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Ranking the biggest iPhone ‘scandals’ of all time

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 8:51PM EST
iPhone Antennagate Mapsgate Bendgate

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Although there’s been a lot of coverage this week on whether or not the iPhone 6 Plus bends too much, we should recall that this isn’t the first time Apple has been hit with a “scandal” after the launch of a new flagship device. In fact, the last three non-“S” iterations of the iPhone — the iPhone 4, the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6 — all drew scrutiny for flaws that generated a firestorm of media attention.

The key thing with all these “scandals,” though, is that they didn’t really have a lasting impact on Apple’s fortunes. In fact, while the “Bendgate” saga is still ongoing, we bet it will end with a whimper just as the previous ones have. Apple will go on to sell record iPhones and post record profits, Android fans will stop mocking Apple and start remembering how depressed they are that they still have to wait months to get Android L on their devices, and Apple bloggers will stop their ridiculous whining about how everyone’s JUST BEING SO MEAN and go back to snickering about every little flaw they find in Android and Windows.

Oh, and Gene Munster will predict an iTV.

But although the iPhone’s assorted scandals certainly won’t damage the iPhone brand, that doesn’t mean some of them aren’t genuine problems that Apple has had to address. Below, we’ve ranked the four biggest such scandals and assessed how significant they really were and what Apple did to address them.

No. 4: I-Got-A-Free-U2-Album-Gate

Of all the scandals that have accompanied new iPhone releases, this is the one I find the most baffling. In case you’ve already forgotten, this controversy started earlier this month when Apple decided to pay $100 million in royalty fees and marketing expenses in exchange for U2’s latest album, which it then gave away for free to all of its customers. Some people got annoyed with this, which is fair and which is why Apple decided to give them a simple way to delete the album from their iTunes accounts.

Even though deleting the U2 album from your iTunes library literally wasted seconds of your life, that didn’t stop Apple from being bombarded by a ridiculous amount of whining, highlighted by an utterly absurd editorial over at Wired that moaned about how Apple decided to “anoint an otherwise inconsequential cultural artifact as worthy of bandwidth, storage space, and mental overhead on behalf of every single iTunes user is tantamount to Apple picking the music for the devices it sells.”

Boo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! Apple is oppressing me with unwanted Dad Rock! Get over it, already.

No. 3: Bend-gazi

Bendgate — or as we prefer to called it, “Bend-gazi” — is still unfolding. The trouble started over the weekend when some iPhone 6 Plus owners reported that their new devices were bending after they sat down with their devices in their front pockets. This led popular YouTuber Unbox Therapy to make a “bend test” video of the 6 Plus that found the device was seemingly easier to bend out of shape than the Galaxy Note 3 or the smaller iPhone 6.

Although some have dismissed Unbox Therapy’s video for flawed methodology, a followup video released by uBreakiFixCo clamped both the iPhone 6 Plus and the Galaxy Note 3 into a 4 point bend fixture and then applied up to 100 pounds of force to each of the phones — with similar results.

Apple, for its part, is strongly defending the iPhone 6 Plus’s design and it claims it’s only received a total of nine complaints about bent models so far. While Bend-gazi could turn into a bigger problem for Apple in the coming weeks if it turns out the 6 Plus really can be bent easily with regular use, for now this kerfuffle still ranks below our top two iPhone controversies.

No. 2: Antennagate

This one is notable because it happened during Steve Jobs’s tenure as Apple’s CEO — you know, back when Apple was supposedly a perfect magical unicorn flower that never made mistakes.

Basically, the scandal boiled down to this: If you held the iPhone 4 a certain way, it was prone to dropping your calls. This was certainly a significant engineering flaw on Apple’s part, although for a long time the company stubbornly insisted at first that “the iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the best we have ever shipped” and that “our testing shows that iPhone 4’s overall antenna performance is better than iPhone 3GS.”

Apple solved this problem by offering a free rubber bumper case to iPhone 4 owners, which fixed the issues created by the iPhone 4’s antenna placement.

No. 1: Apple Maps

While the previous three controversies could be written off as having only impacted a minority of iPhone users, this one couldn’t. When it first came out alongside the iPhone 5 in 2012, Apple Maps was a hideous mess that would frequently deliver faulty directions or make ridiculous recommendations for nearby points of interest.

“Put plainly, Apple’s Maps app just isn’t smart,” BGR’s own Zach Epstein wrote at the time. “A search performed just a few days ago for a restaurant I was standing no more than 100 feet away from yielded a result in Kansas. I was in New Jersey at the time. While I’m sure Kansas has terrific Chinese food, Google Maps would have known that serving a result 1,100 miles away probably isn’t as smart as serving a result 100 feet away.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook issued a formal apology on behalf of the company for Apple Maps’ sheer terribleness and recommended that users download other mapping apps from the App Store instead. When Google finally released its iOS 6 version of Google Maps to App Store months later, it was received with “accolades and joy” from iPhone users and reportedly left Apple executives “seething” at the positive reaction.

Oh, and for good measure, the Apple Maps debacle cost former iOS boss Scott Forstall his job, which paved the way for Jony Ive to take over iOS software design starting with iOS 7. See? Even the worst iPhone scandal has some positive benefits.

Brad Reed
Brad Reed Staff Writer

Brad Reed has written about technology for over eight years at and Network World. Prior to that, he wrote freelance stories for political publications such as AlterNet and the American Prospect. He has a Master's Degree in Business and Economics Journalism from Boston University.