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Apple acknowledges iPod nano screen problems

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Tuesday, September 27, 2005
News Categories: iPod nano

Following public reports of iPod nano screen flaws, Apple has responded to the complaints and concerns, confirming that the breakage is due to a very small batch of the devices that use defective screens.

“This is a real but minor issue involving a vendor quality problem in a small number of units,” Apple said in a statement, referring to the reports of seemingly unprovoked nano screen breakage. “Our figures show this issue has affected less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the total iPod nano units that we’ve shipped. It is not a design issue.” The company said affected customers should contact Apple to arrange for a free replacement unit.

Apple also addressed complaints that the nano screen gets scratched too easily, noting that it uses the same surface as that found on 4G iPods. “A few vocal customers say the nano is susceptible to scratches. We do not believe this is a real issue,” the company said in the statement. “We make the screens using the same material as we use in the 4G iPod. We suggest concerned customers use one of the iPod nano cases that are coming to market to protect the music player.”

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Comments

1

Great.  Can we move on now please?

Posted by Rob on September 27, 2005 at 5:01 PM (PDT)

2

I’d see we have THREE issues here:

1. People breaking their screens. Solution: don’t bend expensive electronics.

2. Screens breaking “on their own”—very rare, but Apple has addressed the problem with the vendor, and is honoring the warranty to make it right for the tiny fraction of people affected.

3. Screens scratching. Plastic scratches easily—but the iPod starts out so pretty it’s extra annoying when the inevitable happens (unless you protect the screen—try camera screen protectors, cheap at Radio Shack).

So the Nano uses the SAME plastic as other iPods—including my Photo, which I’m happy with… It would be interesting to see a “post mortem of a how a false rumor gets started.”

An online forum is where people go to post problems, not to post “all is well.” So a forum will always make any problem look more common than it really is. But I have to wonder if there’s actual dishonest trolling at work in this as well. People upset about a scratch I can understand. But all the first-time posters materializing to say the nano uses a different kind of plastic (which it doesn’t) have to make you wonder.

Posted by Nagromme on September 27, 2005 at 5:43 PM (PDT)

3

so they’ve identified a vendor quality problem and they know how many are affected.

do they then know which ones are affected- in which case how about they recall them for replacement?

how does a customer know they got the problem unless apple tells them - presumably wait until the screen breaks - nice customer service!

Posted by rt on September 27, 2005 at 6:03 PM (PDT)

4

Some points:

Is there really a bad batch?  If so, then Apple would know which ones were bad and can isolate them for easy warranty replacement, just like problems they’ve had with iBooks and iMacs.  Maybe there isn’t a bad batch, just a bad design and they’ve changed it, and they’re making up a story to cover their tails.

And how exactly are nano owners supposed to protect their nanos using the nonexistant nano cases that shipped in a few weeks?  That makes a lot of sense.  “Protect your nano now with a case that will ship tomorrow (or 4-6 weeks, whichever comes first)” sounds like what Apple is saying.

Posted by Phil on September 27, 2005 at 6:30 PM (PDT)

5

now they’ve identified the issue, they should publish the serial numbers of the lemon nanos. i’m taking extra care of my nano but i want to be sure i don’t have the bad batch.

Posted by louis on September 27, 2005 at 6:52 PM (PDT)

6

Macintouch’s iPod nano report contains analysis by a structural engineer showing bending moments are too great for the nano’s thiness. Also another reader mentions the failed, too thin REXcard mp3 player which had similar screen breakage.  These comments would indicate a serious potentially fatal design flaw in the nano; not a “small percentage vendor problem”. They also suggest a lack of knowledge & research on thin MP-3 players prior to approving the radical thickness to length ratio of the nano; & lack of structural testing prior to production. I suggest that serious engineering analyses are needed before accepting apple’s b.s. from spinmeister schiller.

Posted by albert Carvalho on September 27, 2005 at 7:08 PM (PDT)

7

“serious engineering analyses” ...

Are you using the nano to build a bridge ???

Posted by Derrick on September 27, 2005 at 8:00 PM (PDT)

8

I’ll just throw this out there for anyone who might be interested in our own internal thoughts on the nano scratching issue.

We’ve purchased a total of maybe 10 nanos since they were released, three of which we’ve kept in-house in California at various times and the others as units either for iLounge staff or as gifts. As we told the WSJ today when they contacted us for comment on this, we ourselves, and through readers, have had no verified reports of screen cracking through anything other than potential misuse.

Scratching on the other hand appears to be a very, very common problem. In addition to the numerous reader reports we’ve been following, our own units and those that we’ve given to others have shown scratches very quickly. Black units appear to show the scratches more than white ones, and it looks like more people are buying black ones that white ones, which may be accentuating reports of the problem. The scratches have been more obvious on nanos than with either of the U2 iPods we have, and we’ve also heard first-hand reports from people we trust that their screens have become almost unusable through scratching caused by nothing more than pocketing the nano. We would have wrote it off ourselves as competitive sneakiness if it wasn’t for the known veracity of the people who have had these problems.

With all of that said, we also pointed out to the WSJ (as we noted and linked to in a forums roundup last week) that we’ve been receiving reader scratch complaints on iPods since the first month that the first iPod was introduced, so this is not a new phenomenon. People have high expectations for iPods because they look so beautiful coming out of the package, but the fact is that they’ve always needed protection to keep shining. We’re still internally debating whether this is more or less the case with nano than with older iPods, but for now, the easy answer is: keep your nano protected.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 27, 2005 at 8:00 PM (PDT)

9

I reall think it was funny how all of you who posted up many replies on Apple’s forums and on iLounge about the issue of the iPod Nano’s resilance. I got my iPod Nano yesterday, read through that article and was a little worried about my lil’ Nano. After a days use, I figured it’d end up all scratched like how you all mentioned before, but it wasn’t. I think the main thing that you are all missing in your little argument is the fact that the new black colored plastic makes scratches appear easier, if you look at the white Nanos, they have the same resilence of the 4G iPods. If you took the time to decifer the difference between the coloring of the plastic - and not the type of plastic itself, you would’ve all realized its just the fact that black makes scratches and oily fingers show up more.

