns out there was an even worse issue with Apple’s new flagship that was a ticking time bomb: Touch IC failure. And that is now resulting in “Touch Disease,” and widespread iPhone 6 Plus failures.
What Is Touch Disease and Why Is It Hitting the iPhone 6 Plus?
Touch Disease starts as flickering gray bars across the top of an iPhone’s display. They’re annoying but they come and go. Until they stop going and the iPhone also starts to become unresponsive to touch input. At this point, the iPhone becomes all but useless. And 9 times out of 10, it’s an iPhone 6 Plus that’s suffering from Touch Disease.
Replacing the iPhone display doesn’t resolve the issue. The gray bars and lack of touch control come back.
Noted Apple device repair site iFixit discovered the root cause of the issue is touchscreen controller (or Touch IC) chips soldered to the iPhone logic board. When the logic board flexes — which it is especially prone to doing with the larger iPhone 6 Plus — the chips break contact, resulting in Touch IC failure.
Apple Can’t Fix It
When iPhone 6 Plus owners make an appointment with an Apple Genius, they receive the bad news: Apple can’t repair Touch Disease. Fixing it would require re-soldering the chips. At this point, since the iPhone 6 Plus is out of warranty, the customer is offered a replacement iPhone 6 Plus at a cost of $349.
As iPad Rehab points out, that replacement iPhone 6 Plus isn’t new, it’s refurbished. And while Apple’s refurbishment process is excellent, it does not extend to repairing the logic board. That means Touch IC failure is a ticking time bomb once again with the replacement iPhone 6 Plus — and it may be advanced given that the refurbished iPhone may have actually seen a year of use.
Third-party repair shops are an option, but replacing the Touch IC chips is an expensive process and does not prevent the issue from happening again: it merely resets the clock.
It’s a Big Problem That’s Getting Bigger
The Touch Disease ticking time bomb is starting to go off with increased frequency. Cult of Mac reports some repair shops are now getting hundreds of iPhone 6 Plus repair requests a week.
The situation is threatening to give Apple a public relations black eye far worse than Bendgate and it’s doing so at a critical time.
Touch Disease is hitting headlines just as Apple is preparing to launch the iPhone 7 –and the iPhone 7 Plus seems likely to look virtually identical to the iPhone 6 Plus. Apple fixed the design flaw that causes Touch IC failure with the iPhone 6S Plus, so it shouldn’t affect the iPhone 7 series either.
But, if you just got burned, would you turn around and fork over the cash to invest in the new lookalike iPhone 7 Plus?
And consider someone thinking about buying their first new iPhone. With the growing number of headlines about mass iPhone 6 Plus failures and the nature of the issue, will they be willing to take the chance that the iPhone 7 Plus doesn’t also have a hidden design flaw?
If Touch Disease continues to hit iPhone 6 Plus owners, the result could well be a class action lawsuit that attempts to force Apple to offer an extended warranty. That would certainly help iPhone 6 Plus owners, but again, the black eye would do nothing to boost iPhone 7 sales.
At this point, Apple’s best bet is to step up, own the problem and start an official replacement program before the negative publicity overshadows a crucial new product launch.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.