Shame On Me: My IPhone's Made Of Glass

Early adoption has never been my thing. It's not my nature to keep ahead of the curve on consumer anticipation and frenzy. An item's relative indispensability within my own life usually takes some time to register. It's typically when I feel left out, jealous, or hindered by my non-possession that I spring for the new device, tech installation or acquisition. And, I tend to wait until the major scary bugs have been worked out and pricing has normalized. At least this is what I tell myself.

Like many people -- and  for mostly good reasons -- I have been drawn into the Apple way of life. While I maintain a dual PC + Mac headspace and am comfortable in both environments, and while around the house there are adjacent products for data, music, TV, and remote management -- Apple prevails. It rules. And, since, despite what most fan boys will tell you, it is not a perfect situation, succumbing to this prevalence is a sickness. MacBooks do not have a long life, no matter how glorious they make your life while they are with you; data rights management, if you really think clearly about it, makes your blood boil; iPods just up and die one by one all the time. It's like pantyhose: disposable beauty.



Speaking of beauty: now we have the iPhone! In all its generations and incarnations, it's just gorgeous. But let's just say it: with so many issues still riddling the iPhone picture, this compulsive aestheticism is crack. 

I'm in the midst of a personal iPhone story that is emblematic. A couple of years ago, despite my happiness with my BlackBerry,  I rounded out my Apple picture and bought the iPhone. In some ways, I considered it a professional obligation. Among other things, I teach digital marketing and media. Since we often focus  on cross-platform strategies, I felt I needed to be able to speak to this platform inside and out -- and the iPhone was the screen of the moment. With what my friend Adam describes as almost a creepy compulsion, we keep acquiring screens and talking about their splendor (but that's another column). I added the screen.

My purchase of the iPhone -- having, true to my consumer type, waited for the 3GS -- was almost an involuntary reflex. I worked around the glitches at first, but they were bad. I have AT&T, and the phone dropped calls, spun on emails that took 3-5 minutes to send in Midtown, and choked on texts. Its automation for spelling, grammar and other smart-helper aspects were pretty much just a pain in the ass. This phone hindered my ability to do business smoothly on my feet in New York City. Sadly, sometimes the easiest way to communicate with someone on the fly was to post to his or her Facebook wall through the iPhone app. This phone is nothing if not app-savvy. The word ludicrous comes to mind. 

Through a sequence of changes, things got better, faster, and more reliable. The AT&T network upped its game a bit; I changed my business email and domain management (to Google Apps -- a symptom of another sickness) to make things move more swiftly at my fingertips.  

Then the iPhone 4 came out. Many a friend waited in line and had this beauty in-hand on day one. I knew myself well enough to know that I would wait. So, while my 3GS slowly died, most notably a death of facial beauty, with its physique marred with scratches and gruesome cracks, I kept watch. There was coverage of a few key bugs: things like syncing issues and flawed proximity sensors. I thought I knew the issues. Silly me.

Then, last Sunday, it finally happened. On a jaunt around Central Park, frolicking in the leaves and shooting photos (on my Canon G9, the object of a more legitimate fandom), I lost my phone for good. After giving it 24 hours for someone to call or email -- who would want a cracked 3GS of yesterday? -- I hustled to the AT&T store Monday morning before my week launched. My plan was to buy another 3GS -- but alas, that was out of stock. Before I knew it, I had a 4 in my purse. Thanks to my upgrade, the pricing was on the lower end of exorbitant.

I planned to add the device to my already extensive Apple Care plan and buy the "bumper" of my choice to protect it within the next few days. I quickly synced to my iTunes back-up, so no data or preferences were lost. Yes, that aspect is truly of this age -- and amazing. Things were humming along.  I figured I would take care of the other details by the end of the week. 

Then I dropped the phone Wednesday night. Not hard, not far -- and only a single time. I reached down blindly to grab it, and, wait for it...  realized that this phone is made of glass. In my hand, I now held a shattered stack of mirrors. Shards of glass were sticking out of three of my fingers, where I'd clutched the phone. I was stunned. And bleeding. 

I was leaving town on Thursday, so skeptically relying on my limited complimentary warranty -- remembering I still had not added Apple Care -- I went into the store in hopes of invoking pity and customer status for the timing and sharing a guffaw over the glass fabrication. You can only imagine the insane conversation that ensued about upgrades, insurance, and of course the glass. Rather than pay full price for a new phone, and because no coverage covers this flaw, I've opted to take the business card under the table of a dude named Manny on the Upper West Side, who apparently has made a business of replacing these glass screens.

Of course, all weekend, I was obsessively researching this issue. Turns out these phones shatter at a rate of something like 80% more than other devices. And again -- they don't just crack, they shatter. For, they are glass. Through various back-door inquiries with industry friends, I'm thinking they may or may not be made of Gorilla Glass, the much-lauded glass for televisions expected to penetrate the market in 2011-2012. Fine for a plasma or LCD, maybe, but a hand-held? People! To alleviate some rage, I also spent a lot of time on another friend's site:, showcasing things like logging trucks with open beds and glass trucks teetering on the road. There, my imagination ran wild with the lunacy of using glass -- Gorilla Glass or otherwise -- on sensitive objects.

