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Apple's iPhone 3G is not all it's cracked up to be

Apple's 3G iPhone was met with much fanfare when it launched earlier this month. The new phone brought 3G download speeds, GPS hardware, and a new iTunes App Store among other things. The popularity of the iPhone brand along with the buzz created by Apple generated sales of over one million units worldwide within three days of launch.

All is not well in iPhone 3G land, however. The folks over at Engadget noticed that a number of people are noticing stress fractures/cracks in their iPhone 3G casings. The cracks seem to mostly affect owners of white 16GB iPhone 3G models, but owners of black iPhone 3Gs have reported problems as well (but to a lesser degree).

The majority of the cracks are showing up around the edges of the phone and near the headphone jack. Some people have reported seeing cracks as soon as a day after receiving the phone, while others saw cracks within the first one to two weeks of ownership.

Thankfully for most users, Apple's retail stores are replacing the defective units free of charge on the spot.

Many saw Apple's move to a plastic back for the iPhone 3G instead of aluminum (as seen on the original iPhone) as twofold -- the plastic backing allowed Apple to reduce production costs while at the same time increase reception for the greater number of radios within the chassis.

The news of the cracked iPhone 3Gs comes just a day after the phone was likened to Windows Vista in USA Today. The USA Today article pointed to supply problems, a cumbersome activation process, overloaded activation servers during launch day, and issues with the 2.0 firmware.

"Clearly, Apple is having manufacturing and software problems," said independent analyst Rob Enderle. "A star product like the iPhone does a lot of great things for Apple, but when things go wrong, it can bring down the entire image of a company."

"Vista wasn't finished, and that's what the iPhone feels like," Enderle continued. "It's been rushed onto market, even though it wasn't ready."

Apple 8GB iPhone 3G is available for $199 with a two-year contract with AT&T. The 16GB iPhone 3G rings in at $299 with a two-year contract.

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That is so amateurish!
By jabber on 7/30/2008 6:11:39 AM , Rating: 5
C'mon people dont we test our products before we let them loose on the market? Especially a device that will be sat on, dropped, squashed, rubbed, thrown etc. etc.

Stuff like that shouldnt happen to a major firm. I'm getting pretty surprised by how lax some firms are getting with quality control right now.

I would expect these kind of errors from a no name brand for the back of beyond but this kind of thing is silly. Sounds like someone screwed up in the plastics master batch dept. Maybe they had some white polymer that had been sitting around too long.

Either that or they had to reduce the thickness/density of the plastic to reduce weight or accomodate some new features.

But surely they test all this stuff?

RE: That is so amateurish!
By jabber on 7/30/2008 6:16:52 AM , Rating: 3
Or maybe they knew of the problem but it was too late to do anything before release so they decided to do a Ford Pinto and just deal with the issues individually as they appear.

Hopefully though they will sort the problem in manufacture later. At least no one should explode over this.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By FITCamaro on 7/30/2008 7:45:45 AM , Rating: 5
But if that were the case it'd be ok since they're Apple. Their failures are still successes.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By JasonMick on 7/30/2008 8:54:01 AM , Rating: 5
I don't think anyone would call the Newton a success...

Or Apple TV or Apple QuickTake Camera (most probably don't even remember that) for that matter...

RE: That is so amateurish!
By robinthakur on 7/30/2008 9:17:40 AM , Rating: 5
I'd say the Newton, while not a success for Apple was incredibly influential for its time. It just proves that good ideas often don't catch on and Apple should consider themselves very fortunate that the iPod proceeded to take over the world.

The Apple TV was just a medioccre idea to begin with and suffers from the fact that people just don't know what it does and how you would use it other than saying that it connects to a tv and allows you to play back your iTunes library through the tv, which is all I know about it. Maybe once people buy/rent more movies through iTunes it will make more sense, but I seriously doubt they have sold many of these devices.

Besides Jason, don't feed the trolls please ^_^

RE: That is so amateurish!
By lantzn on 7/30/2008 3:40:04 PM , Rating: 2
I own the Apple TV and love the rental feature. The biggest problem is the restrictions that the movie industry has put on Apple because they're worried they will gain to much control as they have with the music industry. It's really sad how they give other companies (i.e. Amazon) better deals with movies. Talk about paranoia.

Besides the iTunes Library (music, video, pictures podcasts) you have access to podcasts, YouTube, movie trailers and rentals. It's actually quite versatile. I just want the movie catalog to grow faster.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By cheetah2k on 7/30/2008 10:10:56 PM , Rating: 2
Compared to the old 2G iphone, the case quality is really lacking.

