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back to article iPhone 5 is the 'most difficult, scratchy device Foxconn has ever made'

We've heard it before, but this time a Foxconn exec said it straight to the Wall Street Journal: the iPhone 5 is really hard to make, the "most difficult device that Foxconn has ever assembled." Many words have been expended over the complexity of manufacturing the screen in the 5 but it seems as though its scratchiness is …

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FAIL

Poor choice of materials?

Why would Apple design the phone out of such easy to damage materials in the first place? Mobiles have a tendency to be thrown in pockets with scratchy items such as keys, lighters, coins and are often thrown onto tables or taken to the beach. As a result, most touch screen phones now use gorilla glass to try and stop scratches on the screens, as well as thin screen protectors.

Seems like a poor design decision to me. If you have to wrap your phone up in a protective casing, all the effort into designing it thin and light is simply wasted. And as a fashion product, if it looks like shite within a couple of months because of the marks it picks up, once again all that design effort is wasted.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

I tend to look after anything I own that is worth more then £100... To be honest I tend to look after anything I own...

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JDX
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Re: Poor choice of materials?

I took it to mean easy to scratch during assembly, i.e. on the inside... the outside is regular Gorilla (2?) glass isn't it?

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Re: Poor choice of materials?

The back isn't

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Re: Poor choice of materials?

That's one thing Samsung have in their favour. The flexible plastic back covers on the back of the Galaxy S II for example are very tough and don't scratch. Although the side plastic is shiny so is probably more prone to scratches. I've always though Aluminium is a poor choice of material due to its softness. I'm surprised they haven't come up with some high-tech alloy yet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

Maybe they're planning a "repainting" service a few months down the line?

The biggest joke is how people talk about the wonderful design of Apple products and then throw them in a protective case covering the entire phone up apart from the screen.

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Gold badge

Re: Poor choice of materials?

There's plenty of choices. Stainless steel, titanium, magnesium alloy.

But why they persist with metal on a device which is more prone to needing to receive weak radio signals seems odd. The LTE tests of the S3 vs iPhone 5 found the S3 was faster in almost all tests.

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Bronze badge

Re: Poor choice of materials?

"I've always though Aluminium is a poor choice of material due to its softness"

But it's anodised aluminium, which is very hard.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

The primary function of the device is not to make phone calls. The primary function is to be sold.

This true for all phone manufactures. It doesn't hurt them if your phone looks a bit shoddy against a new one, by the time you come to upgrade, as long as it doesn't dent their reputation. If you open your drawer of old phones, you will see that most have taken on scratches, or where colour has been applied to the (usually black) ABS plastic it has worn off in places.

>If you have to wrap your phone up in a protective casing, all the effort into designing it thin and light is simply wasted.

No it isn't. A thin phone+case is still thinner that a fat phone+case.

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LTE tests @Giles

Not sure which tests you saw, but at least CNET showed the iPhone 5 being faster on tests across the US:

http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19512_7-57518405-233/data-speeds-iphone-5-vs-samsung-galaxy-s3-vs-iphone-4s/

iPhone 5 average download: 20.44Mbps

Galaxy S3 average download: 19.34Mbps

iPhone 5 average upload: 9.39Mbps

Galaxy S3 average upload: 9.12Mbps

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Re: Poor choice of materials?

Generally, aluminium and magnesium alloys are easy to cast and/or machine, compared to something harder like steel. It makes them cheap to process. Also, their relatively low density makes them suitable for stiffer parts, since for the same weight a greater volume must be used, giving shapes with a greater cross section.

However, you can use coatings, either 'hard anodising' or titanium nitride (lovely goldie lookin' like you see on some drill bits) or PVD (plasma vapour deposition, a ceramic material condenses on your part) as used on some posh wristwatches and bicycle rims.

Remember that gumpf Microsoft put out some months ago about their Surface being made of VapMag or somesuch? What they actually meant was magnesium cast parts with a PVD coating.

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Re: Poor choice of materials?

But it's anodised aluminium, which is very hard.

Yup, but the anodised layer is prone to being scratched through.

Which is exactly what''s happening and what people are complaining about.

