Is The iPhone 4 'GlassGate' News All It's Cracked Up To Be?

The iPhone 4′s “death grip” antenna issue has been well-documented on the pages of Consumerist and our sister publication Consumer Reports. But now comes news of a possible second design flaw, already dubbed “GlassGate” by some, in which slide-on iPhone 4 cases are reported to have a shattering effect on the device’s rear glass covering.

Here is how one GDGT reporter described the problem:

According to my sources both inside and outside Apple, after Antennagate the iPhone engineering team identified another potential design flaw that appears to have sent them into a quiet lockdown, and has them working behind the scenes in what’s been described to me as something of a quiet panic to preempt any further tarnishing the iPhone brand. Apple has apparently found that non-bumper style cases — specifically those that slide onto the iPhone 4, which are occasionally prone to particulate matter getting caught between the rear of the phone and the case — can cause unexpected scratching that could quickly develop into full-on cracking or even much larger fracturing of the entire rear pane of glass. To put it another way: Apple is afraid you might buy a standard slide-on iPhone case, put it on your phone, and then discover the next time you take it off that the entire back of your device has been shattered by no fault of your own.

The GDGT story goes on to claim that Apple blocked “nearly all third-party” cases for the iPhone 4 from being sold in its stores, and that Apple staffers were hard at work investigating the problem.

Consumerist has yet to notice any reader complaints about scratched or shattered glass from slide-on iPhone 4 cases. If you’ve experienced this problem, please send us a message at the tipline.

With Antennagate over, is Glassgate next for the iPhone 4? [GDGT.com]

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  1. cheviot says:

    Umm… even if true this isn’t Apple’s problem. The third party makes cases that break the glass on iPhones, not Apple.

    • _joecrawford says:

      I agree – you can’t make Apple responsible for what others do to the phone after they sell it. (I am not a fanboy, I have an HTC, so don’t start down that road).

    • Eyeheartpie says:

      Those third party cases are “Apple-approved” and even sold in the Apple stores. A cut of every case sold goes to Apple for the “made for iPhone” badge on the packaging. Still think it’s only the third-party companies’ problem?

    • c!tizen says:

      Not Apple? You can’t be serious. They built a phone that can crack because of “particulate matter getting caught between the rear of the phone and the case” and that’s the fault of the people who make the cases?

      That’s like me buying a bra for my car and then getting pissed at the bra manufacturer because the headlights crack when some dirt got through the bra. This is ALL Apple.

      • sumocat says:

        I think you should have quit while you were ahead. If the headlights on a car are normally unaffected by dust and debris but can crack when used with a bra, then it is logical to blame the bra manufacturer. The real problem for Apple, as Eyeheartpie pointed out, is they approved some of the cases that are leading to cracking.

  2. ExtraCelestial says:

    Is it a design flaw if the problem involves after market add-ons produced by third-parties?

    • ExtraCelestial says:

      Is it a IPHONE design flaw…

    • dobi says:

      It is when the manufacturers paid a cut to Apple for their ‘Made for iPhone’ label on their packaging, along with the right to be sold in Apple stores.

      • dbeahn says:

        “Apple blocked “nearly all third-party” cases for the iPhone 4 from being sold in its stores”

        Wouldn’t that kind of indicate that those cases did NOT get the “Made for iPhone” label you’re talking about?

        • Preyfar says:

          Apple doesn’t sell 3rd party products in its stores that don’t buy into the “Made for iThing” program. Anything they sell meets Apple’s specifications.

        • Moweropolis says:

          Um.. ‘nearly all third-party’ companies can pay apple for the right to put the made for iPhone branding on its products and be allowed to have shelf space in an apple store.

      • ExtraCelestial says:

        I’m still not sure that would qualify. I think you could make the case that Apple is at least partially at fault, but it’s still the third party optional cases that are breaking the phone. Not the other way around.

    • Bunnies Attack! says:

      I think its a design flaw only because this style of case was in common use before the latest iteration of the iphone. Therefore, the design of the iphone 4 should have taken this into consideration.

      • ExtraCelestial says:

        Since when do you design a phone to the specifications of a case?

        • Bunnies Attack! says:

          Because they KNOW that the design exists and its going to be used in the future. Its just being responsible. If they knew that the new iphone design would cause issues with existing case designs and stated it, I wouldn’t have an issue with it… but they just didnt even consider it when they should have.

          • SlappyFrog says:

            This is the reverse compatibility concept that has hobbled Windows.

          • ExtraCelestial says:

            That is just silly. The new phones are also much slimmer than previous models. Does that make the phone a design flaw? Is it also design flaw that I can’t use a Motorola Razor cover for my Blackberry Pearl?? You design the case to fit the phone.

