Apple Sued Over Alleged iPhone 6 Touch-Screen Problems

Three iPhone 6 and 6 Plus owners filed a class action lawsuit alleging that the touch-screens on the devices are failing due to a defect.

Apple, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, defective devices, smartphones, mobile phones, Antennagate, class action lawsuit

Apple is being sued in a class action lawsuit over allegations that many of its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones have a known defect that causes the devices' touch screens to become unresponsive and ultimately fail.

The so-called iPhone "touch disease" appears on an affected iPhone as a gray bar along the top of the display after it becomes unresponsive, according to an Aug. 24 eWEEK report. The problem disables the phones.

Three U.S. plaintiffs, Thomas Davidson of Pennsylvania, Todd Cleary of California and Jun Bai of Delaware, have now filed a class action lawsuit against Apple, alleging that that the company has been refusing to repair phones that exhibit the condition and that it has been continuing to conceal a design defect that plagues the devices, according to the suit, which was posted online. The plaintiffs allege that the company has exhibited "unfair, deceptive and/or fraudulent business practices" by refusing to repair or replace the phones and that affected iPhone owners have lost the value of their purchases due to the alleged defect, according to the lawsuit.

The problem with the phones relate to two touch-screen controller chips on the main system board, or logic board, inside the handsets, the lawsuit alleges. The chips "are not properly secured to the logic board" and can "fail from normal wear and tear," the suit states.

Earlier iPhone 5s handsets included a metal shield around the chips that made the design more durable and prevented the failures that are occurring in the iPhone 6 models, the suit alleges. The chips convert the touches on the screen into commands for the device. The lack of a similar shield in later iPhone models "makes the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus substantially less durable to foreseeable and reasonable use by consumers and ultimately causes the touch-screen defect," the suit continues.

The problem appears to occur when the devices bend as users stick their phones in their back pockets and then sit, lean or move in their daily lives, according to the earlier eWEEK story. The more the phones twist and bend, the more the solder connections on the controller chips become unstuck from the logic board, causing the alleged malfunctions. The iPhone 6 Plus is more often affected because it's larger, and more "bendy."

Similar problems have been reported by many iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus owners, the suit alleges. "Indeed, the internet is replete with examples of blogs and other websites where consumers have complained of the exact same touch-screen defect within the iPhones. A plethora of owners of the iPhones have complained on Apple’s own website regarding the touch-screen defect."

The plaintiffs are seeking damages including the repair or replacement of affected iPhones and other undisclosed compensation.

Apple did not immediately respond to an email inquiry from eWEEK seeking comment about the situation.

The company, like other manufacturers, has experienced previous reports of problems with its products.

In February, the company apologized to iPhone owners and issued a patched version of its iOS operating system after an undisclosed number of iPhones were rendered inoperable by an "Error 53" security feature that the company said was built into the devices when they were assembled. The affected iPhones had been repaired by third-party service centers using non-Apple parts, which triggered the error message as a security feature, according to Apple. The Error 53 message was designed to come on if the phone's built-in fingerprint ID mechanism or its cable was replaced by someone who was trying to gain access to the device. The problem was that the error message also came in after a phone was simply repaired.

The problem was specific to iPhones that were given iOS updates through Apple iTunes, the company said. "Some customers' devices are showing 'Connect to iTunes' after attempting an iOS update or a restore from iTunes on a Mac or PC," the statement said. "This reports as an Error 53 in iTunes and appears when a device fails a security test. This test was designed to check whether Touch ID works properly before the device leaves the factory."

In July 2010, Apple dealt with antenna issues on its then-new iPhone 4 that were inspired by consumer complaints of poor call quality when they held their phones. Called Antennagate by the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the time, the problem was the location of the antenna inside the devices, which was solved with an add-on thin rubber case.