Those tracking the issue in an Apple support discussion thread and elsewhere say the hairline fractures most often appear on the plastic shell near the corners of the device, particularly near the headphone jack, ringer switch, and volume controls.
The flaws appear regardless of how gently the user takes care of the phone and can increase in number, according to multiple claims, although there are no known reports of existing cracks growing in size. At least a few users, however, report cracks deep enough to create a visible opening, particularly at the headphone jack.
Most of those noticing the issue are owners of the white model. Nonetheless, some owners of black editions also report the issue and suggest that it's not a matter of the material used for the color but a more general problem. The black shell simply hides the cracks better, these users suggest.
Apple's own response to the problem has been mixed. The company doesn't yet list the problem as common and has largely left exchanges to its in-store technicians. While some affected owners claim to have received little trouble and a quick replacement, others describe being rejected due to the cosmetic nature of the cracks, which to date haven't resulted in an outright device failure.
Those contacting their carriers aren't necessarily so fortunate: in one case, an Ottawa, Canada resident has been turned back at retail and on the phone by Canadian iPhone provider Rogers Wireless, which said it would have to technically rule the flaws "customer abuse" and charge the full replacement cost of the phone.
Hairline cracks on iPhone 3G. | Image credits: Nevin Styre, Apple support discussions.
In all circumstances, though, these customers express frustration at a device that in a short space of time is already appearing to break down, even if the faults are purely superficial.
"I donât think it is such a big deal but then again, I just got this phone and paid a fortune for it," says one detailed report. "There should not be any problems with it in week one."