Should Steve Jobs "man up" and kill the iPhone 4?

Should Steve Jobs "man up" and kill the iPhone 4?

Summary: Is the iPhone 4 one of Apple's great, all-time failures?


First, there was AntennaGate. Now there's GlassGate.

According to a report by Ryan Block of gdgt (guess who's not on Steve Jobs' Christmas card list this this?), the back of the iPhone 4 has a good chance of cracking when put into a case.

Now, we all know why the front of the iPhone is made of glass. It's so you can see and interact with the interface. But, apparently the designers at Apple also decided to make the back side of the iPhone out of glass.

What kind of moron puts glass on both sides of a portable device?

Anyway, complete disbelief aside, Block reports that Apple has refused to allow aftermarket case suppliers to sell cases where the phone slides in for protection.

In an interesting bit of reportage, Block makes a case for why Apple wouldn't normally do this. Apparently, Apple gets a cut (actually a double-cut) of cases that use the iPhone name and are distributed through Apple channels. So, Block reasons, Apple wouldn't have an economic incentive to block distribution -- in fact, it's to Apple's interest to let the aftermarket sell the cases.

So, why is distribution blocked?

Apparently, when sliding the iPhone 4 into the cases, microscopic particles scratch the back of the iPhone and, eventually, in a surprisingly large number of units, the glass scratches, cracks, or simply breaks open.

Brave design isn't necessarily good design. Brave design also isn't necessarily smart design. Using glass for the back of the iPhone was brave, cutting edge design.

Unfortunately, I'm guessing Apple didn't want "cutting edge" to be meant literally.

So, how prevalent is this? Apple certainly isn't saying anything, but the Apple fanboi site Cult of Mac ran a poll.

Although certainly not scientific or exhaustive, with only 328 respondents, it's also interesting. Apparently, 22.56% of those polled said "Yes. Trapped dirt has scratched, cracked or broken my iPhone".

That's an astonishingly high percentage. If we are seeing one in five iPhones cracking due to basic usage, on top of the failures based on poor antenna design, we're seeing a failed product here.

Perhaps it's time for Apple to just admit it, stop selling the iPhone 4, and reintroduce it when it's ready for actual use by consumers.

See also: Why do we spend so much money on cases and screen protectors? iPhone 4 Bumpers back to $29--will Apple's PR nightmare resurface?

Is the iPhone 4 one of Apple's great, all-time failures? Are you experiencing this as a problem? TalkBack below.

Topics: Smartphones, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility


David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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  • Ah Apple, the fruit that keeps on giving..

    great stories about how their flagship device is really the utter crap it is. One can only hope the mindless drones can see through the RDF and Apple koolaid.
    • Yeah you see I prefer to use "facts" and don't

      Depend on a known Apple hater's blog for my information. Nor a painfully obvious faulty poll or funny as it may seem your comment which at best is subjective with no real facts.

      Now what are the actual "facts" well there was a recent article where a survey found that Apple and it's iPhone are number one in user satisfaction once again some more.

      Then there are the sales numbers for the iPhone 4, Can't seem to make enough of them.

      As for your "claim" of mindless drones. You do realize that many an iPhone user does not own a Macintosh and in fact is a PC user or do actual and real facts cause you distress?

      Pagan jim
      James Quinn
      • Is David Gerwitz an Apple Hater or does David

        @James Quinn

        just knows what butters his bread.

        James, I just did some very tedious research and, as you can see from the data listed below, I looked up David's Apple related topics and listed the number of comments for those TalkBack sessions.

        I will choose to place in bold text those Blog articles that are either neutral or positive towards Apple Corporation, their products or their employees. Please note the number of comments for those articles.

        The other articles I will list in a standard text format. These articles will have content, in my opinion, detrimental or biased against Apple, their products or their employees. Please note the number of comments those articles generated.

        Now, David is certainly responsible for his choice of words that he uses in his articles. The number of comments might just indicate the bias of ZDNet readers towards Apple and not David's opinions towards Apple, in general.

        However, if you just go by David's choice of words that he uses in his Blog Titles, I doubt that I would not be incorrect in postulating that David can "sling mud" with the best of them.

        So .. you and other ZDNet TalkBack readers be the judge .. just look at the latest David Gerwitz's Blogs and is David an "Apple Hater" or does David cast Apple in a fair in honest light.

        What follows are David's recent Apple related Blogs.

        With the new Apple TV, did Steve Jobs really just introduce a $99 Macintosh? = 35 comments

        How a mediocre iPad knock-off could foretell Steve Jobs' eventual doom = 203 comments

        FaceTime could be Apple's iTV killer app = 27 comments

        OK, so sometimes Apple can be cool = 27 comments

        Poor Apple can't seem to catch a break = 228 comments

        Open letter to Steve Jobs: Retire now! = 331 comments

        Will shoddy products tarnish the cult of Steve Jobs? = 193 comments

        How many American jobs will Steve Jobs destroy? = 195 comments

        I blame Steve Jobs and his eve, demon sales ways = 123 comments

        Steve Jobs, demo god, crashes to Earth and Apple finally becomes Microsoft = 90 comments

        Six tips for getting Apple's iBooks to accept your ePub file = 9 comments

        iTunes Publisher inexplicably fails to publish an iBook. Now what? = 43 comments

        iTunes won't let you publish books if you write software = 41 comments

        Apple: this time it's political = 17 comments

        Kudos to Apple: they did it right this time = 69 comments

        When it comes to selling iPads, Apple is truly anti-American (and anti-disadvantaged) = 307 comments

        How HP's Palm buy could crush Apple = 66 comments

        Is buying an iPad un-American? = 118 comments

        Dear Apple, "agreement" implies agreeing = 41 comments

        Government iPad apps: Army OneSource Services Locator = 0 comments

        How one iPod cost U.S. taxpayers $86.9 million = 16 comments

        Five iPad lessons Apple could teach Amazon to save the Kindle = 23 comments

        No printing from the iPad. None. = 67 comments
      • thank you

        another apple hating blogger revealed.
        banned from zdnet
      • @kenosha7777 have you notice more and more

        of us Apple haters around, .... have you figured out that we are starting to be the majority?

