Back in October, Ryan Block of GDGT noted that slide-on iPhone cases could sometimes cause iPhone 4's to crack when tiny debris became lodged between the case and the rear of the device, which is made out of glass. Citing sources within Apple, Block explained that Apple was well aware of the "potential design flaw" and that a team of Apple engineers were working dilligently to accurately gauge the seriousness and potential impact of the problem.
Whether it was overblown or not, the fiasco that was antennagate was a public relations nightmare for Apple that ultimately forced Steve Jobs to reluctantly get up on stage this past Summer and announce that all iPhone 4 owners would be eligible for free Bumper cases. With that ordeal now firmly behind us, the last thing Apple wants is yet another controversy to envelop its most profitable device.
So looking to prevent another iPhone controversy, Block wrote that Apple quickly moved to block the sale of all third-party slide on iPhone cases from its stores. Moreover, Apple reportedly set up a lab for iPhone engineers to help them determine the full extent of what may or may not be a serious problem.
Citing an anonymous industry source, Cult of Mac is now reporting that Apple has temporarily suspended the sale of iPhone 4 slide-on cases at all of its retail stores in an effort to prevent another public relations nightmare.
Naturally, case makers affected by the ban are extremely concerned not only because Apple retail stores provide unparalleled visiblity for their products, but also because the lucrative holiday shopping season is just weeks away.
At least one manufacturer has hundreds of thousands of battery pack cases that have been suspended by Apple’s stores, despite being certified by Apple’s “Made for iPhone” program. “Glassgate is a real problem,” said the source. “Apple is not approving slide-on cases right now for its stores.”
According to COM, Apple is currently testing each iPhone slide-on case at a secret testing facility in order to determine which cases, if any, will return to Apple's nationwide retail stores. Again, even cases certified under the "Made for iPhone" program are being subjected to a thorough review.
And while Apple is maintaining the utmost vigilance, case makers are anxiously waiting to see how this ordeal pans out. With some case makers investing approximately $250,000 to develop molds alone, Apple's on-the-fly review is a serious matter for many companies, writes Leander Kahney for Cult Of Mac.
Some companies, however, are perplexed by Apple's actions and aren't aware of any problems at all.
Tim Hickman, an iPod/iPhone accessory veteran and CEO of Hard Candy Cases, said there is no issue with trapped dirt — Glassgate is a perception problem, not a real problem.
“I’ve shipped 22,000 units and not heard a single complaint,” he said. “If there was a problem, we would have heard about it by now. I’m very suspect that there’s a real issue there."
But for a company as concerned with its public image as Apple, taking unnecessary risks simply isn't part of the equation , especially in light of antennagate and the now dead-on-arrival white iPhone 4.