Sep 26, 2014

    Update blunder, 'bendgate' hit Apple


    EVEN as some owners of Apple's new supersized iPhone 6 Plus discovered a hidden "feature" on their handsets - bending - another headache has hit Apple users.

    A software update Apple sent out on Wednesday for its iOS 8 mobile operating system did the opposite of what the company intended, disabling mobile-phone service on untold numbers of iPhones, among other problems, said The New York Times.

    Twitter and tech-news sites quickly overflowed with reports of people who encountered problems after downloading and installing the update, iOS 8.0.1, which was intended to fix various bugs in the operating system for Apple's mobile devices. The firm responded by withdrawing the update.

    This is not the first time a software update from Apple has caused, rather than fixed, problems on devices. But it appears to be one of the first times the company has pulled such an update.

    "We are actively investigating these reports and will provide information as quickly as we can," Apple said in a statement. "In the meantime, we have pulled back the iOS 8.0.1 update."

    Yesterday, Apple said it would release iOS 8.0.2 in the next few days to fix the issue. In the meantime, it offered step-by-step instructions on its website to reinstall iOS 8 using iTunes, reported Reuters.

    The problem with the update is one of the few blemishes on an otherwise hugely successful introduction of products by Apple. The company sold 10 million of the latest iPhones last weekend, making them huge hits. The products remain in short supply in stores.

    The problem appeared to affect mainly the latest iPhones, the 6 and 6 Plus, and not older iOS devices.

    Users on Twitter reported that the update also disabled the Touch ID capability on their devices, which lets people unlock their phones with fingerprints.

    Apple's iOS 8 also causes apps, including Facebook and Dropbox, to crash about 3.3 per cent of the time, or 67 per cent more than last year's version, according to a report by Crittercism, an analytics firm.

    A possible reason for this is that the software includes more than 4,000 new functions and changes, and developers are struggling to adapt, said Andrew Levy, Crittercism's chief executive.

    "It just goes to show how hard it is to test everything before it's sent out into the wild," Mr Levy was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

    Meanwhile, complaints streamed in about the larger of the two iPhones launched last Friday - the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus - bending permanently after being kept in owners' pockets for long periods.

    The reports appeared on tech site MacRumors, after which more people began posting photos of their bent phones on Twitter with the hashtag #bendgate.

    A member of MacRumors, hanzoh, said his phone became slightly curved after being in his front pants pocket for 18 hours. He was sitting down for most of that time, as he drove for eight hours and attended a wedding dinner.

    A vlogger, Unbox Therapy's Lewis Hilsenteger, posted a video of himself bending the 7.1mm-thick iPhone 6 Plus with his bare hands after considerable effort.

    MacRumors said the smaller 4.7-inch iPhone 6, which is 6.9mm thick, appears to be more durable and does not appear to bend as much as its larger sibling.

    The new iPhones have an anodised aluminium frame, and aluminium is a soft metal that is durable, but can be bent.

    Previous iterations of the iPhone - such as the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 - had bending complaints as well, The Guardian reported.

    The issue, it seems, lies in the iPhones' slimness, based on conjecture by experts.

    "Previous iPhones were thicker and not as long," Jeremy Irons, a design engineer at Creative Engineering, told tech blog Gizmodo.

    "In material bending, larger cross-sectional areas (thickness x width) and shorter lengths make things stronger. You can't easily bend a cube."

    But he said "the opposite makes things very easy to bend".

    "Paper is easily folded. The increased length and decreased thickness contribute to the weakness of the new iPhone. Strength is proportionally related to length, but strength is affected much more by changes in thickness."

    Still, Mr Irons cautioned that the images of bent iPhones might "be only from extreme cases, and not an actual defect in the product".