What if Playtex decided that its products would look so much more elegant in a woman's purse if made of glass? What if shampoo bottles, typically clutched by soapy hands in porcelain tubs, were made of glass to look more beautiful on the rack? What if dental floss were glassy, to look super-slick next to your teeth? Or nose hair clippers? Come on! These items are dangerous next to skin. Unsafe, sir!

Despite the insanity of what's gone down over the past week, I can't help but blame myself for getting caught up in the hype and not researching the 4 more thoroughly. I've embraced the Apple benefits and elegance where they were clear and somewhat ignored the flaws. The refrain fool me once, twice and three times -- shame on me -- comes to mind. But, with cuts on my hand and plans to slip Manny some cash to fix the glass that Apple should immediately rethink, I'm finding myself a bit more broadly disgusted. Lots of fools in this picture.

7 comments about "Shame On Me: My IPhone's Made Of Glass".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., November 8, 2010 at 1:21 p.m.

    I never could understand the obsession (and it is just that) with things Apple. I can by a top of the line Windows based laptop with a first rate processor for about a grand - the SAME THING from Apple (but in white with a differnt OS) is $2500. Want to try a really great phone that not only has about a billion apps (most free) on a great network? Get a Droid from Verizon. It works GREAT no matter where you are (including NYC) and it doesn't have a glass front. Alas, you won't be able to see Manny anymore, but it should do wonders for your finger cuts. Cheers from Denver! - Catch my weekly New Media Commentary at (we talk about the droid...)

  2. Simon Cohen from Bell Canada, November 8, 2010 at 1:28 p.m.

    Kendall, while I am far from the iPhone 4's biggest fan, it is beyond me why you wouldn't have protected your new purchase immediately. It's not as though the use of glass on the iPhone is new - it's just on the front *and* the back now. You've owned a iPhone before so you know this. I'm really sorry you broke your phone and suffered a personal injury to boot, but it seems disingenuous to fault Apple's material choices when they were responsible for the aesthetic that drew you to the device in the first place. I doubt you find yourself questioning the use of crystal glass in the creation of fine wine goblets - even though these are just as likely to end up in contact with hard surfaces as phones. That said, I *do* find it odd that Apple goes to such lengths to make their products such objects of desire only to create a situation that forces customers to wrap those same objects in an ugly blanket to protect them.

  3. Lanora Mueller from, November 8, 2010 at 1:39 p.m.

    Darn it, Kendall, if you'd only gone to the Apple Store, you could have had your screen replaced on the spot for $99, Apple Care or no Apple Care, no matter what level of hell your iPhone had been through or who was at fault.

    My husband *knelt* on his out-of-warranty 3GS two weeks ago and now enjoys a scratch-free screen.

    I have bounced my iPhone 4 off sidewalk concrete and marble hotel lobby floors with very little damage. I guess I should be glad my reflexes aren't as fast as yours!

  4. Steve Levy from Hype Circle Ad Collective, November 8, 2010 at 5:11 p.m.

    I've been slowly weening myself off of the Apple Koolaid. I switched from a Jailbroke TMO 3GS to a Samsung Galaxy S ($99 w/ plan at Costco -- free in some places) and couldn't be happier. If you are already working in the Googleverse then you should quit wasting time with the iPhone simply for the seamless integration Android has with all the Google Apps. Plus its made of plastic and when dropped generally bounces and certainly won't impale your hand on glass shards. And the screen is bigger and brighter!

    My next step is to trade my 2 year old Macbook in for a Toshiba laptop and switch over to Windows 7. Since I mainly use browser based apps, Chrome, and presentation software I no longer can justify the $1000 premium for the shiny Apple hardware -- especially when I'm upgrading my sales team also.

    And that magic backup feature on iTunes -- you can do that now over the air using Lookout on Android.

  5. Micah Touchet from NewBirth Creative Design Agency, November 8, 2010 at 5:14 p.m.

    @Jonathan Mirow The OS is the main reason people spend the extra money... I just bought a maxed-out iMac for $4,000 today, and was happy about every penny. I've used Windows for years... there's a reason I switched to Mac.

  6. Kendall Allen Rockwell from WIT Strategy, November 8, 2010 at 10:21 p.m.

    Fair enough to a point on the warranty issue. Though, I did not purchase the phone for its shiny front and back. I purchased on a continuum upgrade path, under duress on that particular day in an extreme hurry -- never questioning or really caring at all about the shine. Can't imagine why glass would ever be appropriate for something that needs to be durable and outside the home in all kinds of situations all day long. Not the same as a wine glass or fine goblet.

    To not survive one small fall? And to break so catastrophically? As you say -- the blanket is essentially mandatory. This is a VERY fragile device, much, much more so than its predecessors and peers, statistically and apparently.

    All of this said, I am now back in town and before I see Manny, I will be venturing to the Genius Bar.

    Thank you for all the commentary... a cord of passion this Apple hoopla.


  7. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., November 9, 2010 at 5:23 p.m.

    @Micah Touchet - "There's a reason I switched to Mac" Yes, so you can be incompatible with 95% of the actual computers being used for real business.

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