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Documents released related to the iPhone "touch disease" class-action lawsuit that's making its way through the courts suggest that Apple knew the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were far more susceptible to damage from bending than earlier models.
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The problem, which was dubbed "Bendgate," where iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus handsets would bend during normal day-to-day usage was widely reported, but which at the time Apple downplayed. However, recently released court documents show that Apple was well aware of the problem.
According to the court documents, as reported by Motherboard, "Apple's internal testing 'determined that the iPhone 6 was 3.3 times more likely to bend than the iPhone 5s (the model immediately prior to the subject iPhones) and that the iPhone 6 Plus was 7.2 times more likely to bend than the iPhone 5s.'"
"One of the major concerns Apple identified prior to launching the iPhones," Judge Lucy Koh wrote, "was that they were 'likely to bend more easily when compared to previous generations' something that Apple described as 'expected behavior.'"
Despite these internal tests, publicly Apple was bullish, refusing to acknowledge that a problem existed, and going as far as to release the following statement in September 2014:
"Our iPhones are designed, engineered and manufactured to be both beautiful and sturdy. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus feature a precision engineered unibody enclosure constructed from machining a custom grade of 6000 series anodized aluminum, which is tempered for extra strength. They also feature stainless steel and titanium inserts to reinforce high stress locations and use the strongest glass in the smartphone industry. We chose these high-quality materials and construction very carefully for their strength and durability. We also perform rigorous tests throughout the entire development cycle including 3-point bending, pressure point cycling, sit, torsion, and user studies. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus meet or exceed all of our high quality standards to endure everyday, real life use.
"With normal use a bend in iPhone is extremely rare and through our first six days of sale, a total of nine customers have contacted Apple with a bent iPhone 6 Plus. As with any Apple product, if you have questions please contact Apple."
"Touch Disease" is related to "Bendgate" in that stresses on the chassis of the iPhone are transferred to the logic board inside, and this flexion, in turn, causes chips controlling the display's touch input to lift off the board.
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The court documents also show that in May of 2016 - more than six months after the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus - Apple began using epoxy to strengthen this part of the logic board:
"After internal investigation, Apple determined underfill was necessary to resolve the problems caused by the touchscreen defect. As Plaintiffs explain, '[u]nderfill is a bead of epoxy encapsulant that is placed on a circuit chip to reinforce its attachment to the board substrate and to stiffen the surrounding assembly.... Underfill is used to prevent the manifestation of chip defects induced by bending because it reinforces the connections and prevents them from bending away from the substrate.' 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."
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.