            • Twonkey says:

              What he’s saying is that it doesn’t take much for Apple to say “Oh, by the way folks, third-party accessories purchased for previous iterations of the iPhone may not function properly with the most recent iteration of the device.” If they’re feeling honest, they can add in something about how they’ll be releasing yet another iteration in a couple of weeks, along with the suggestion that folks just wait for that one.

    • incident_man says:

      It’s just another example of what happens when manufacturers insist on being chintzy by having their products made in China. I simply refuse to buy any Apple products because of this. Apple wants people to believe that they’re better than anyone else, but how is having their products being made in China, like everyone else, being better than everyone else??

  3. Beeker26 says:

    It’s not a design fault. You’re just casing it wrong.

  4. Zerkaboid says:

    As pretty as it is, I still can’t believe they made a glass cellphone. It just sounds ridiculous, can you just imagine describing it to 5 years ago? “And in the future the most popular cellphone on the market will be made of glass!” They’d laugh in your face because it’s a stupid idea . Sure a metal or plastic backing would get scratched but people expect that from any cell phone.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      That’s part of the issue: Apple has made it unhip to have a not-shiny phone. Shiny plastic is hard to clean since plastic is attracted to oils (such as from the skin) and extremely easy to scratch unless you’re super careful. Glass is easier to care for and still have that Apple twinkle but, well, you know, it’s still glass.

      Even as a kid you recognized a glass slipper as being a terrible terrible accident waiting to happen.

      • agraham999 says:

        Glass can also be recycled…plastics are terrible petro-chemical mixtures that can’t be broken down by any natural process.

  5. mergatroy6 says:

    Who thought that glass was a good idea? Fragile and everyday use don’t make for a good pair.

    • obits3 says:

      But it looks so cool… maybe Apple can make a car out of glass

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I think glass is just a compromise. It may be more prone to damage from drops but less likely to be scratched if you accidentally put in your pocket with your car keys or loose change.

    • Chmeeee says:

      I love that my screen is made out of glass. I’ve had my phone in my pocket every day for over a year with not a single scratch without using any form of screen protector. A plastic screen would be opaque with scratches by now.

      Now, making the back out of glass, that was just dumb. I don’t have an iPhone 4 though, so that doesn’t affect me.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Glass can be extremely durable. Lots of things that endure much harsher conditions are made of glass.

  6. jesirose says:

    My BF’s iPhone 4 rear glass shattered – but it was because it slid off the table. With the new design, there’s NO resistance so if you put it on a table with any tilt, it will fall off eventually. We finally got cases for ours – I broke my 3G (but my 3GS survived fine in a case), so I’m taking no chances.

  7. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I thought the iPhone 4 backing was made of more or less the same material as the previous iPhones. I have always had a case for my iPhone and even though the backing is kind of scratched up, it’s probably not enough to break the phone itself…I’ve had it for nearly two years and it’s never been carried without a silicon case of some kind.

    • DcChick says:

      The iP4 back is basically the same glass that’s on the front of the phone. I’ve had every iPhone since launch day and the only one that has ever shattered was the first version with the metal back. Even in that case, I dropped it out of my pocket and it was ran over by a truck.

      As a former upper level Apple technical employee, I’ve heard so many people bitch and complain about broken iPhones that frankly, I don’t believe any one of them. Most people had the same exact story: “It only fell a couple inches into a pile of feathers and cotton candy and the entire glass shattered.” Sure it did. What people don’t know is that when you send a phone in for repair pictures are taken from every angle and uploaded for supervisors. I always enjoyed mailing the pictures to the complaining customer with a request for explanation.

      • thrillhouse says:

        Can you say conflict of interest?

        • DcChick says:

          First, I said FORMER. This means I no longer work for Apple.
          Second, who gives a shit?

          I had an iPhone before I worked for Apple and I still have an iPhone now that I’ve left. While I’m all for consumer rights, my experience working for Apple has definitely jaded me when it comes to iPhone issues…and it’s not Apple’s fault at all. That happened because I sat there for months on end and heard the same lies over and over and over from grown adults simply trying to scam you.

          Here are some things I’ve heard:
          “I live on an Island, but my phone has never been near water. Now my sensor is tripped”
          His pics showed crumbly green corrosion on the dock. Sure it’s not been in water.

          “I dropped my phone onto my pillowtop mattress and it shattered”
          Her pics showed a thumb size dent in the metal corner.

          “My boob sweat tripped my sensor. Why isn’t that covered?” (yes, she stored it there)
          Once again, pics showed horrible corrosion in the dock connectors.

          “I was talking to someone and for no reason my screen shattered”
          Pics show metal bezel has been pried apart with a screwdriver.

          If you break your phone, it’s your fault PERIOD.