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Re: Poor choice of materials?

or not

Depends on the anodising process used, the chemicals in the bath and how much voltage you stick through it

Or at least thats the line from the company that anodises our stuff when we phone to complain about damaged parts coming back from them

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Gold badge

Re: Poor choice of materials?

Anodising only surface hardens, hardening often results in easier chipping.

Obviously with their obsession with ever reducing dimensions they can't really add a decent level of lacquering at that might add 0.5mm.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

But the build quality of the S3 is pretty crap - the case is too flexible which means that putting it in a pocket and going walking can crack the screen, oh and the plastic bezel cracks and there are problems with the plastic back too.

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Re: LTE tests @Giles

This one?

http://recombu.com/mobile/news/iphone-5-vs-samsung-galaxy-s3-lte-4g-speed-test_M18405.html

Which has been done in the UK. The CNET test was done in the US and their LTE networks may favour the iPhone given it was developed over there. Could be down to a variation in LTE frequency band that makes the iPhone worse in the UK.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

But it's an Apple device and the sheeple will buy it regardless of design defects and poor materials choices

FTFY

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Re: Poor choice of materials?

"Why would Apple design the phone out of such easy to damage materials in the first place?"

An iPhone is an up-market product where fashion and built-in depreciation are very important to Apple to keep phones being replaced frequently, especially as it becomes harder to add marketable new features. Most replaced phones still function just as well as they ever did, so decay of the appearance is helpful, especially as it's not covered by a warranty.

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Meh

Re: Poor choice of materials?

The anodized coating is just that, a coating. While the coating is quite hard the underlying material (aluminum) is still fairly soft.

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JDX
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Re: Poor choice of materials?

The back isn't glass, who cares it it gets scratched?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

> Why would Apple design the phone out of such easy to damage materials in the first place?

Cost? They know the phones only have to last until the iPhone 6 (or 5S), so why not maximize the fanboi profit quotient.

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Re: Poor choice of materials?

"But it's anodised aluminium, which is very hard." But it's anodised aluminium, which is "harder" than aluminium but still has a lower "hardness" than copper. Anodising adds corrosion & wear (rubbing) resistance rather than "hardness" & is generally more often done for appearance (colour) than not. Strangely, anodising gives a higher chance of fatigue strength loss & it's as easy to scratch your bird's name in an anodised block of HE30 as it is in an un anodised block.

"Hard Anodising" OTOH does take Aluminium up to approx 450 - 500 on the Vickers scale and gives better wear resistance (so still not "hard") but adds improved electrical resistance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

re: I tend to look after...:

Yes, and I tend also to look after my friends, but I find the ones that are really needy and fragile sometimes become a bit of a pain in the arse and I do wish they were as resilient as the rest of the human race. Doesn't mean I don't want them as friends, but it does affect whether I regard them as people I can lean on or stop worrying about.

Phones shouldn't need wrapping in cotton wool to stop them turning into shite.

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Mushroom

Re: Poor choice of materials?

Apple phones have always been fragile crap that break as soon as you drop it. It's just another way of exatracting more money from gullible Apple users...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

I waited three weeks for mine, it was in perfect condition so Quality Control must have been upped if this is to be believed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

Still harder to scratch than flexi-plastic shells of some phones.

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rvt

Re: Poor choice of materials?

aluminium oxide is actually a very hard material, if they manage to make that layer thick enough, it should make the surface fairly scratch resistant.

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Re: Poor choice of materials?

Anodising does harden aluminium... but it is still soft relative to a number of other materials. It is a compromise of strength, weight, hardness and finish, but it's a jack of all trades and master of none. I think it looks nicer than plastic, but realisically they need to use titanium for a phone.

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Boffin

Re: Poor choice of materials?

Titanium isn't a much better choice that bare aluminium for scratch resistance. Although the metal itself is fairly hard, like aluminium, it forms a thin layer of surface oxide very quickly and this is rather soft and shows scratches quite easily. I have a titanium digital watch and it's perpetually scratched (though absolutely rock solid and tough). A good plastic is far more practical for surface finish on a phone cover that'll be rattling around in a pocket.

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FAIL

Re: Poor choice of materials?

@AC 17:31

Really not sure what you mean...

If you're dumb and stick your phone in your pocket along with your keys or anything equally hard and pointy, then yes you will, before long, do significant damage to it.

