More iPhone 5 problems: scuffed out of the box

iFixit

iFixit

(MoneyWatch) Apple's (AAPL) release of a new iPhone model has become a (mostly) annual ritual. Now it is time for the follow-up ritual: the inevitable complaints about perceived flaws in the product. The iPhone 5 has been no exception, with the widespread criticism of Apple's Maps app, which replaced Google Maps on the latest version of the phone.

Now come reports that the iPhone 5 scratches and scuffs more easily than previous models. In fact, some customers have found scuffs on their new phones when they took them out of the box. If the number is as significant as one online poll suggests, Apple might have to find some way to satisfy customers, the way it did with the antenna and signal loss issues of the iPhone 4.

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There have been multiple complaints appearing online that the iPhone 5 case easily scratches and scuffs, leaving marks on otherwise new phones. DIY repair site iFixit, which does gadget teardowns to see what is inside, did a demonstration video, showing how easy it is to mar an iPhone 5 compared with the iPhone 4S:

Although you're unlikely to give a 2-year-old permission to smack a smartphone with a set of keys, it shows that the glass-encased 4s is considerably more resilient to the damage that inevitably happens over time.

It seems that some users don't even have to wait, however. Many purchasers have complained that their new iPhones were already scuffed in the box before being used, including three staff members at the AllThingsD blog.

The number of people affected may be significant. MacRumors ran an online poll to see what percentage of iPhone 5 owners had case problems. Although not necessarily statistically representative, out of 1631 responses, more than a third said that their phones were scuffed right out of the box. Another 10 percent reported scuffing or scratching shortly after starting to use it.

Apple senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller has reportedly said, according to a 9to5 Mac blog report, that such damage is normal for products made of aluminum, which is far more malleable and prone to damage than stainless steel. (Or, apparently, the Corning Gorilla Glass that covered the front and back of the iPhone 4S.)

Aluminum also has advantages -- as 9to5 Mac notes, an aluminum case is much more likely to stand up to damage if dropped. Where glass could crack, aluminum might just sport a dent. Then again, stainless steel might well do better than aluminum. In the case of f the iPhone 4's antenna problems, Apple gave away cases that solved the problem of users' fingers interfering with reception. Well see if the company eventually offers a fix for scuffgate.

  • Erik Sherman On Twitter»

    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.

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