          • kcvaliant says:

            Or thiers for making a phone that is so easy to fail. I sold the things. You can leave a phone out in the open and it will start t show water damage just from the moisture in the air here. Your phones are not air tight.

          • kcvaliant says:

            Or thiers for making a phone that is so easy to fail. I sold the things. You can leave a phone out in the open and it will start t show water damage just from the moisture in the air here. Your phones are not air tight.

          • FrugalFreak says:

            OR how about Apple build phones that if dropped in wash cycle accidently or dropped on floor don’t break. Durability over gloss!

            Pathetic hipsters

            • pecan 3.14159265 says:

              I’m pretty sure that most phones would break if you dropped them into a wash cycle. You’re just picking on Apple at this point.

            • ajlei says:

              Uhh I wouldn’t expect anything with a PCB or a battery to survive through a wash cycle.

  8. castlecraver says:

    First 3 commenters need to RTFA. This is specifically referring to cases licensed as “made for iPhone,” approved as such by Apple, and sold alongside Apple-branded cases in their stores. Although made by third parties, the cases causing the cracks certainly had the imprimatur of Apple.

    • minjche says:

      I don’t think Apple “approves” the cases marked as “Made for iPhone” as much as the case manufacturer just agrees to pay a licensing fee.

      That’s not to say that it wouldn’t behoove Apple to test out the third-party products that are sold in Apple stores, my point is that I doubt they actually allow or deny their sale based on product testing.

    • ExtraCelestial says:

      I did actually. As I responded above, you could make the claim that Apple is at least partially at fault for approving the cases, but it’s certainly not a design flaw of the phone. This is not a universal problem for all cases, just this sliding design. You don’t make a phone to fit a case.

  9. Skellbasher says:

    It’s amazing the lengths that some people will go to in order to invent controversy simply because it involves Apple.

    One guy writes a blog post about potential glass scratching (an unheard of occurrence BTW), and all of a sudden it’s a “-gate”, and Apple design flaw.

    Not blaming the Consumerist for posting this, but for the writer of the original article doing his part to drum up pageviews with a made up issue.

    • Not a Fan Boy says:

      I think adding gate to the end of every “scandal” cheapens just how bad the Watergate scandal really was.

      A crack on my stupid phone or Sara Palin getting booed on Dancing With the Stars doesn’t begin to belong in the same catigory as the crap that Nixon was pulling.

  10. Daverson says:
  11. Rob07 says:

    In my experience, the iPhone 4 is a pretty tough phone. Of all of my friend and family who own iPhone 4s, nobody has a single scratch in the glass, let alone a crack (about half use Apple bumpers with them, the other half use no covers or cases). A close friend of mine accidentally dropped his in a movie theater onto a concrete floor. It didn’t result a single scratch, crack, or even a dent. I would be more worried about the plastic cracking on a 3G/3GS or denting the metal backing on a 1st gen iPhone before worrying about damaging an iPhone 4.

    • user765 says:

      I dropped mine onto pavement, it landed on the back glass popped up an inch and landed on the metal casing. The metal has a little scratch, but the glass back is still perfect.

    • ExtraCelestial says:

      I have the first gen with the glass screen and of the thousands of times I have dropped it (I don’t use a case) I have chipped and scratched the plastic antenna cover and the anodized metal backing but never, ever the glass. I even stash it in my purse with keys, pens, etc bouncing around and it doesn’t even have a scratch. 4 years later, while everything else is a bit dinged, the glass looks the same as the day I got it.

      A thick, well-made glass is tougher than you think.

    • mmrosek says:

      I’ve dropped my 2G and 3Gs a million times without incident (and w/o case) but my buddy broke the back glass on the 4 the first time it slipped after only having it for 3 days. Granted, he dropped it and was unlucky that it hit at the wrong angle, but it’s still not a good design.

    • Amnesiac85 says:

      I don’t see how your friend dropping a glass object on a concrete floor didn’t result in a single crack. The science behind that doesn’t make much sense.

      This is coming from an iPhone 4 owner, and one who has witnessed friends crack their iPhone 4s in very minor incidents.

  12. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    It depends entirely on the type of glass used whether having a glass phone is stupid or not. If it is the Gorilla glass from Corning then it may have been a good idea. If it is another glass, maybe not a good idea.

    However, I don’t see it as being Apple’s problem when folks scratch the glass and it subsequently breaks. I do see Apple’s desire to resolve this before it impacts the brand regardless of assigning blame.

  13. Stiv says:

    *shrug* The online Apple store currently offers a selection of slider cases for the iPhone 4.

  14. apple420 says:

    I’ve heard rumors that Apple will replace the back glass for $30 if it breaks. I don’t think that is too bad of a deal.
    I’ve been using one of these slide on cases for a while now, and I might switch back to a bumper after hearing this story. I follow a lot of Apple news and this is the first I’ve heard of this particular problem. I hope it isn’t too serious. Do people just need to make sure the phone and case are free of debris before putting the case on?

