This last week has seen a rising number of reports of the back camera lens cracking on the iPhone X, and Apple’s suggestion for repair is to have the whole iPhone unit replaced, at a price of up to $549. Once again quality control and the high cost of a ‘repair’ is threatening Apple’s reputation as a safe and trusted smartphone manufacturer.
Apple CEO Tim Cook (L) and actor, model, and activist for the deaf community Nyle DiMarco (R) take a selfie with students at the California School for the Deaf on May 17, 2018 (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Apple has been contacted to find out if the rate of failure in the iPhone X camera lens is of a similar magnitude to other handsets (such as the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus), and this story will be updated if details are confirmed.
What’s more worrying is the repair cost incurred by a user – or more specifically the replacement cost. Apple has decided (not for the first time) that the answer to a small piece of isolated damage (in this case the camera lens) requires an entire new handset, with costs reaching $549.
While this can be mitigated in part if you have purchased an AppleCare extended warranty in advance, the point is that the iPhone X is not being repaired in the field, but is being exchanged. This forces users into accepting the highest possible cost. As iFixit noted with its teardown, the rear of the iPhone X is incredibly difficult to replace by design:
After lots and lots of heat, we sheathed the spudger and drew our Jimmy. Like the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, The X features a seriously glued rear panel. After all of our careful Jimmying, we’re still stuck: Unlike the iPhone 8’s single piece rear panel, the camera bump overlaps the rear glass, and is meticulously welded to the metal frame beneath.
In this classic hand-stuck-in-cookie-jar situation, we can either cut off our hand (the camera bump) or shatter the cookie jar (the rear glass). Great. We opt for the camera bump-ectomy for an intact glass panel. Those replacing a broken panel won’t have any good options—and they’ll have a heck of a time scraping out the shards of glued-down glass.
Once more we have an issue with an Apple handset that has been quietly building up negative momentum for months without being addressed – look at both the MacBook butterfly keyboard issues and the long-standing battery issues from the iPhone 6 onwards. Once more we have an overpriced repair option that feels more like a profit gathering exercise than an actual physical repair on the device. And once Apple is conspicuously quiet about what is going on.
Apple’s brand values is about harnessing new technology, waiting until it is consumer ready, and then championing the value to the customer. In the case of the iPhone X, and specifically with the ongoing damage to the rear camera lens, Apple has failed to live up to those standards.