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Summary:

In a provocative essay, Ryan Block at gdgt asserts Apple is aware that the glass backing of the iPhone 4 is “another design flaw.” The problem seems to be that the glass back is easily scratched in certain circumstances. Even if true, this is hardly “Antennagate.”

iphone4

In a provocative essay, Ryan Block at gdgt asserts Apple is aware that the glass backing of the iPhone 4 is “another design flaw.” Even if true, this is hardly “Antennagate.”

Although much was made of the iPhone 4 antenna at launch, it turned out to suffer from a technical defect, and a much larger public relations problem. At the same launch, the glass on the iPhone 4 also received a little publicity. Made of aluminosilicate glass, it was described as “20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than plastic” and “comparable in strength to sapphire crystal.”

Not so, says Block, who cites “sources both inside and outside Apple” as confirming “another potential design flaw,” resulting in a “quiet panic” within the company. The issue is supposedly that the glass backing is prone to scratching, cracking, and fracturing, especially when used in conjunction with certain cases, specifically slide-on cases.

According to Block, to prevent another “Antennagate,” Apple temporarily halted sales of almost all third-party cases, and slide-on cases for the iPhone 4 are still “conspicuously absent” from the Apple Store. Further, there may not be a solution to the “design flaw,” and Block suggests that this will be the end of the glass backing for the iPhone.

While it’s difficult to disprove any of those assertions, mostly because they are based on somewhat questionable data, it’s hard to see how the so-called “Glassgate” situation could be as big a problem as the iPhone 4 antenna. First, unlike with the antenna, there haven’t been nearly as many anecdotal reports on the issue, either in the media or in discussions at Apple Support.

While you can still find some discussions on the issue, the number of views and participants are insignificant compared to what happened with the antenna. Apple also hasn’t tried to cover up the issue by removing discussion threads, as was the case with the iPhone 4 antenna. More importantly, unlike the iPhone 4 antenna, the glass backing can easily be replaced should it fail.

That doesn’t mean the glass backing is impervious to harm, just that an alleged design flaw in this area hardly seems comparable to the antenna issue. Nonetheless, for those who own an iPhone 4, or are thinking of buying one, a survival kit is a good way to protect your iPhone 4’s surfaces from scratching.

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  1. What genius at Apple though “hey lets build a phone out of glass!” My Nokia phones are solid and tough. They can be dropped, bumped, and shoved in my pocket without bumper cases. Once again, Apple is all about looks but not function. Compare how study the Nokia N8 is to the glass iPhone.

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    1. Corelle plates are all made of glass, and I have yet so see one break in 35 years, so I suspect it depends on what you do with it. My desk is made of glass, my dining room table is made of glass, and my patio furniture is made of glass. I like glass, and so was the genius at Apple who designed a phone with it.

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  2. @Art Vandelay

    The Nokia N8 looks antiquated when compared with the iPhone 4 besides the ease of use of the iPhone 4 run rings round the Nokia.

    Sorry you owned a lemon…

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  3. “While you can still find some discussions on the issue, the number of views and participants are insignificant compared to what happened with the antenna.”

    Looks like the lack of comments on this piece supports your assertion above.

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  4. Hey! Who is going to take the blame for the scratches and chips in my Damn car Windshield?!? Must be a design flaw, I’ll sue!

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  5. I can’t help remembering the problems Procter & Gamble faced with bad publicity about their “Wash & Go” shampoo causing hair loss. Only much later did it become known that this was a sh*t-slinging campaign from the competitors.

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  6. 1. iPhone 4 has no “technical defect”. The only comparison with other hadsets I can make is with the videos Apple posted in its website – evidence supported by the notes in the manuals of competing handsets. No dropped calls here (Italy) even when with only one bar showing.
    2. glass is harder than plastic. Much harder. Of course it can get scratched, but much less than any plastic. Just don’t put it in the same pocket with your loose diamonds.Yes, it breaks if it falls from high enough. So do plastic telephones.

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  7. Yeah, sure – iPhone 4 is so defective that Apple still can not deal with huge supply shortage…

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  8. I have had my Nokia ‘Dumb” phone slide out of my shirt pocket unto a variety of surfaces, mostly concrete , and it sustained no damage whatever. If I was crazy enoudh to spent several hundred dollars on a “smart’ Phone. I would expect to get the same results. I don’t think that would be th case with the all glass iPhone.

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  9. I have had my Nokia ‘Dumb” phone slide out of my shirt pocket unto a variety of surfaces, mostly concrete , and it sustained no damage whatever. If I was crazy enoudh to spent several hundred dollars on a “smart’ Phone. I would expect to get the same results. I don’t think that would be the case with the all glass iPhone.

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  10. So, no one here addressed the actual “danger” – which was caused by only one mediocre case design.

    The remainder of the dozens of cases in the wild cause no problem at all with the glass back.

    We’re not discussing anything more than a papier-mache imitation of a problem.

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