All hardware breaks. Linux clusters break. Mercedes Benz diesels break. Entropy, like the speed of light, is an unbreakable law.
The iPhone is an amazing bit of engineering, but it is a device that one sticks in their pocket, carries in a belt-holster, bangs into walls, charges and recharges over and over. It has four radios, touch sensitive glass screen, batteries, antennas, a fairly speedy CPU, a docking port, earphone jack with built in switch, and RAM and ROM memory. It has more memory and a faster processor than my XO-1 laptop from OLPC. It is sophisticated as the day is long, nearly as state of the art as it gets. It therefore has a bunch of points of failure. The amazing part is that it lasts as long and as well as it does. The wonders of solid state design.
My iPhone was purchased on the second day they were available last summer. A couple of weeks ago, the earpiece started acting like it had lost its amplifier. When holding the unit to my ear, the voices were small and very far away sounding. At first I thought I was going deaf in that ear. I soon realized what the problem was: The headset worked fine. The Bluetooth headset worked fine. The speakerphone worked fine. The built in earpeice... not so much.
I reloaded the 1.1.4 operating level to make sure it was utterly clean, and not something bit-flipped someplace in the phone. This made no difference. As soon as I got off a road trip, I called in to Apple, and they sent me a box. I put the phone in the box. There was even a little bag in the box with a picture of an un-bent paper clip pushing in the tray to release the SIM card, and inside the bag a paperclip. The sealed box (box sealing tape included) went into the Fedex box, and two days later a new iPhone was at my house.
All was not as good as it could be though. I tried to to use the the Apple web site to report the problem first. This somewhat confusingly led me to ordering a new headset. When I realized what I had done I called in to 1-800-my-iphone (which I did not find on the web site till after I tripped into accidentally ordering the headset. It warned me that it would charge me 29 USD if I did not return the defective headphones. OK: fair enough.
What arrived was a docking station. I have no idea what happened there. But it had an easy to turn around envelope, so I just sent it right back.
Oddly, the docking station came DHL and the iPhone replacement box came Fedex. Good thing Office Max has both drop boxes in it. This would be less convenient if I did not reside is a big city / swamp.
Another odd thing: I got a second box to send in my iPhone with when I recieved the new iPhone. No idea why. I'll call Apple tomorrow and ask what I am supposed to do with the empty box: Hopefully they are not expecting the new iPhone to be pre-broken.