This is the same with iPhones, iPods and other mobiles as well. I've seen iPhones that are 3 years old and largely immaculate, I've also seen iPhone 5s that are already looking worn and knackered. It depends on how you look after them.

I have an S3 and I frequently have it in my back pocket and forget and sit on the sofa - no damage or cracks at all. I have it in a front pocket at all other times, with no nonsense like a screen cover or case and, still, no damage at all. I've dropped it a few times, usually onto carpet or wooden floors from a metre or so and have yet to damage it. Not intending to test the drop onto concrete though...

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Bronze badge

Re: Poor choice of materials?

quite.

I do wonder what folk do with these things.

My iphone4 is over 2 years old. I don't have a case. I don't have a stupid plastic cover thing on it all the time or a screen protector.

It hasn't got a mark on it.

Funny enough, having something that cost me 600 quid means I take care of it and DON'T stick it in the same pocket as my keys or lose change. I don't chuck it on the ground, give it to the dog, use it to bash in nails...

It's not freckin rocket science is it - folk these days seem to not give a shit about looking after things (their cars is another example - 2 year old cars with scrapes all over them, never been washed ever, etc).

Personally it's no skin of my nose if you can't be bothered looking after something - but why it then becomes the manufacturers fault for your laziness escapes me.

And it seems a moot point as most muppets then seem to encase the thing is a piece of plastic crap anyway which constantly makes me wonder why Apple bothers - it's like the illogical 'car bra' to stop your bumper being scratched...

why ?

oh- the car would look bad with a scratched bumper.

er.. yeh but it looks like shit with a stupid car bra on it.

but it won't have any scratches if I take the bra off.

eh ? eh ? I mean WTF ?

cases for phones have always struck me as equally fuckwitted.

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Silver badge

Re: Poor choice of materials?

"And as a fashion product, if it looks like shite within a couple of months ... all that design effort is wasted."

On the contrary, as a fashion product, after a few months, it outlived its usefulness and should be replaced with the newer (and fashionable!) model.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

Aluminium isn't that soft if its anodised. My MBA would have a lot of scratches if this were a problem and it has none. The issue is with the way it's been painted. I think they'll manage to fix it eventually. Wait until then to buy a 5.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor choice of materials?

How do you make plastic look expensive though?

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Silver badge

Re: Poor choice of materials?

I agree.

On that note, it annoys me the way that Apple fans try to spin plastic as "cheap" (and also do the misleading wordplay fallacy of conflating "cheap" as in low cost, with "cheap" as in poor quality) - and perhaps that's the reason why Apple choose metal, they can spin it for marketing, even if it's a poor design choice.

We see this with computers too. The historical usage of plastic as a "cheap" thing surely came from things like furniture - cheap plastic furniture from places like Argos, rather than expensive but rigid good quality furniture made from wood. But that doesn't generalise to saying that plastic is always bad! Plastic is one of the wonders of the modern world, and means we no longer have to make everything out of wood and metal like the iron age. I don't want my computers and smartphones made out of materials like wood and metal. Give me modern age plastic over iron age metal any day.

Samsung phones are "cheap" as in low cost, because they pass on the savings they make to the consumer, rather than either having costly processes, or sucking up the money as profits.

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Silver badge

Re: Poor choice of materials?

Does this mean that people can respond to Apple fans' "cheap plastic" criticisms of other phones, by calling it "cheap metal"? :)

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Joke

Run that by me again...

'The iPhone's new coating material makes it prone to scratches...'

So this time 'holding it wrong' will only scratch it?

That is all.

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Anonymous Coward

Having seen Development Teams and Testing Teams almost come to blows I'd not be surprised if the new QA resulted in riots.

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Silver badge

I dont think they do a lot of testing on that sort of thing.

I think they assume that their products will always be placed on a revered velvet cushioned altar at home.

Off the top of my head -

Nanos that pulled scratches out of the air.

iPod Classics that had that gorgeous chrome back that looked like it had been in a fight with a angle grinder after 24 hours use.

Macbooks that went yellow......

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Anonymous Coward

Far cry

It all sounds like a far cry from, I dunno, just about any model of Nokia which can be totally stripped and reassembled in some backyard repair shop in Lahore with a T6 screwdriver and a stiff bit of plastic. And it will be all but guaranteed to still function afterwards. I think I know which has a higher resale for export value a couple of years down the line. Just sayin'.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Far cry

25 month old iPhone 4 got me £170 at envirophone. 3 month old Lumia 800 from ebay cost me £160.

