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Apple iPhone 6 Touch Disease Reports Surging

A report on four Apple Stores found Touch Disease is now accounting for nearly one-quarter of all iPhone service traffic.

William Hook via Flickr

A week ago, we published a story about a problem surfacing with the Apple Inc. (AAPL) iPhone 6 lineup, especially the iPhone 6 Plus. So-called “Touch Disease” was rendering Apple’s first generation of larger smartphone useless and the company had no fix. Now reports say Touch Disease occurrences are surging to the point where it is the single biggest iPhone issue that Apple Stores have to deal with.

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MacInsider analyzed data from four of AAPL’s high-traffic Apple Stores and discovered that Touch Disease is becoming an increasingly growing problem.

Touch Disease Is Spreading

According to MacInsider, between Aug. 23-25, Apple technicians were diagnosing Touch Disease at an alarming pace. In the four stores where the data was collected, 11.7% of iPhone 6 owners who had brought their device in for service were suffering from Touch Disease. A whopping 37.4% of iPhone 6 Plus owners faced a Touch Disease diagnosis. That’s 409 iPhone 6 Plus smartphones in three days at just four Apple Stores. And there are 288 Apple Stores in the U.S. alone.

By the way, Touch Disease means the end of your iPhone; it eventually renders the device unusable and is not repairable.

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When the numbers were tallied, MacInsider found that Touch Disease was accounting for 22% of overall iPhone service traffic in the subject Apple Stores. That makes it the most common iPhone issue being dealt with by AAPL’s Genius Bar.

Apple Has a Growing Problem, No Solution

There is no fix for the problem, which has been traced to a chip that breaks off the iPhone 6 series’ flexible motherboard over time. The only option AAPL has been able to offer is a replacement iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. This isn’t exactly a popular solution because the replacement phones are usually refurbished. In other words, the replacements might be further along their way in suffering from Touch Disease, too.

In fact, the MacInsider post quotes an Apple Store employee who says Touch Disease appears to be widespread among those refurbished replacement units:

“It’s about time that the Apple press got a whiff of the problem,” one Apple Genius said to us. “I’m getting tired of pulling service stock out of the box, and seeing the exact same problem that the customer has on the replacement before I leave backstage.”

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Also, because many iPhone 6 units are out of warranty at this point, AAPL is charging many customers for those replacements.

The data was collected from Apple Stores after the initial story broke. That doesn’t take into account things like iPhones diagnosed by third parties.

Bottom Line

Apple has sold nearly 500 million iPhones in the past two years alone. A big part of that success has been a carefully cultivated image of premium design and high-quality hardware. Touch Disease and the high failure rate of its flagship iPhone 6 Plus after just two years is a big black eye that’s threatening to get worse.

The timing is horrible, too, as AAPL is getting set to unveil its newest iPhone lineup.

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Apple still has no official repair or replacement program in place. With iPhone 6 and especially iPhone 6 Plus failures reaching epidemic levels, Apple needs to do something.

Touch Disease threatens to overshadow the iPhone 7 launch.

This article is by Brad Moon of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he had no position in Apple.

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This article is from InvestorPlace, not the Kiplinger editorial staff.