Apple knew iPhone 6 models were susceptible to bending problems

New court filings obtained by Motherboard reveal that Apple knew from the beginning that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were much more susceptible to bending problems than prior iPhone models. While Apple has never publicly admitted that the iPhone 6 models have a bending problem, and in fact continues to maintain that position, internal Apple documents in a class-action lawsuit showed that Apple had conducted internal testing and confirmed that the iPhone 6 was 3.3 times more likely to bend than the iPhone 5s, and the iPhone 6 Plus was 7.2 times more likely to bend.

While the documents themselves remain under seal, U.S. District Court judge Lucy Koh disclosed some of the information in a recent opinion in the case, adding that “one of the major concerns Apple identified prior to launching the iPhones was that they were ‘likely to bend more easily when compared to previous generations.’”

Apple has publicly maintained that there were never any engineering issues with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but according to Judge Koh, Apple conducted an internal review the determined that changes would be necessary to prevent a problem that was later discovered in August 2016, colloquially referred to as touch disease — and in fact the documents reveal that Apple quietly began reinforcing the part of the logic board associated with the problem in May 2016, several months before the issue became public knowledge.

In her published opinion, Koh specifically notes, “After internal investigation, Apple determined underfill was necessary to resolve the problems caused by the defect,” and that “Apple had used underfill on the preceding iPhone generation but did not start using it on the Meson (U2402) chip in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus until May 2016.” This was a full year and a half after the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were released.

Further, even though Apple clearly knew about the problem by early 2016, the November 2016 service notice pertaining to “touch disease” stated that the problem is a result of an iPhone “being dropped multiple times on a hard surface and then incurring further stress on the device” — the same argument that Apple has made in defending against the lawsuit in question, where Apple’s lawyers wrote that its “rigorous and comprehensive reliability test data proved that enclosure bending and twisting cannot cause the issue unless the phones had already been repeatedly dropped on a hard surface.” This has been disputed by the plaintiff’s expert witnesses, however Apple’s lawyers have argued that those witnesses aren’t experts in part because they hadn’t “reviewed” Apple’s internal tests.