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Thursday, August 09, 2007, 07:30 am PT (10:30 am ET)

Apple addressing dead spots on iPhone touchscreens

A small number of iPhone users are receiving help from Apple after reporting that their handsets have permanently lost responsiveness to touch input across portions of the screen.

Customers posting to Apple's support forums (1, 2, 3) note the issue occurs without warning and usually affects a half-inch strip of the screen that spans the width of the device when held vertically.

Members of the AppleInsider and MacRumors forums have also spawned threads on the matter. They explain that the dead strips usually appear a half-inch from the top or bottom of the iPhone's display, often disabling access to critical controls or shifting the touch input to the wrong region.

"The bottom of my screen lost sensitivity after only about 20 days of use," explained one user seeking help via Apple's support forums. "First the very bottom of the screen went out so I could not hit the space-bar on the keyboard, or change to the number/character screen. Then it got worse a few days later, now I cannot hit any of the main function buttons."

The problem appears to be irreparable via software or resets. Applying the 1.0.1 update doesn't remedy the issue, according to reports, and neither does resetting or restoring the phone to factory condition. Cleaning the phone using Apple's recommended water-only method or a specialized cleaner likewise produces no practical results. In some cases, touch functionality has been briefly restored for users only to drop out again a short while later.

Most known instances have required direct replacements from Apple, whose technical support agents have commented to customers that they are "very familiar" with the touchscreen failures. While the company has yet to publicly acknowledge the issue, it's taking a proactive role in replacing the defective units with few if any questions asked. In some cases, Apple support agents are have even bypassed their usual protocol for replacements.

One customer who had been voicing complaints on the Apple support forums was surprised to find the company was quietly monitoring his activity.

"Today I am in awe of Apple Support," he wrote. "This may not be true for everyone, but [I] got an unsolicited call at my office from Apple Support on this issue and they were helpful and we put together a return on the phone. "

Other affected owners have taken their iPhones to local Apple stores, where after a brief inspection, Apple Store Geniuses have routinely recommended that the handsets be sent into Apple for a 3-day repair. Apple offers customers a $29 iPhone rental in the meantime, though one customer speaking directly with AppleInsider observed that he successfully negotiated a waiver of the fee during his repair process.

The unresponsive screens represent the second known hardware anomaly affecting the Apple handset since its release in late June, with the other being a disproportionately high number of AC adapter failures that prevented some of the devices from charging through their external power bricks.