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.