  15. Macgyver says:

    Why did they even put glass on the back to begin with, that is just stupid.

    • apple420 says:

      I’m thinking that a glass back possible could cause less reception problems than a back made of something else? I believe many people have reported that the iPhone 4 has the best reception of the iPhones, as long as you are holding it right.

  16. danmac says:

    So…how long before this site gets a cease and desist from Apple for the picture attached to this article (an iphone with the front shattered)? I’m sure Apple’s lawyers love it when a headline mentions shattered glass and the picture shows the shattered FRONT of a phone.

    I’m not saying it’s right…I’m just saying :)

  17. full.tang.halo says:

    Is the glass used it the iPhone 4 called gate-glass? Cause if it isn’t STOP WITH THE F-ING ADDING “GATE” to the back-end of everything. Watergate was called as such cause it was the “Watergate Hotel & Office Complex”.

    STOP JUST STOP with this stupid practice.

    • danmac says:

      We should call this phenomenon Stupid Practicegate!

    • SlappyFrog says:

      Bravo!

    • danmac says:

      You know, in all seriousness, this is how language evolves, and although you may not like it, it happens all the time. The word quixotic, for example, comes specifically from the story of Don Quixote. Does that mean that it shouldn’t be a word? Like “-gate”, it doesn’t really pertain to anything other than one specific story/event and outside of that context has no relevant meaning.

  18. Chmeeee says:

    Am I the only one sick of the media’s tendency to stick the suffix “gate” onto the end of any thing remotely resembling a scandal? WTF was so special about Watergate that now every bad thing is “badthing-gate”?

  19. clarkins says:

    Bought an iPhone 4 on Sunday the 3rd. Dropped it on concrete on the 4th. Shattered back glass. Had it replaced at a Phone Doctor on Tuesday the 5th.
    On Wed the 6th, after little use that day and carrying it in my pocket, it was again cracked from one side to the other on the back.
    Fixed yet again and put in an otter box this time.
    Should have done it from the beginning instead of ordering one from Amazon. The $25 savings from Amazon was eaten up by the repairs.

  20. Kevinsky says:

    I dropped mine on the concrete floor in my garage with no case. no cracks, no scratches.

    On the other hand, my first-gen ipod touch, I was surprised the first time I took it out of its case, how scratched up the back was, considering it had been in a case for a year or two. It was bits of pocket lint and this’n’that that had worked its way in and slowly scratched up the back

  21. SlappyFrog says:

    “Is The iPhone 4 ‘GlassGate’ News All It’s Cracked Up To Be?”

    No, it is not. This is bloggerhea link-bait.

    Ignore them and they will go away.

  22. FrugalFreak says:

    The BACK of the phone with the logo is made out of GLASS? MUHAHAHAHA

  23. hansolo247 says:

    Something with glass on both sides does not qualify as “Industrial Design”

    Just sayin…

    Industrial Design implies durability and simplicity. One out of 2 isn’t bad I guess.

  24. ThatsWhatSheSaid says:

    what do you mean its not apples problem, first you had to buy or get for free a special bumper case so your signal didnt drop out, now you need to have it in a case because the glass casing is to fragile for a more sturdy or form fitting case that it will break…if its breaking that easily obviously the glass is very cheap and has no type of abuse taking, as would something that shouldve been used in the first place and if applying the case is causing that much damage, then the person putting it on the phone should realize this seems pretty hard to put on maybe i should return it and get something different….i would say just about everyone has some type of “3rd party” case on their cellphone, im sure apple has a case that would do the same thing, this is totally apples fault, you want to have the best phone out there, spend the time and money to prevent monthly articles on flaws of your products period. do it right the first time

  25. jeff_the_snake says:

    a simple conformal coating would solve this and the antenna problem. I hope apple deals with this better than they did the antenna thing. jobs will have a hard time convincing anyone that every other phone shatters when you put it in an approved case.

  26. benjitek says:

    It’s easy to fabricate stories based on information that’s impossible to substantiate, which is what I believe was done at GDGT.

    A brief look at the website looks like it contains a large proportion of whining masquerading as ‘news’…

  27. DustoMan says:

    You all are seriously doubting Ryan Block? Shame on you all.

  28. Mythandros says:

    Entirely apple’s fault for making such a P.O.S device and not QAing the device thoroughly enough.

    The cases are “apple approved”, which means that apple should have done some QA testing on the cases before giving their “approved” sticker to them. Simple logic, guys.

    This one is 100% on apple. Surprise surprise.

    Inferior phones made by an inferior company selling inferior products, charging a superior price. This is Apple.

    I wouldn’t use an apple product if they PAID me to.