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article imageApple is now being sued over iPhone 'Touch Disease'

By James Walker     Aug 30, 2016 in Technology
Last week, news broke that scores of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus handsets are turning up at repair shops with a new hardware defect dubbed "Touch Disease." It leaves the handset's display unusable. Apple is now being sued by a group of consumers.
Reuters reports that the nationwide class-action lawsuit was filed by plaintiffs Todd Cleary of California, Jun Bai of Delaware and Thomas Davidson of Pennsylvania on Sunday, mere days after Touch Disease first made the headlines. In a detailed exposé, device repair specialists iFixit detailed how repair shops are seeing hundreds of handsets turn up with Touch Disease every week.
In recent months, an influx of cases has been noted by specialists. The problem begins when a flickering grey bar appears at the top of the display. Over time, the touch input becomes increasingly glitchy. Eventually, the touchscreen stops working altogether and remains completely unresponsive.
The problem is caused not by the display itself but rather by the two touch controller chips on the phone. These translate taps of the screen into input signals for the phone's software. Without them, the iPhone never gets the message that you're pressing a button or scrolling a menu. Repair specialists have found these chips are gradually detaching from the phone's logic board.
The cause is believed to be the final consequence of "Bendgate." The iPhone 6 series is known to have a comparatively weak chassis that was later strengthened for the 6s. As the phone is used in regular use, it flexes slightly. This places stress on the logic board that gradually wears on the connections for the touch controller chips. In time, they break off entirely.
The touch controller of an iPhone 6
The touch controller of an iPhone 6
Apple is aware of the problem. A representative told an affected user that the company is "very familiar" with Touch Disease but refuses to acknowledge it as an issue. Apple refuses to fix defective devices, instead suggesting customers simply buy a new iPhone. However, the problem can be remedied easily and with only a small expense at dedicated repair shops.
The wide media reporting, the severity of the issue and the comments of experts has led the plaintiffs to file a lawsuit against Apple. The trio accuse Apple of fraud and violating California consumer protection laws. They suggest the company's decision not to protect the touch controller with a metal shield, present on previous generations, is responsible for the failings, a view upheld by iFixit and independent experts.
"The iPhones are not fit for the purpose of use as smartphones because of the touchscreen defect," Reuters reports the complaint reads.
Touch Disease is generating so much publicity because it is expected the number of cases is only going to grow over the next few months. Specialists are warning that the design defect is liable to eventually affect every iPhone 6 handset. The larger Plus models are especially prone to Touch Disease as they flex more easily.
"The issue is ridiculously widespread and Apple should’ve issued a recall or maybe a free warranty repair on this problem already," repairer Michael Huie told 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."
Apple still hasn't publicly commented on Touch Disease. The company rarely acknowledges hardware issues discovered by independent companies. Its own support forum is filling up with complaints and the iFixit report has spurred a flurry of media attention, however. The company could soon be forced to make a response, although whether that will include free warranty repairs remains to be seen.
In the short term, owners of the iPhone 6 can temporarily remedy Touch Disease by simply flexing the phone. This can force the touch controller to re-establish contact with the logic board. It is far from a permanent fix, however. Repair shops are able to attach new touch controller chips and add the protections that Apple left out, preventing the issue from coming back.
More about iPhone, iphone 6, bendgate, touch disease, Smartphones
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