Apple

Apple gives tours of testing facilities to assuage iPhone bending fears

Following media reports about "widespread" bending of its new flagship smartphone, Apple pushed back, giving tours of its iPhone testing facilities and facts about the spread of "Bendgate".

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Apple's three-point bend test
Courtesy Lauren Goode / Re/code

Four years ago, Apple faced one of its toughest PR challenges ever when "Antennagate" threatened sales of the just-announced iPhone 4. The crisis claimed that simply holding the iPhone in a certain way would torpedo cell signals and result in dropped calls. After several weeks, Steve Jobs and Apple's PR team eventually held a press conference addressing the issue and gave select reporters tours of Apple's antenna testing facilities.

Last week, a YouTube video showing a bent iPhone 6 Plus received millions of views and media mentions, threatening to erupt into a new PR crisis. This time, however, Apple responded more quickly. Just two days later, Apple invited select reporters into its secret testing labs where unreleased iPhones are subjected to numerous tests to determine if they are strong enough to be sold by the millions to its customers.

Apple performs a number of tests including the "sit test" where the company attempts to replicate a user sitting down on hard surfaces like a chair, a softer surface like a couch, and a "worst-case" test where a phone is in a pocket that is sat on a hard surface at an angle. Phones are cycled through these tests thousands of times.

The three-point bend test, shown above, applies weight to the center of the phone, bending it slightly, but the phone returns to its normal form factor when the weight is removed. If a load is applied beyond a certain point of deformation, Apple claims the phone can "take a set", but that's more weight than a phone should experience during normal use.

There is a pressure point test that applies 10 kilograms of weight to the center of the phone in a small point, rather than across the body of the phone like the three-point test.

Finally, there is a torsion test where phones (and notebooks) are twisted from both ends at various angles. Apple, like all companies, extensively tests its products both before and after release, and some reports claim Apple tested more than 15,000 iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units before release, both at its manufacturing facilities in China and at its Cupertino headquarters.

Apple claims that only 9 customers have complained to the company and that, while an iPhone, like any phone, will "deform" if enough pressure is added to it, it's highly unlikely to happen to any of its phones under normal use conditions.

Consumer Reports backs up Apple with its own testing, noting that the iPhone 6 Plus only begins to deform after 90 pounds of weight is applied, and that the case doesn't separate from the case until 110 pounds of force is applied.

Apple tests its phones to 55 pounds of force, roughly the amount needed to break three pencils. Other phones, including Apple's iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, needed more than 130 pounds of force to deform, but all of the phones should survive typical use.

At the end of the day, the Consumer Reports claims (and that magazine is no friend to Apple, typically) along with Apple's assurances that less than a dozen phones have naturally bent in the wild, should be enough to put Bendgate to rest.

Are you concerned about your iPhone 6 bending? Does Apple's statements and the Consumer Reports report assuage your fears? Let us know in the comments!

About Jordan Golson

Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.

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