Apple to repair iPhones with faulty power buttons

For several months now, my wife’s iPhone 5 has had an annoying problem: Its power button doesn’t work. It turns out, she’s not the only one experiencing the same bug.

A quick Google search turns up hundreds of posts on discussion boards of people claiming to have the same problem and even a video explaining how to work around the problem.

Apple finally is addressing the flaw, announcing on Friday a replacement program for faulty devices. All iPhone 5 devices manufactured before April 2013 that have the problem are eligible for the program. Note, though, that the company is offering to replace the problem button, not the phones themselves, which means you’ll have to live without your phones for a week or so while it’s being repaired.

On its Web site, Apple has included a tool that allows users to enter the serial number of their phone to see it if qualifies for the repair program. To have their phones repaired, users can take them to an Apple retail store or authorized service provider or mail it to the nearest Apple repair center.

Apple is also offering to refund users who have already paid to have their power button replaced. The program is good for up to two years after the original purchase date of the phone.

The company’s replacement program follows a constant clamor on online messages boards about the issue and under the threat of a possible class-action suit. Apple’s own discussion boards include hundreds of posts from users having the same problem. You’ll find even more posts on Apple-focused news sites. Many users said they had the same experience as my wife: The power button worked fine for a long time, then suddenly ceased functioning.

The problem is so well known that the UK version of Macworld magazine posted a video on YouTube explaining how iPhone owners can take advantage of some of the device’s accessibility settings, intended to help those with disabilities better use the phone, to work around the problem. You’ll find another video on YouTube showing how you can repair the problem yourself.

Some users of Apple’s older iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s complained of a similar problem with those devices and at least two class-action suits were filed against Apple on those users’ behalf last year. One of those suits was dismissed by a judge last summer on a technicality.

Although Apple has a reputation for building high-quality devices, numerous bugs have cropped up over the years. There was the infamous antenna problem with the iPhone 4, for example. That phone also had a problem with its camera system that would intermittently bar users from taking pictures or making video calls with the front camera.

More recently, some iPhones and iPads were plagued with the “white screen of death” problem that periodically and inexplicably forced them to reboot. Apple solved that problem earlier this year with an update to its iOS software.

Photo of Apple CEO Tim Cook introducing the iPhone 5 in San Francisco in 2012 by Gary Reyes, Mercury News Staff Photographer

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (251 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.