It feels so light, fragile and it scratches way too easy (without even having keys in your pocket)

The domed back casing is just asking to be broken as it doesnt even sit flat on a table or general surface.

When they make the rear in pressed aluminium (well finished like the macbook air) I'll consider getting one. Right now, I'll stick with my HTC Diamond

RE: That is so amateurish!
By audiomaniaca on 8/2/2008 3:31:10 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed! Aluminium is/was much better and better looking.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By fibreoptik on 8/4/2008 9:27:45 PM , Rating: 2
Yummm! It was a TASTY morsel wasn't it? ^_^

RE: That is so amateurish!
By mmntech on 7/30/2008 10:36:40 AM , Rating: 3
You forgot the Pippin.
I wouldn't call them failures though. Just failures for Apple. A lot of these products were ahead of their time. The spirit was willing but the hardware and wallet were weak.

Anyway, I thought Apple had been using polycarbonate plastic, which usually takes a lot of abuse before it starts to crack like that. They must have changed the materials to cuts costs.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By othercents on 7/30/2008 10:40:50 AM , Rating: 2
Might be polycarbonate on the black ones, but not on the white ones. I haven't seen any issues with my iPhone other than having to shutoff 3G since it reduces the signal strength and makes me drop calls.


RE: That is so amateurish!
By mondo1234 on 7/30/2008 1:15:32 PM , Rating: 2
They look like they are still selling well in San Diego. I was at the mall yesterday and the Apple Store (its quite big) was full of customers and there was a line outside about 50 deep waiting for iphones.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By othercents on 7/30/2008 7:17:55 PM , Rating: 2
They are and I doubt a few cracks are going to stop people from buying them. A friend of mine has one on back order.


By Performance Fanboi on 7/30/2008 6:27:10 PM , Rating: 2
The Pippin was actually a fantastic idea that was way ahead of it's time - a game console that could play media files and network. Sounds a bit like Media Extender on Xbox to me.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By audiomaniaca on 8/2/2008 3:29:11 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, never heard about it before!

RE: That is so amateurish!
By awer26 on 7/30/2008 11:50:40 AM , Rating: 2
The problem with the Newton, Apple TV, and Apple Quicktake Camera was that they forgot to add the little "i" before it. Had it been called iTV, it would have taken off.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By lantzn on 7/30/2008 3:47:32 PM , Rating: 2
When they first show the prototype (rarely done) of the Apple TV it was named the iTV. They must have ran into some trademark issues to have to change the name. Even when it was released as the Apple TV Jobs had difficulty not calling it the iTV.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By Senju on 7/31/2008 12:21:19 AM , Rating: 2
Wait a minute. AppleTV is not a failure. If you use it as a add on option to HP MEDIA Server you get a really cool combination set. I can stream all my movies from HP Media Server via itunes to AppleTV. It is sooo cool do do it this way! :D

RE: That is so amateurish!
By Sunrise089 on 7/30/2008 10:58:36 AM , Rating: 3
Or maybe this is just anecdotal evidence in the era of web journalism where it's fashionable to show problems with any hot new device, but not talk about overall numbers.

We have no idea if this is 5% of all iPhones, or it's 5 iPhones and all of their owners posted on webforums that got linked to and reported on. I suspect it's the latter.

Imagine if Honda, Toyota, etc. released a new model of car that suffered 5-10 transmission failures in the first 1,000 miles, but was otherwise totally reliable. The big car and consumer magazines wouldn't even report it because such numbers represent a tiny fraction of total sales and aren't indicative of one own likely ownership experiences.

For whatever reason no such standards exist with web journalism right now.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By mindless1 on 7/30/2008 6:44:12 PM , Rating: 3
The difference is with the cars there was a defect or assembly (or user abuse) problem while in this case the design of the casing itself appears inadequate. It would be like ALL of the transmissions eventually failing prematurely because the designer valued form far too much over function.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By jstchilln on 7/30/2008 11:14:53 PM , Rating: 3
OMIGOD, isnt this what they complain about and make commercials about Microsoft. The media whitewash or hogwash from apple is that it is the perfect product and they never make a mistake. A cracked case I could live with but it's the BSOD on the new phone that I would have a major problem with.
Have they figured the OS bugs out yet?

