Like any physical thing, smartphone components degrade over time through wear and tear. That said, it’s pretty worrying if that happens just after a phone’s warranty has gone out, far sooner than their forebears. That is the no man’s land situation that owners of the iPhone 7/7s and iPhone 7/7s Plus are now experiencing in large numbers. Users are reporting either nonfunctional mics or, worse, boot loops that third-party repair shops are tracing to a loose connection pad on the iPhone’s audio chip.
Repair shops are calling it the “loop disease” after 2016’s much-publicized “touch disease” problem that plagued the iPhone 6 generation. Back then, it was traced to the touch controller’s soldering loosening up due to the bending of the phone, which can be traced back to the earlier “bendgate” problems. While that structural issue has since been resolved in the iPhone 6s onwards, this new “loop disease” might still be related to the same problem, depending on who you ask.
London-based Federico Cerva believes the disconnection of the audio chip may be more caused by small drops while Jessa Jones from New York still thinks it’s cuased by repeated bending during normal use. No matter the cause, the results are the same. The pad connecting the audio chip at first causes certain features, like Voice Memo and loud speaker, to become grayed out. When users reboot the phone, however, they discover that they are stuck on the Apple logo ad infinitum.
In this case, the fix is technically easy with the connection just needing to be resoldered. The deeper problem is who will make the repairs. Considering that the models being affected are already out of warranty by now, users have no recourse but to go with unofficial, third-party repair shops. An Apple representative said that the company is already looking into a “very small number of reports”, which could eventually lead to extended warranties covering just this particular case.