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More iPhone Overheating, Now 3GS, But Problem Old, Continuing

Apple is known for innovative design and great user interfaces. But quality assurance? Not so much. There's a new problem that has been appearing, this time in the latest iPhone 3GS. Overheating has been causing a number of white cases to discolor, even after the short time people have had them. But then, can you call a problem "new" when some number of iPhone users have dealt with it for two years?

I recently mentioned a general problem with many iPhones overheating just a month ago. As I noted then, people have been complaining about significant heat problems for two years, with some reports of iPhones completely locking up, although Apple's response has only been that handsets can get warm when being used or charging.

In the latest problem, iPhone 3GS units with the white back are sometimes turning brown or pink, usually after intense use that generates heat. Engadget first reported this issue on June 26.

In addition to the discoloration, there is the issue of dealing with the generated heat, period, and that can go beyond the white models:

Dozens of users have reported overheating issues, with some iPhone owners unable to pick up the device because the handset gets so hot to the touch. Owners of the white iPhone 3GS say the casing turns pink with the heat.
Some users have said the device has been too hot to put to their ear while making a phone call, and others have said they were worried it could explode. The overheating seems to occur when owners are using the iPhone's mapping software, which uses the handset's built-in GPS technology to pinpoint their location and provide directions.

Some users are apparently complaining that the 3GS model actually loses charge faster than the 3G, even though there was supposed to be an improvement in that area. Some people are even wondering whether this could turn into a recall issue.

Consumer electronics puts a premium on time to market because speed has a direct correlation to the total margin a given product can achieve. But how much sense does it make when you get to market with something that will create ill-will and very possibly need a round-trip ticket? And how long before consumers perceive patterns in the problems as they come to light? Two years of overheating issues with nary a word from Apple doesn't seem like smart business. Or maybe Apple management has become convinced that no matter what they do, people will take it. Who knows? Maybe they're right. But it's a sure thing that if Apple has to handle such problems, its chance managing to sell products with slimmer product margins will start to look pretty tough.

Photo courtesy Apple.

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