        Have you wondered why?

        The more "Apple Haters" show up, the less market Apple has to gain.

        And the way you see this, is by the number of Android handsets sold. More than Apple in the past three months.

        Geez. when will Apple cult take their polarized glasses off.
      • I hadn't noticed


        More Apple haters in public. What I have noticed is, in the forums anyway, it tends to be the same vocal minority on each side. And yes us folks who post are indeed the vocal minority, we probably represent less than 1% of the traffic to these sites. And we who visit this site probably represent less than 1% of consumers. Sorry to burst anyone's bubble.
      • You guys DO realize . . . .

        @kenosha7777 <br><br>That by posting here, you're actually helping to prop up his numbers (Hits)?<br><br>If that's what you're mad about (him as well as other bloggers here), then shouldn't you fight it by simply not posting?<br><br>I'm actually genuinely curious about what you think you're accomplishing by posting . . . .
      • "As for your "claim" of mindless drones..."

        @James Quinn
        "...You do realize that many an iPhone user does not own a Macintosh and in fact is a PC user"

        Yup. Thats me. I have an iPhone and an 80gb iPod Classic. Love 'em both. When a product is good its good and I dont care who makes it, but I would sell an iMac if you gave one to me.
      • I wouldn't point to handset numbers...

        @Uralbas....especially when android phones are sold 2 for 1. But, I bet you are one of the few people out there who would rather drive an Impala than an LS450. Go ahead, guess which one of those have the larger market share....
      • RE: Should Steve Jobs

        @James Quinn To say the iPhone 4 is selling so well I sure don't see many of them in the wild. In fact I'm starting to see less and less iPhones period. I'm starting to find that when I'm around a group of people of any size and I'm able to see most of their phones I as many or more Android devices as I do iPhones. And as time has gone on its more often more Androids. I'm starting to believe they are making this up about not being able to keep up on production.
      • RE: Should Steve Jobs

        Having driven both, I'm one of those few people who would rather drive an Impala than an LS450. Trying things out is a great way to overcome cultural marketing hype. You can find out all kinds of things, like the time I compared my tax returns under Carter to those under Reagan... guess what happened?
      • James is President of CrAppleholics Anonymous!

        @James Quinn Nothing more to say! :D
    • uh

      @JT82 your's is a creative mind. such originality, such insight. such je ne sais quoi! i don't believe i've ever heard those before. drones, crap, kooliad... top shelf stuff ol' bean. oh... uh... wait... yeah, it's coming to me. yeah, now where did i hear that? got it! the internet! yeah, that's right, let's see now, i believe i've read those very same sentiments thousands and thousands of times! that's it! of course!<br>nonetheless, well done laddy, well done indeed.
    • Right

      @JT82 And despite the fact that "Antennagate" was nowhere nearly as widespread or affected as many users as the Apple Haters have claimed, despite the fact that the poll was taken by a small segment of users and is not exactly scientific sure, let's just go with the fact that the product is a total and complete failure despite a 97% satisfaction rate (based on a 3% return rate indicating that the purchasers were unsatisfied)... The mindless drones here are the ones who accept the FUD without any questioning...
      • RE: Should Steve Jobs

        @athynz you need to take a poll to see if the sun rises every morning? It doesn't matter how many people claim they didn't see it or if they've never been outside to see it. It rises...its a fact. The same with the iPhone antenna like any other antenna. If you touch it you cause receptions problems. No not shield it...TOUCH it.

        You have many folk that wouldn't return the phone for any reason. They just can't live without what the believe is some sort of status symbol. None of the polls take into account how close the people may be to cell towers when they normally use their phones either. Fact is fact. You need to cover the antenna for the phone to work well.
      • RE: Should Steve Jobs

        @athynz Lets also not forget that the poll question wasn't just cracked or broken but also included scratches. So of the 22.56% that answered yes what percentage had more than a scratch or even scratches?

        @storm14k Based on your assumption that many won't return the phone for any reason we could also jump to the conclusion that most Android phone users cry themselves to sleep every night because they truly wanted an iPhone. I don't believe that to be true but it's 100% based on as much fact as your statement.
    • What surface doesn't scratch

      Before the glass back they were complaining about scratches on the metal.<br><br>A bit of perspective required: nothing has changed. Yet the product keeps flying off the shelves;-)
      Richard Flude
      • The difference.

        @Richard Flude
        Scratches on the metal were not causing eventual failure of the metal component. A design where normal wear and tear leads to failure after a short period is a defective design.
        Lester Young
      • True, Lester Young

        It would appear that Richard Flude had decided to stop short with his defense.
        You make a valid point: I have yet to hear of metal or plastic casings cracking due to trapped grains of sand or dirt.
        Tim Cook
      • Umm...get with it.

        @Richard Flude <br>I have an iPhone 3G. Great product. Unless something is shown to me that beats not only the iPhone OS and general form factor as well I will only upgrade to another iPhone.<br><br>But I am very skeptical about the glass back. So what if my metal back iPhone can get scratches on it. If you have a brain you understand that scratches on glass provide for a focal weak point where the glass can be far easier snapped. Its basically how a glass cutter works. Someone with a brain did not develop the iPhone4's glass back. Its one of those "dumb as toast" ideas that you always hear the Apple fanatics complaining about Microsoft with plenty of accolades to Apple for not doing such things. Well, they just did such a thing and yes, Apple too can be as dumb as toast.