Apple kit holds its value.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Far cry

>25 month old iPhone 4 got me £170 at envirophone....Apple kit holds its value.

But the iPhone4 average UK TCO was well over £1000 at launch.....(yes you paid less cos your amazing, but almost everyone didn't)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Far cry

"25 month old iPhone 4 got me £170 at envirophone. ,,,,,"

I got £137 for a 27 month old iPhone 3GS on ebay. (my daughters phone).... even taking into account fees and fees, i still ended up with £120

the only good thing about apple products is they hold its value.

Another phone that I got at the same time as the iPhone was my HTC desire and have just sold for £80 . I was paying £2 per month more than I was for the 3GS

Take into account that you can get a sim only month by month contract wit the same minutes/texts/data as we have on our phones for £15 per month on the same network... so for the 27 months I paid for each phone was £675 for the iPhone, minus the £137 I sold it for. minus what the plan would have cost at £405, you could say the iPhone cost me £133 .... where the HTC cost £729, minus the £80 I sold it for, minus what the plan cost £405, it cost me £244

so, the iPhone deprecated by 50% where the HTC Desire deprecated by 74% over 27 months...

that said, a Jaguar XJ deprecates more than a BMW series 1, (approx same rates as HTC desire and iPhone) but at 3 years old, they cost about the same, and I would sooner have the Jag..

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Headmaster

Re: Far cry

I think the word you want is * depreciated * not deprecated .....

I know, I know.... just had to do it

Perhaps a "grammar Nazi's" urges should be deprecated

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Far cry

But is the Apple kit going for export, and if it is how long will that market take to 'catch up' and the bottom to drop out of the old-but-still-functional devices market? I think the point was that if a Nokia takes half an hour of labor to make presentable and an Apple takes a day with a higher skilled worker and a cleaner room, then at some point in the future they will be worth less at source.

Which raises the additional question are Apple being responsible making their phones easy to spoil and difficult to service?

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Thumb Down

Re: Far cry

"But the iPhone4 average UK TCO was well over £1000 at launch.....(yes you paid less cos your amazing, but almost everyone didn't)"

Google "TCO smartphone". You'll find that most smartphones (including iPhones) have a similar TCO according to analysis. iPhones may seem to be premium but as already pointed out, hold their value at the end, which gets taken into the TCO calculation.

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Re: Far cry

"Apple kit holds its value"

Is that a polite way of saying there's always a bigger mug? Don't get me wrong, iPhones look like a perfectly decent mid-range smartphones, just with a fashion premium on the price.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Far cry

I bought the said iPhone for the £500 or so asking price. It was not on contract.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Far cry

It's a way of saying there is second hand market as they are expensive to start with. It applies to their laptops as well as their phones. I imagine I would get a few hundred quid for my 4 year old Macbook Pro, similar models are going for £425 on ebay right now.

I paid around £800-900 for it as it was the older model on clearance. Losing approx £100 a year on a laptop isn't bad going.

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Silver badge

Re: Far cry

It never ceases to amaze me the way that people dig around for contrived ways to argue for Apple. I wish I had these tactics back in the last days of the Amiga.

"That £2000 Amiga 4000 isn't expensive! You have to look at the TCO, and it'll also cost much more second hand when you come to sell it, compared with that £500 486, which'll be worthless in a couple of years!"

Sorry, it's ludicrous. We're talking smartphones, not some kind of financial investment. I don't buy a phone based on what I could sell for most money second hand. If one make of product depreciates less, it's typically because there's less offered by the newer versions. PCs deprecated quickly because they were always getting so much faster - this stopped happening for the Amiga in its last days after Commodore went bust, so for those people buying them second hand, there was no market pressure for the price to drop. Given what little there is new in the iphone 4S and 4SS, sorry, 5, it's not surprising that they keep their value better.

And if TCO really is the most important thing, go get a dirt cheap Nokia dumb phone (which I suspect the OP was more referring to?) Ultra cheap to buy, and you could sell it with not too much money off the price, as a dumb phone is a dumb phone.

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