One of the so-called “geniuses” at my local Apple Store told me that the iPhone’s home button, which was so problematic on the iPhone 4 is now a serviceable part on the iPhone 5. Apple apparently identified the root causes of that problem and accounted for them in the design and manufacturing of its current model. The new home button shouldn’t become unresponsive over time as its predecessor so frequently did — but if it does, Apple can repair the button itself rather than replacing the entire unit, as it used to do.
It’s been almost a year since the iPhone 5 was introduced, so why should I care? Well, I had to bring my own unit into the Apple Store for repair recently, which is when I learned about this incremental bit of hardware progress. Thankfully, my iPhone 5’s home button has been working without a hitch, but sadly the same can’t be said of its power button. That piece recently started losing responsiveness, just like the iPhone 4’s home button used to, often requiring two or three hard presses to turn the unit on or off. For me, just one person, that’s frustrating. But from anecdotal evidence, lots of folks with iPhone 5s of similar vintage have been experiencing the same troubles, which leads me to believe this is a common hardware defect.
Apple’s solution? Well, unfortunately the iPhone 5’s power button is not a serviceable part, so the entire unit had to be replaced. Apple did this for me under warranty, thankfully, so I can’t complain too much about getting a brand new phone for free. But if I can gently offer a little advice to our friends in Cupertino: someone wise once said, “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been.”
I’m not sure if replacing just the button is the most efficient way to fix it. Which is more efficient: pay a repair tech in North America $75/hour on a one-at-a-time basis to fix it. Or send it back to China and have a tech there fix it (at let’s face it, a much lower wage) in a large lot with all the other phones with broken buttons?
I took mine in to the genius and he said that the fact that my power button was working 30% of the time meant they couldn’t do anything for me. It had to be completely dead before they would help me. I’m going to hope for a different genius this week when I go in again.
This kind of thing (to me, IMHO, yada) belies Apple’s bluster about their AGONIZING over the design of their products. Good design of a piece of ART need NOT take into account usage; it is likely to sit and look pretty. But good design of a functional device ABSOLUTELY needs to take usage into account. I simply do not believe that Apple’s designs–Home button (failure, difficult to repair), Power button (failure, difficult to repair), iPhone 4 GSM antenna (“death grip”, still sold to this day), back glass (shattering, easy to repair), polycarbonate (shattering, difficult to repair), front glass (shattering, difficult to repair on iPhone 4/S)–do not reflect that level of agonizingly “perfect” industrial design. The iPhone 4 Home button and antenna both were designs that should never have made it to market. But the fact that Apple did not feel the need to drop the iPhone 4 and substitute a “new” iPhone 4 based on the iPhone 4S antenna design, or modify the Home button design in the 4S (ala the 5) says everything that needs to be said about their “agony”…it simply didn’t happen. The bottom-line won out, not the “pursuit of perfection”.
What puzzles me more is that Apple could LEGITIMATELY use repairability and superior design as an “innovative” advantage. They attempt to, via their marketing message. However, as I stated, the existence of such foolish design decisions detracts from the truthfulness of that message. And it isn’t as though this design stupidity is new; it has been something the Apple consumer has struggled with for decades: Retina MacBook screen issues, too little RAM in the first iPad/Mac, first gen DisplayPort lacking digital audio, NVIDIA graphics problems, MacBook thermal paste problems, MacBook shell cracking, PowerMac G5 water cooling issues, “wind tunnel” cooling noise, etc etc etc.
Apple needs to get serious about this, and needs to walk the walk if they’re going to talk the talk. iFixit’s charges of lack of repairability would fall upon deaf ears if Apple’s products truly rarely needed to be repaired due to design issues, yet that isn’t the case. AppleCare has become tantamount to a “tax”, a hedge against poor design. In coming months/years, Apple’s ability to avoid such mistakes and extend their designs (water-resistance that works, unlike Samsung) could be what keeps them at the top of the heap…but at this point, I know of too many people who have been bedeviled by design flaws (Home/Power buttons that inexplicably fail at 12-14 months) and no longer trust Apple’s marketing message, meaning it has become no more than mere “hype”.
I’m glad to have come across this page, as I see that many other customers have the same issue.
My solution? Get a replacement before the one year warranty expires, and immediately sell the new phone to buy something different. -If your phone is under contract with a service provider, bite the bullet and buy it out so you can sell it – this is the only way to avoid risking a very expensive repair (or total replacement) in the not-so distant future…
Shame on Apple – this ‘power button’ issue plagued the iPhone 4 models as well, and clearly they made no effort to fix it. This leads many consumers to believe that Apple purposely built the iPhone 4 & 5 with structured obsolescence in mind, so that they can boost their revenue at the expense of their loyal customers… Its disgusting.
Since money talks, and since Apple does not offer customers a fair deal with this issue, the only way Apple will fix the problem in the future is if loyal Apple users go elsewhere.
-Given how Apple refuses to give a fair deal to loyal iPhone 4 and 5 users who have phones are more than a year old, its time to send this backward corporation a message!
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