Flaw In iPhone 6 Can Reportedly Render Some Devices Unusable

If you’ve ever owned, borrowed, or simply looked at an iPhone, then you know the device works by responding to the user’s touch. Except when it doesn’t. And that’s apparently happening more and more for some iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners thanks in part to a flaw that can render the devices useless — or simply a $300 flat brick. 

The issue, which is being dubbed “Touch Disease,” appears to be related to a flickering gray bar at the top of the iPhone screen, iFixit reports.

While there’s no way to tell exactly how many phones have been afflicted with the issue, repair tech across the country tell iFixit that they see up to 100 iPhone 6 and 6 Pluses a month that don’t respond to users’ touch.

“This issue is widespread enough that I feel like almost every iPhone 6/6+ has a touch of it (no pun intended) and are like ticking bombs just waiting to act up,” says the owner of one Missouri repair shop who claims to come across several iPhones each week with this problem.

The issue poses a real problem for iPhone owners. Aside from a few buttons on the side and front of the device, there’s no other way to operate the phone besides touch. That means you can’t answer calls, reply to text messages, or use apps.

iFixit reports that there are pages and pages of complaints on Apple’s support forum about the issue, but that few of those narratives include any kind of assistance from the tech giant.

In one case, a customer wrote that he took the faulty phone to a Genius Bar in California. There an employee said he was familiar with the issue but that Apple does’t recognize it. The only option — because he was out of warranty — was to buy a new phone.

Fixing the issue isn’t easy either. Simply replacing the touchscreen only acts as a stopgap — the issue almost always reappears.

The experts tell iFixit this is because the issue isn’t actually the screen, it’s the chips inside the phone that control the screen.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 8.43.49 AM

These two chips translate your finger pressure into information the phone can use, iFixit reports. When the chips go bad, they don’t register even the most forceful touch.

The repair techs say the issue is likely the result of the way Apple built the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus compared to previous generations.

Others believe the problem is linked to “Bendgate” — the issue where the phones were found to able to bend under a certain amount of pressure. Apple said it strengthened the phones after the problem came to light.

However, repair techs say the phones remain bendy, and the lack of reinforcement around the chips make them vulnerable to damage.

According to iFixit, only third-party repair techs can replace the chips, as Apple repair Geniuses aren’t allowed to make specialized repairs to logic boards.

“The issue is ridiculously widespread and Apple should’ve issued a recall or maybe a free warranty repair on this problem already,” one repair specialist tells iFixit. “If you own an iPhone 6+ and haven’t experienced the problem yet, then I think the chances are pretty high that you’ll experience it during the lifetime of the phone.”

A Design Defect Is Breaking a Ton of iPhone 6 Pluses [iFixit]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.