Early Reports: Black iPhone 5 is Susceptible to Easy Scratching

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Early iPhone 5 reviews and owner feedback are generating concern that the anodized aluminum back and sides of the new phone, in particular those of the black model, are prone to excessive scratching with only minor use. As summarized by a MacRumors reader poll, nearly 50 percent of early iPhone owners (as of the time of this article) report that their black iPhone 5 was scratched or scuffed out of the box, or became so shortly after first use.

A review of the black iPhone 5 by gadget review site Pocket-lint revealed similar issues:

Ditching the glass back and reducing the thickness of the glass panel on the front has affected the design of the metal band around the edge of the iPhone. It is now chamfered and while that looks pretty, we’ve already noticed that on the black model the edge has started to wear, revealing the shiny silver aluminium metal underneath the “slate” coloured coating and, indeed, we’ve witnessed it on two separate models, ruling out a fluke manufacturing error.

These small scuffs will catch the light and make the phone look visibly worn. We suspect that it won’t be as noticeable on the white model because the metal edging is silver, so that’s worth bearing in mind when you come to order your colour choice.

In a more extreme test, a forum poster at Overclockers UK decided to abuse an in-store demo phone and was able to easily scratch the iPhone 5’s aluminum back and side edge.

iPhone 5 Black Scratching Scuffing

It is possible that Apple has thoroughly tested the new iPhone 5’s design for normal wear and tear and that early reports are outliers. However, it is also possible, considering the relatively poor quality of some of Apple’s recent releases, that this was not anticipated by Apple and will become a major issue for iPhone 5 owners.

A switch from glass to aluminum for the phone’s back was a wise choice from an overall durability standpoint, but it does mean that normal wear and tear will show far more readily than on the iPhone 4 and 4S. Customers concerned about the issue should procure a case as soon as possible, but the solution of “just put it in a case” is not likely to satisfy many users.

The Mac Observer’s review of the iPhone 5 is underway for both black and white models, and we will be sure to let you know if we encounter unusual scratching or scuffing as we put the device through its paces.

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I was a little surprised we didn’t see a liquid metal phone. It’s gotta be coming.

You can’t use glass because it breaks.
You can’t use aluminum because it scratches.

I don’t think there’s a material that Apple could put on a phone that wouldn’t result in launch-day apocalypse hyperbole.


@jfbiii I’m sure that if they used liquid metal someone would try on launch day to see what heat sources caused it to deform. 

“Look, if you hold a high intensity cooking torch 1 inch from the iphone’s liquid metal then in 2 min. the entire back become’s warped beyond repair…fail apple.”


Hold on here.  ” . . .  considering the relative poor quality of some of Apple’s recent releases . . . ” Really? Examples?

Yes, if the iPhone 5 scratches that easily, then we have a problem that Apple must address.  But I can’t think of what you mean by “the relative poor quality of some of Apple’s recents releases.”

Help me out.

Jim Tanous


iOS 6 Maps, Mac OS X Mountain Lion (battery issues), Apple Podcast App, Retina MacBook Pro Screen & GPU issues.

Apple has recently demonstrated a level of quality that is a bit lower than what we’re used to. Some would argue it is inevitable as the company continues to grow; others argue it’s a sign of poor leadership and that “this never would have happened if Steve were alive.” Not so sure about that second sentiment, but the fact remains that many Apple software and hardware products are being released with serious flaws.


Ok, fair enough.  But I think a valid distinction can be drawn between software problems, which are fixed through an update, and hardware issues, which, I think, are more troubling, as they require repair/replacement by the manufacturer.

And of the four examples you gave, only the Retina MacBook Pro appears to be a hardware problem. Although I found many references to the issue through a Google search, I could find no mention of it on the Mac Observer site. Hence my unawareness of the problem.

Still, I have no problem with holding Apple to the highest standards of quality in both hardware and software.  For what we pay to get their products, they should be free of major defects, period.

Lee Dronick

“Apple has recently demonstrated a level of quality that is a bit lower than what we’re used to.”

And trying login to the new MacObserver under iOS crashes Safari. It takes several attemps and I usually have to clear cookies and data inorder to login. Furthermore once I do get logged in I soon get logged out. Also it seems that emails of comments stop about the time I get logged out.

As to the scratching I don’t know if that is just poor design specs, or shortcuts in manufacturing. Whatever it is better get fixed soon, MapGate is bad enough for their reputation.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

This might be a feature rather than a bug. Using your car keys, fingernails, or a stray coin, you can use the back of the phone to keep notes about errors you encounter with Apple Maps.

Pete Wilson

Sadly it appears Apple used Type II (like a MagLite) anodized coating for the aluminum, which I’ve already scratched when it was in my pocket with my flashlight (temporarily) which is Type III anodized and basically won’t scratch. They also used something soft for the stainless steel antenna bands.

I was hoping they would step up to Type III anodized aluminum and black TiN coating on the steel, which would make it nearly unscratchable.


Ok, so the iPhone can be scratched, but. apparently it isn’t as fragile as the Galaxy S 3.



Anodized aluminium is bad choice.  In fact it is very bad choice.  It is even worse choice if aluminium is anodized in black colour.  What is disaster is using it with hard edges!  What tests did Apple do to give thumbs up on black anodized iPhone?  Put IP5 in your pocket with keys and see what happens.

This phone has been living on CAD/CAM and powerpoint presentatios.  It is said that Jobs decided to with glass, because keys scratched his iPhone dummies which had plastic glass.  Maybe Cook and Ivy, should of done the same.  How can you decide on such material when you know it is all over the place all day.  It is in contact with coins, keys in pockets.  It is handled by users every day, all day, and yet they choose to go with such cheap choice.

If you gave this phone to test group of 10 users, chances are that 100% of them after a month of use would probably report of easy scratching, and dents on the edges of aluminium part of case.

Of course they will say “buy case”.  So what’s the point of selling ultra sleek piece of electronic equipment only to have it put in plastic case.  I can have Apple sent my iPhone to see through what wear and tear it has been after one year, WITHOUT usage of any bumpers and plastic cases.

Now of course, you can buy most expensive watch and it will eventually dent.  Anodized aluminium makes it look cheap, as in such case color is worn off.  The second problem with aluminium is that it is pretty soft, especially when compared to metal used in IP4.

This is not a case of making phone of liquid metal and someone using torch on it, this is a case of using a cheap solution where you do not need any excessive force, or abnormal usage condition to have thing look chipped/scratched in a couple of weeks.

But will take a lot of soul-sourching for iPhone user to conclude that Apple has made a sub-standard designed device and that iOS6 maps are in fact unusable.

Hardare and software wise, you could have it running in plastic, so that’s not the issue.


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