iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Plagued by ‘Touch Disease’

If you’ve noticed a flickering gray bar at the top of your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus screen, your phone may be falling victim to what’s been dubbed “touch disease,” according to a new report from Engadget.

The report in Engadget explains that a growing number of iPhone 6 and 6 Pluses suffering from touch disease are being sent in for repair each month. The phones all display the same symptoms. A flashing gray bar appears at the top of the screen, and the touchscreen begins to to perform poorly or becomes “frozen.”

As Engadget points out, both iFixIt and Forbes reported that the issue has caused enough problems that several pages on Apple support forums are filled with complaints about it.

Some users have found that applying extra pressure to the touchscreen or slightly twisting or bending their iPhone 6 allows the touchscreen to sometimes work again. Of course these are only temporary fixes, and the touch disease can return, sometimes even worse than it was before. In worst case scenarios, the screen may die altogether.

Tech news site BGR compares the prevalence of touch disease to “Bendgate,” the controversy over the tendency of iPhones to bend or even break while being carried in someone’s pocket. That malady afflicted numerous iPhone 6s in late 2015 before Apple addressed the issue by by replacing damaged phones and using stronger materials in later productions, as Forbes reported at the time.

BGR suggests that touch disease is giving Apple more trouble than the company might want to let on, and even links the new problem back to the same design flaws that caused Bendgate in the first place.

“There’s a new issue affecting plenty of iPhone users, one that Apple is still keeping a tight lid on,” writes Chris Smith for BGR, adding, “Apple doesn’t have a repair plan for the issue, which seems to be widespread and affecting mostly 5.5-inch devices.”

Smith quotes iPad Rehab’s Jessa Jones to provide evidence that touch disease is related to Bendgate. Jones is “a former microbiologist-turned iPad repairwoman,” according to an article on her at Motherboard. She is widely regarded as one of the best small device repair professionals in the world.

From her biology background to her full family life, in many ways Jones seems like an unlikely candidate for the job.

“In between taking care of her four kids as a stay-at-home mother, she spends her days casually recovering priceless data from water-damaged iPads that no one else would ever bother touching, or fixing short circuits that cause the iPad LCD backlight to burn out,” Motherboard reports. “She’s so good that if she can’t fix a device, she doesn’t charge her customers.”

Jones is quoted by Smith in BGR as directly linking the problems with iPhones bending to the touch disease issues.

“Nearly 90 percent of devices with Touch IC Disease are iPhone 6 Pluses,” Jones explains in the BGR article. “And it’s all because of Apple’s design choices.”

The issue comes down to a matter of the types of shields used to protect the logic boards within an iPhone 6.

“In the iPhone 6, instead of using a metal shield to protect the board like on the iPhone 5s, Apple reverted to a sticker shield. The sticker doesn’t protect the chips as good when the board bends and the Touch IC chip is especially susceptible to damage when the phone bends.”

In Jones’ view, this is a fundamental flaw.

“This is a signature failure,” Jones says in the BGR article. “Every phone has one, but this one is a signature failure that got to epic proportions.”

Apple unveiled the iPhone 6 in September of 2015. Many of the phones are now suffering from touch disease. [Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images]

In a recent article for Macworld, Oscar Raymundo echoes Smith’s and Jones’s concerns about Apple having difficulty finding a cure for touch disease.

“What makes ‘Touch Disease’ even trickier is that even though it affects the touchscreen display, replacing those parts won’t solve the issue,” writes Raymundo. “Users who had their touchscreen replaced noticed the flickering grey bar again even on a new display.”

Raymundo also agrees that the problem goes much deeper than the screen itself and probably lies within the logic board. That potentially makes the situation even more hopeless for iPhone 6 users experiencing the problem.

“If your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus is experiencing ‘Touch Disease,’ going to the Apple genius bar will do little good,” writes Raymundo. “Apple’s in-store repair techs aren’t able to make repairs to the logic board.”

[Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

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