The release of any new Apple product is almost sure to bring along with it a new ‘gate’. From ‘Antennagate‘ back when the iPhone 4 was released all the way back in 2010, to more recently with ‘Jellygate‘ alongside the iPad mini 6th generation. But perhaps the most infamous is ‘Bendgate’ from 2014 and the iPhone 6.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were the largest models of iPhone when they were first released in 2014. But also the thinnest. And it seems that this combination of factors led to some owners experiencing bending during relatively casual use. Not just due to people clumsily sitting on their phone that was stored in a back pocket. And enough people experienced the issue for this to become a real problem for Apple. The iPhone 6 shipped in greater quantities than any other iPhone model before it or since. But it seems that ‘Bendgate’ might be making an unwelcome sequel, akin to 2021 and 2020.

The current iPad Mini was the most recent Apple device to be tarred with an internet ‘gate’.

Some users have concerns that the new iPad Air has poorer build quality. That’s according to a report on MacRumors. Users of the new device have taken to platforms such as Reddit to complain of issues related to creakiness and general build quality. There has been speculation that Apple is using lesser quality aluminium or has produced thinner outer shells. At the surface level, it looks like we might be headed towards the second coming of Bendgate. But if we look at the facts, the iPad Air 5th generation is actually heavier than the 4th generation. Now true, that could be down to any number of reasons. Perhaps the M1 chip and its heat sync take up greater volume. Or possibly changes to battery capacity. Alternatively, this could just be a case of a vocal minority.

It’s a conspiracy!

Of course, some users have accused media outlets and popular YouTubers who received early review units of concealing the issues. Citing concerns over impartiality, the accusations suggest that reviewers have chosen not to speak out to avoid losing exclusive early access to future Apple hardware. But this overlooks the facts.

The new Studio Display has received many lukewarm/negative reviews. The Verge scored the device a 6/10 citing concerns about the quality of the camera, pricing and lack of HDR support. And Joanna Stern of the Wall Street Journal was particularly scathing about the camera:

Yet Apple’s camera consistently produced grainy and washed-out images. There was so much missing detail in some of the shots that it reminded me of the camera on my old BlackBerry.

Joanna Stern

With commentary like that about the Studio Display, it’s hard to buy the narrative that reviewers have wilfully concealed issues with the build of the iPad Air. Apple for its part has stated that the camera concerns are due to a software issue with a fix imminent. It would therefore make sense that Apple would provide reviewers with commentary surrounding concerns of poor build quality had they noted this. But no. Reviewers praised the form factor and design of the iPad Air.

So what’s happening here?

It’s quite possible that a sizeable group of customers have been affected by poor built quality. And that’s always disappointing. But taking into account the volume that these devices ship in, it’s hard to draw conclusions surrounding alleged design flaws in the early days of a product release cycle. It tends to be aggrieved customers that are most likely to search for and create forum posts surrounding such concerns at this stage. Many folks impacted are likely to be relatively unfazed and return the device or exchange it.

Time will tell if this new iPad Air is more susceptible to bending, creaking or other problems related to quality control. But right now, a relatively small and imprecise sample size of users reporting issues isn’t enough to qualify this as Bendgate 2.0.


Featured image: Sam Goh via Unsplash

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