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.
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.