Aug 102010

After plundering the fund I’d been building for next year’s iPad model, and adding the birthday check from my in-laws, I finally replaced my iPhone 3G (which was running dog-slow under iOS 4, previous post to the contrary) with a shiny new 32 GB JesusPhone 4.

There was much rejoicing, and I saw that it was good. Yay.

And on the 6th day, Aaron did look upon the iPhone and spake unto me, saying, “Why the hell is your camera lens all scratched up?!”

Oh shit.

Sure enough, the lens was nearly covered with scratches, yet the surrounding glass was unmarked. My heart sunk as I realized my shiny new toy was marred after less than a week, especially considering that the new camera was a big draw for me. I wracked my brain trying to figure out how it had gotten so scratched in so short a time. I never put it in a pocket with anything else. I hadn’t dropped it. I hadn’t rubbed the lens with anything other than soft cloth. While I had put it on flat surfaces with the lens down, I never scraped it across a desktop, and I’m pretty sure those desktops were clean. Regardless, the lens was still a mess.

I started taking a bunch of test pictures to see what effect it had had, and compared them to the couple of pics I had taken immediately after unboxing. Nearly every picture with any kind of direct lighting showed a hazy glow, and all of them were noticeably less sharp. I scoured the web looking for anyone else who had encountered the same problem, but there was very little reported so far. I sent a message to a friend who worked for AppleCare and asked what to do, but I didn’t get anything concrete back from him before we left for Pittsburgh. I was mildly depressed about it all weekend, because I was sure Apple would claim that because I had somehow damaged it, they wouldn’t cover it under AppleCare. I also didn’t want to lie and claim it was damaged out of the box.

The problem is the oh-so-sexy design Apple so proudly touted. On the 3G and 3GS, there is a very slight lip around the camera lens, and the backplate curves up at the corners, so the lens never rests directly against anything when placed on a flat surface. On the 4, the back is perfectly flat, with no lip to prevent lens contact.

Yesterday, after talking more to my Apple friend, I decided to just make an appointment at the store, take it in, and see what happened. I put on my sad panda face, marshaled my arguments as to why it wasn’t really my fault, and anxiously expected to be disappointed.

The tech, Justin, listened to my tale of woe, looked at the pictures, and examined the lens. He was also a bit shocked that it was so scratched up, agreed that the pictures didn’t look right, and declared that he would set me up with a new phone immediately. I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped open as all my prepared arguments evaporated.

While he set up the phone, I checked out his sweet tattoo. He had a band around his upper left forearm made entirely of Rebel Alliance logos in various sizes, resembling a chain of bubbles. I wish I had asked to take a pic of it. To test the camera of course.

When everything was done, he apologized that I had had an issue. I know Apple is probably being extra cuddly with iPhone 4 customers in the wake of Antennagate but, even before this, I’ve never had anything but a good experience with Apple’s support, either at the store or on the phone. Whether you love or hate their products or culture, they sure know how to make their customers happy.

The moral of this story? Get a damn case! This is one phone that absolutely needs one. The free case offered by Apple is all well and good, but they’re all on back order for weeks, depending on the model you choose. I also won a free StealthArmor case (tungsten) from that shipped today, so I’m holding out for that.

Until then, some tips:

  • Don’t put the phone in a pocket with any other object.
  • Set the phone down with the lens up. The front glass is much tougher than the lens cover.
  • Set the phone down on something softer than wood or metal. I’ve been using a blank sticky-note pad.
  • Don’t wipe the lens with rough cloth or paper towels.

  2 Responses to “iPhone 4 Lens Scratches, and Why Apple Support Rocks”

  1. I’m pretty sure that the front glass and the back glass are exactly the same. At least that is what Apple marketing was saying.

  2. They are, but the material covering the camera lens is NOT the same as the front and back glass, otherwise whatever had scratched the lens would have scratched the glass around it, and it didn’t. That tells me it’s a different material.

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