RE: That is so amateurish!
By tallcool1 on 7/30/2008 11:51:46 AM , Rating: 3
C'mon people dont we test our products before we let them loose on the market?
Ask XBOX 360 owners whom have suffered the dreaded RROD.
So, no, Apple isn't immune to unexpected deficiences as other manufactures have likely faced. However they are handling it appropriately as MS did with the 360 by offering a free replacement. That doesn't give them a pass on the flaws, but is an acceptable response to the problem.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By mles1551 on 7/30/08, Rating: -1
RE: That is so amateurish!
By Alexstarfire on 7/30/2008 1:54:55 PM , Rating: 1
You'd think so, but companies only care about money.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By gcouriel on 7/30/2008 3:38:08 PM , Rating: 3
c'mon man... research before you post.

firestone was not solely responsible for the tire issue. ford was found to be partly to blame, because it was ignoring Bridgestone/Firestone's recommended tire inflation, telling consumers to underinflate the tires, which generated more heat than the tire could sustain, aggravating the problem

Also, the GM truck fiasco was a setup by Dateline NBC. they rigged the truck with small rockets to cause the tanks to explode! GM sued the crap out of NBC!

yeah, i think apple dropped the ball, if it is true that this is a wide-spread problem. however, where's it's just a couple of isolated problems, then forget about it. i'm hardly an apple or MS fan, but i can tolerate some of the problems, so long as they address them in the long-run.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By lightfoot on 7/30/2008 4:13:57 PM , Rating: 2
Last time I checked, nobody has ever been killed by an iPhone or an Xbox 360. This is not a consumer safety hazard; it is an inconvenience.

It's a pity that you weren't able to play video games for two weeks, or that your phone cracked and you had to drive all the way back to the Apple store – it's not a tragedy. At least you and your family weren't KILLED because your car exploded when the tire failed. There is no way that any consumer device will EVER be held to the standards of safety that autos are.

That level of quality and safety is cost prohibitive. You really don't want to pay to have the government crash test your phone. You don't want government mandates requiring you to have liability insurance in case someone is injured when you use your Xbox incorrectly. You don't want to have to be licensed to use your phone or game console, and you don't want to have to take it in and have it inspected annually to make sure it is still operating correctly. To compare consumer electronics to the transportation industry is silly at best and downright ignorant at worst.

If the battery was exploding and people were catching fire that would be one thing, but we are talking about a cracked piece of plastic for goodness sake. Even the 360 only flashes red lights at you - it doesn't self destruct and explode. It might be nice if you could maintain just a little perspective.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By Alexstarfire on 7/31/08, Rating: 0
RE: That is so amateurish!
By lightfoot on 7/31/2008 10:53:46 AM , Rating: 2
If you're going to ____ing nitpick about an analogy you're likely going to find differences. It's to make a similar comparison, NOT an exact comparison.

If you make an analogy while ignoring scale, cost and consequence, you have made a flawed analogy.

The iPhone to Xbox 360 is a good analogy: an inconvenience caused by poor design and a failure to fix it during testing.

The iPhone to Firestone tires and Ford Pintos is a bad analogy: death and bodily harm caused by systemic failures at multiple levels within a government regulated industry.

I agree with you that it is about money, but it is not because they don't care, it's because they cannot afford the cycles required to do the exhaustive level of testing required.

However I still don't get how a minor crack in the case constitutes a "glaring" issue. Any new product is going to have its share of defects, that's simply the nature of product launches. It is probably lucky that it is only a problem with the case - other defects could be far more troublesome and costly to fix.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By mindless1 on 7/30/2008 6:46:32 PM , Rating: 2
IF the replacement product has the same flaw and also breaks, it is not a reasonable solution. Customers buy expecting to never have to exchange it, that the company was diligent in designing it so that won't happen.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By winterspan on 7/30/08, Rating: -1
RE: That is so amateurish!
By GTVic on 7/30/2008 7:33:08 PM , Rating: 2
Obviously they would test the prototypes and probably they did a limited production run for testing as well.

The problem is that every supplier/assembler along the chain is constantly trying to maximize profit. The best bet is that someone decided to use a less expensive type of plastic or the size/thickness tolerances are too high.

RE: That is so amateurish!
By jabber on 7/30/2008 8:29:14 PM , Rating: 2
And potentially risk losing one of the most high-profile contracts going? Maybe. who knows?

However, one wonders how good a deal a manufacturer gets when taking on work for Apple.

It may be a case of you take a hit financially but the kudos of having an Apple contract pays dividends elsewhere in prestige. Unless you are a network provider.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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