Mobile // Mobile Devices
Commentary
9/24/2012
09:52 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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iPhone Scuffgate: Every Launch Must Have Scandal

Remember Antennagate? Apple can't launch an iPhone without coming under fire for some reason. Now it's chipped paint on the iPhone 5.

iPhone 5's 10 Best Features
iPhone 5's 10 Best Features
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The paint on my iPhone 5 is chipped. The chip is very, very small. The chip is on the left edge, where the two antenna pieces meet above the volume buttons. I haven't dropped it or abused it; it was that way when I pulled it out of the box. I can see the chip from as far away as 18 inches. If I hold the device further away than that, I can't see the scuff.

I'm not alone. Other iPhone 5 owners are reporting the same phenomenon.

MacRumors posted an informal poll on its website that shows more than 36% of nearly 1,400 new iPhone 5 owners have scratches that were evident on their device as soon as they took it out of the box. Another 10% said their device became scratched soon after they received it. The problem is mostly visible with the black iPhone 5.

And thus begins this year's iPhone scandal.

[ Scandals notwithstanding, iPhone sales and iOS upgrades are going strong. Read more at Apple: 5M iPhones Sold, 100M iOS 6 Upgrades. ]

Apple apparently can't launch an iPhone without some sort of problem tagging along. The iPhone 4 had Antennagate, the iPhone 3GS was scratchable, the iPhone 3G's back was susceptible to cracking, and so on.

Of these issues, the iPhone 4's Antennagate was the one that received the most negative attention. Owners of the device found that if they bridged two of the antenna pieces with their finger, it could attenuate the cellular signal. This actually affected the performance of the device, as it could cause calls to drop or data sessions grind to a halt.

Apple famously told users they were "holding it wrong," and even held a press conference to demonstrate how other cell phones had signal attenuation problems, too. Apple agreed to give users free "bumpers" so that their skin wouldn't come into contact with the antenna pieces. Apple later issued a software update to help mitigate the issue, and eventually resolved it with a different antenna design for the iPhone 4S.

Back to Scuffgate: 49% of the MacRumors poll respondents said their device had no scuffs or scratches. Just how big will Scuffgate get? Depends on how picky people are about the problem.

The aluminum metal on the iPhone 5 is softer than the stainless steel and glass of the iPhone 4/4S. The benefit is reduced weight and a thinner device. The iPhone 5 is also less prone to breaking when dropped. (The iPhone 4/4S were highly breakable thanks to the two large glass panels.) No matter how much work engineers put into it making it stick, paint will chip from metallic surfaces. Just go out and look at your car. It's the nature of the two.

Personally, I'd rather have a device that's got some battle scars than one that breaks completely when dropped. Still, some people like to keep their things look as good or as new as possible for as long as possible.

How will Apple mitigate Scuffgate? Give Sharpies to everyone? Black nail polish? Do we honestly expect Apple to do anything for such a minor problem? Please feel free to sound off in the comments below.

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JerryJ
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JerryJ,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/1/2012 | 4:12:25 PM
re: iPhone Scuffgate: Every Launch Must Have Scandal
When mine arrives in ~2 weeks, I plan to drop it immediately to dent and scratch the aluminum housing, thereby reducing the probably of it being stolen. I call it the iPhone ANTiTheft feature.
melgross
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melgross,
User Rank: Ninja
9/25/2012 | 2:41:57 PM
re: iPhone Scuffgate: Every Launch Must Have Scandal
There isn't any paint on the aluminum cover. It's black anodized. It can get scratched, just like any other anodized surfaced. Anodizing makes the surface extremely hard, but the anodizing is very thin. So the softer aluminum underneath dents, which cracks the surface, and so, a scratch.
ETi
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ETi,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/24/2012 | 4:59:21 PM
re: iPhone Scuffgate: Every Launch Must Have Scandal
"iScuff", "iChip", "iScratch", ..., iWhoah! ifeel iFans' iPain.
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