By Alex Thomas Salder, clarkhoward.com
There isn’t much you can do on an iPhone if the touchscreen stops working — besides push the buttons, which doesn’t do much good since every feature and function on the phone responds to your finger swiping or tapping on the screen.
OK, so just don’t break the screen, right?
Not so much.
More and more iPhone 6 users now are reporting problems with their touchscreens, and it’s nothing they did.
Flaw in iPhone technology could render the device useless
According to a report from iFixit, there’s a flaw in the iPhone 6’s chip technology that can render it useless.
Here’s how it works: when a phone is affected by the issue, known as “touch disease,” the screen shows a flickering grey bar at the top — and then the touchscreen becomes unresponsive.
At that point, there’s no way to control or even use the smartphone, since the touch capabilities don’t work.
“Of course, there’s no way to tell exactly how many phones are afflicted with what we’re calling Touch Disease, but every repair tech we spoke to told us that the problem is incredibly common,” said Julia Bluff in the iFixit report.
“This issue is widespread enough that I feel like almost every iPhone 6 or 6 Plus has a touch of it (no pun intended) and are like ticking bombs just waiting to act up,” Jason Villmer, owner of repair shop STS Telecom, told iFixit.
What’s causing the problem?
Simply replacing the touchscreen won’t solve your problem, because the issue is deeper than that.
According to iFixit, the flaw has to do with two controller chips on the logic board inside the device — basically meaning it’s a hardware problem and not something Apple can just update remotely.
Repair specialist Jessa Jones says the problem is that the iPhone 6 models are just too thin and wide, so the design of the body allows the device to flex more than Apple’s previous iPhones. And apparently, that flex point is somewhere around where those controller chips are.
“But the fact remains—compared to earlier iPhone models, the iPhone 6/6+ is kind of a ‘bendy’ phone,” Jones wrote in a blog post.
“Over time, normal daily use of the large, thin phone will eventually create a small crack or separation in one of the balls that underlie either of the [touchscreen control] chips on the board,” Jones wrote. “At first, there may be no defect at all. Later you might notice that the screen is sometimes unresponsive, but it is quick to come back with a hard reset. As the crack deepens into a full separation of the chip/board bond, the periods of no touch function become more frequent. This is exacerbated by any drop.”
How do you fix it?
Repair experts told iFixit that putting pressure on the screen can help the chip “make full contact” with the logic board again — so basically when all the little pieces inside the phone get shifted around, pushing down on the screen can help push them back together.
However, that’s just a temporary fix.
And taking an iPhone infected with touch disease into an Apple store won’t help either, as the company’s own repair people apparently can’t even fix the problem.
According to iFixit, “Apple’s repair Geniuses aren’t equipped to make specialized repairs to the logic board in-house, so they can’t actually fix Touch Disease.”
So apparently, Apple knows about the issue but just tells customers they can’t do anything about it.
In a YouTube video about the problem, repair expert Louis Rossman says, “[Apple doesn’t] tell customers they can get it fixed at an independent service center. They don’t offer repair of it at all. The only option that Apple offers to people who encounter this problem is ‘Would you like to buy a new iPhone?”
So if you start to see grey lines appear on the top of your screen and your phone is still under warranty, you might want to go ahead and take advantage of the warranty to get a new phone.
The alternative option is to take your phone to an electronics repair shop that offers “board level repairs” — which will be cheaper than the cost of a new iPhone. If you do take this route, experts say to make sure that the shop you choose “replaces the chips, and doesn’t just reflow them,” because reflowing won’t fix the entire problem and you’ll just end up right back in the repair shop.