Posted by M Bargo in Chicago, IL on September 27, 2005 at 8:18 PM (PDT)

10

I have poor typing skills, so don’t bother telling me - I know

Posted by M Bargo in Chicago, IL on September 27, 2005 at 8:26 PM (PDT)

11

I think it makes sense to try and protect an iPod ... they are not disposable items ... the problem with this issue is that you have no way of knowing how a given person has treated their iPod ... some people are very careful and some are definitely not ... even though they will often claim they are ... just look at condition of rental DVD’s to see how ‘careful’ the public is.

Posted by Derrick on September 27, 2005 at 8:30 PM (PDT)

12

“I’ll just throw this out there for anyone who might be interested in our own internal thoughts on the nano scratching issue.”

Very good Jeremy. Let´s do the same with the “iPod Photo/Color sound distortion” (piano solo issue), an older an bigger topic in your forums than the nano one.

regards.

Posted by AlejandroC on September 27, 2005 at 11:52 PM (PDT)

13

Jeremy-

Your posting implied that you did have some damaged Nanos (possibly with cracked screens) but that it was potentially due to ‘misuse’.

What do you consider misuse?  Some people have said that an average day of walking around with a Nano in their pocket has cracked their screen.  I wouldn’t consider that misuse, but possibly some people do.

Since you’ve had experience with several of these players, can you elaborate on what exactly damaged the Nanos in your possession?

Scratches I’m not worried about—a cracked screen is something to worry about.

Thanks.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on September 28, 2005 at 12:02 AM (PDT)

14

I am very glad to have a mini.  What a bone-headed decision it was to kill them off.

Posted by Michael on September 28, 2005 at 12:58 AM (PDT)

15

Quite right, the mini wouldn’t dream of making an appearance all covered in scratches and fingerprints. But you’d think Apple could use a tougher, more scratch-resistant acrylic on regular iPods and nanos, if they thought it was even remotely important… bottom line is, they WANT it to look scruffy after a year or so, so you are more likely to want a new one!

Posted by Magic Rabbits in Aberdeen, Scotland on September 28, 2005 at 1:50 AM (PDT)

16

The Nano scratches VERY EASILY. The dude from Apple is FOS!

Posted by Mark on September 28, 2005 at 5:56 AM (PDT)

17

The problem is that the ipod nano is so small that it is natural to keep it in your pants pocket.  Also there were no cases readily available at the time.  I love the nano but I am royallly pissed that there are some scratches across the screen itself.  I keep my cell phone with an external LCD in my pocket all the time and there are no scratches. 

Now, I am not sure if I should get another nano or if they will replace the screen.

Posted by khyberny on September 28, 2005 at 6:23 AM (PDT)

18

Michael wrote: ...“I am very glad to have a mini. What a bone-headed decision it was to kill them off.”

I seem to recall a similar *negative* reaction when the iPod Mini was released, and it went on to became the best selling iPod of all time. Only time will tell if the Nano turns out to be a big mistake for Apple.

Posted by jcs on September 28, 2005 at 7:29 AM (PDT)

19

TalkingMadness: “Your posting implied that you did have some damaged Nanos (possibly with cracked screens) but that it was potentially due to ‘misuse’.”

No. We’ve had no cracked screens. We’ve seen pictures online and have no way of knowing what caused them. Our units have scratches, nothing more. They were scratched by what we’d call light contact with other objects, the specifics of which we’re not entirely clear on.

What we consider misuse is sitting on a nano or putting it in a place where its body can be flexed.

Alejandro: While we generally support any attempt by our readers to seek even better iPod audio fidelity, our primary concerns are over issues that affect great numbers of users, such as the static and hard drive interference problems in 4G iPods, or the easy scratchability of nanos. Our opinion on your particular issue is that there is no such thing as perfect audio from any music player, digital or otherwise, and that there will always be something for audiophiles to complain about, even on a device widely praised for its audio quality. For instance, debates have been going on forever about the superiority of vinyl to digital, and someone out there right now is surely cursing the iPod’s lack of a diamond-tipped needle, etc. We’re not going to invest our energy in every such complaint out there.

That said, we tried to give your thread on this particular concern a bit of exposure in a forum roundup, but it apparently didn’t inspire a lot of interest from the site’s membership as a whole. Even after it was mentioned on the main page of the site, it looks like only a handful of the same people are upset about it in your thread. Make of that what you will.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on September 28, 2005 at 9:33 AM (PDT)

20

Hi Jeremy,

Firstly. I think you are not being honest. That´s not an audiophile issue. I am not an audiophile, and I think the most of the people complaining about that aren´t as well.

Your comparison with the vinile question does not make sense. We are speaking about an average listening to the iPod, solely to the iPod 20Gb color: piano and vocals solo do distort, do not other music types.

Secondly, that is not a minor issue: Many people think the flaw/poor design is present in the whole iPod 20GB color line. Indeed Apple sent some emails to some of the posters months ago. I did try two units, and the two didn´t allowed me to listen piano sonates without distortion.

Please, You know it perfectly: yours also presents the problem. Would you recognize it?

regards.

Posted by AlejandroC on September 28, 2005 at 9:56 AM (PDT)

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