Apple iPhone rollout marred by ‘bendgate,’ dropped cell service

By Reuters

Sep 24, 2014 09:24 PM EDT

Two new Apple (AAPL.O) products hit speed bumps on Wednesday: iPhone 6 Plus buyers discovered their phones can bend when placed in back pockets, and the company pulled its latest mobile operating system after reports of dropped cellular service.

"Bendgate," as the problem has already been dubbed on social media sites, is a reminder of 2010's "antennagate," when iPhone 4 users reported a design flaw that caused dropped calls.

Apple did not comment on the bending-phone reports. But it did announce that it was investigating reports of an issue with an update of its iOS 8 operating system and in the meantime had pulled the version designated 8.0.1.

The bendable-phone situation might prove particularly troubling for those who wear skinny jeans, according to reports on Facebook and Twitter. The phrase "Your pants are too tight for your phone" has already received hundreds of mentions.

Some say the device, which has a lightweight aluminum shell, is more malleable than expected, but that might fall short of a design flaw, according to analysts.

Overall, evaluators seem flummoxed.

"A 'bendability test' hasn't been part of our breakability testing to date because up until this week we've never seen a phone thin enough to make this a potential issue," said a spokesman at SquareTrade.

SquareTrade, which provides warranties to iPhone users, said it planned more tests later on Wednesday.

Reports on the quirk first surfaced on Unbox Therapy, a gadget-review show on YouTube.

Brandwatch, a company that tracks and analyzes data from social media sites, said only a small number of people tweeted about the "bend" in the days leading up to Sept. 22. But after the release of the YouTube video, which had racked up over 6 million views by midday Wednesday, Twitter mentions of the "bend" had skyrocketed to 75,000.

Tweets are flying about the "bend in your pocket," the challenge of wearing "tight pants," and that the iPhone 6 Plus bends "with bare hands," said Brandwatch spokeswoman Dinah Alobeid.

Another key topic, she said, is a comparison with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phone, which has nearly 4,500 mentions.

Apple spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but at least one rival smartphone maker jumped at the chance to weigh in.

"I would challenge you guys to bend our Passport," John Chen, Blackberry's (BB.TO) chief executive officer, said on Wednesday at an event in Toronto to unveil its newest phone.

On Monday, Apple said it had shipped 10 million units of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus since it began selling the phone on Friday.

Apple stock edged down 89 cents, or 0.87 percent to $101.75 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday.

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