Irritated iPhone 6 users sue Apple over 'touch disease' defect

A group of iPhone users claim Apple has refused to fix a defect in its iPhone 6 and 6s phones that causes displays to die, and the frustrated customers took legal action in California this week.

apple logo

The Apple logo hangs from the front of the new Apple Store Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York.

Credit: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Dozens of angry iPhone 6 users are posting complaints on Apple forums, claiming their expensive smartphones have succumbed to "touch disease," a flaw that makes the screens unresponsive and the devices useless. The iPhone owners are particularly upset because Apple will not fix or replace phones that are no longer under warranty without charging additional fees.

The complaints started to appear more than a year ago, but they went mostly unnoticed until iFixit, a site that "tears down" devices to see what makes them tick, interviewed repair technicians who have repeatedly seen the problem. Just days after touch disease — as named by iFixit — made news in the blogosphere, Apple was hit with a related lawsuit, and the attorneys who filed it plan to make it a class action suit.

"Apple has long been aware of the defective iPhones," states the suit, which was filed in federal court in San Jose, Calif. "Yet, notwithstanding its longstanding knowledge of this design defect, Apple routinely has refused to repair the iPhones without charge when the defect manifests."

What is iPhone 6 touch disease?

According to iFixit’s analysis, the problem is an iPhone 6 and 6 Plus design flaw that can result in the failure of a soldered internal connection. When that connection fails, users see a flickering grey bar across the top of their screens, and the displays no longer respond to touch commands. Some users say the problem is intermittent, but others suggest it kills the phone.

Apple won't confirm whether or not touch disease exists, and the company offered no comment to the media. It also appears that newer versions of the iPhone 6s have a different design, and they are not affected by touch disease.

If touch disease exists, Apple should do the right thing

One iPhone user who goes by the screen name Esosnoski wrote on Apple's forum:

"I don't think it was incorrect of me to assume that my $600+ phone would last for more than a year and a few days. I never dropped it, it doesn't have a scratch on it.  Apple didn't sell me a phone that would possibly die in a year, what I mean is, if they had advertised their iPhone 6 Plus as only lasting a year I definitely would've paid for Applecare, however, they did not."

The AppleCare insurance would have extended the user's warranty, which expired after a year.

Another user called Walmark hit exactly the right note:

"Does Apple have OBLIGATION to replace all the iPhone 6+ that are failing due to obvious manufacturing defect immediately after warranty expires? - Legally, no. But in my opinion they should still have the decency to do so, just to show that the customer loyalty is important to them."

Apple has millions and millions of customers who love its products, even though there's evidence that the company's smartphone build quality is slipping. Those customers deserve to be treated with respect.

The lawsuit alleges that Apple violated California's consumer protection law and defrauded its customers, and the plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages. Attorney Joseph Kinney of Southern California law firm McCuneWright filed the suit. If you feel that you're a victim of this apparent customer-service fail, you might consider joining the suit.

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