Apple’s Schiller: iPhone 5 Scratching and Scuffing is “Normal”

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Apple SVP Marketing Phil SchillerApple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller

The easy scratching and scuffing of new iPhone 5s is “normal,” according to an email purportedly sent by Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller to an iPhone 5 customer, 9to5Mac reported early Tuesday. Mr. Schiller’s comments, if authentic, represent Apple’s first publicly-known statement on the issue that has frustrated early iPhone 5 owners.

As iPhone 5s began to reach customers’ hands early last Friday, many reports of easy scratching began to surface, particularly from customers of the black model. The black coating of the anodized aluminum back appears to be highly susceptible to scuffs and scratches, which expose the silver color of the aluminum underneath. The exposed silver easily catches light, and makes the scratches and scuffs even more visible.

The iPhone 5’s aluminum design is a departure from the glass cover of Apple’s previous two generations of iPhone. While the glass was far more susceptible to breakage, its surface was particularly resistant to scratches and scuffs during normal day-to-day use.

iPhone 5 ScratchesImage via Overclockers UK

As a trade-off between structural and cosmetic durability, Apple’s choice of anodized aluminum has become a double-edged sword for many iPhone 5 owners, but Mr. Schiller’s purported response indicates that Apple has no plans to address or correct the issue. From the email obtained by 9to5Mac:

Customer: I love my Black & Slate iPhone 5, but I’ve been seeing some scuffs, scratches and marks throughout the band around the phone along with many others. What should we all do? Any plans to fix this?

Mr. Schiller: Any aluminum product may scratch or chip with use, exposing its natural silver color. That is normal.

Apple’s choice of aluminum not only makes the iPhone 5 more structurally durable and less prone to cracking than the iPhone 4S or 4, as mentioned above, it also helped Apple reduce the weight and thickness of the device, two characteristics that have won much praise from customers and critics alike.

There may have been alternative materials explored by Apple that would have reduced the device’s susceptibility to scratching, but Mr. Schiller’s comments indicate that Apple has no plans to address the issue during this generation of iPhone. iPhone 5 customers who hope to maintain the cosmetic appearance of their device should therefore make a protective case their first purchase after receiving the phone.

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Bad news for those of us still waiting for a preordered iPhone 5 in black :-(
It seems that the highly polished chamfered edges around the black iPhone 5 is the area most likely to lose its black color with normal use. Which leads me to think: Why didn’t Apple just polish them all the way thru the black anodizing and leave a silver chamfer? That might even have looked cool.


They should have just used clear aluminum. Or liquid metal.

Al Goetzfried

I was always under the impression that anodizing actually hardens the aluminum, thereby making it LESS susceptible to scratching.


I plan on scuffing the crap out of my new one, so by the time 2 years has gone by, it will look like a nice Silver one


anodizing does add some hardness to the metal, but it’s an edge and therefore more susceptible to wear.


I’ll probably use a black magic marker on it from time to time, and I expect that will cover it up quite satisfactorily


This amount of whining going on out in the media is just frickin unbelievable!

Apple can’t use glass cause it breaks.
Apple can’t use metal cause it scratches and dents.
Apple can’t use plastic because it “cheap” and “bad for environment”.

I bet if Apple perfected a way to make an iPhone case made out of pure diamond, someone will b!tch that it’s either too expensive, or that if they drop their iPhone on the bathroom tile floor, the diamond unibody will shatter the porcelain tile!!

Apple’s pays a lot of attention to detail, but that doesn’t excuse the user from not taking care of their delicate equipment.

Grow up people!  Things wear down and break.  Jeez.


Putting a protective cover on a phone that arrives (as many have claimed) with scratches pre installed might be a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

other side

Give Apple credit.  They finally outdid the “you’re holding it wrong” moment.

This is a cop-out worthy of Microsoft.

Lee Dronick

I read reports that some iPhones were found to have scratches when the purchaser unbxed them, before use. Now that may or may not be true, just because something is reported on the internet does not de facto make it fact. However, if true there may be something out of joint in the manufacturing and packaging process. Perhaps the anodizing process was not done according to specs. Shortcuts may have ben taken in order to get product out of the door in a timely manner. Or the anodizing specs were as high as they should have been. Remember the easily scratched iPods of a few years ago?


I feel Apple is changing: the company that was long obsessed with details and perfections. In contrast, now their iconic product can easily be damaged, often comes pre-stretched which is “normal”.

Normal? I do not think so!  I could hardly image this was happening back during the good, old Jobs era.

But this is getting to be a different Apple…

Lee Dronick

Bob there was an easily scratched iPod back in the Jobs era.

I do not yet know that “the black iPhone can easily be scratche"d with the implication that all of them are susceptible. It may indeed be the case, or it may just be a production run or two, time will tell and the device has only been on the street for a few days.


I’ll confess that I got a cheap bumper case & screen protector for my iPhone 5 at the same time I got the phone.

While it would be nice to not need a case or screen protector, I’d rather shell out for them than not. Just in case.

Apple might have thought it through a little more and though, hmmm how are our real life ordinary peeps on the street going to carry their iPhones ?
And then designed the case to better survive the slings & arrows of the handbags & pockets of ordinary folk.

Lee Dronick

Furbies is the bumper case made for the iPhone 5? If not I am guessing that the dimensions are close enough for one of the rubber stretch iPhone 4S cases.

Also did you get the black iPhone?

I removed the screen protector on my iPhone because I didn’t like the feel of it.


My “4” went in a case the day it was purchased. It has been taken out a couple of times for cleaning. When my “5” arrives it will go right into a case and stay. Even at that some wear is expected. I would not accept a marked phone out of the box. I am picking mine up at the store and there will be time to examine it before signing off.


To me, the only screen protector worth a damn is by Realook.  Once you put it on, you can’t even tell it’s there.  None of that ‘orange peel’ texture at all.

I’ll probably get one that protects the screen and the back then get a bumper case for the corners and edges.  Sucks though because I really like the look of the black one.  I just don’t want it to look like garbage within a week of using it.

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