The iPhone’s touchscreen interface is revolutionary, sexy and smart, poised to change the mobile handset industry as we know it. That statement is of course hinged on the assumption that the touchscreen interface works. Mine, sadly, does not, turning my sexy smart breakthrough of an ear-computer into nothing more than a sleek, $600 doorstop. I am of course exaggerating a smidgen, but the issue I had with my iPhone was enough to warrant a trip to the local Genius Bar and a crowbar to pry the device out of my hand and into a shipping box for servicing.

Life with the iPhone was chugging along smoothly until a few weeks ago when I noticed a small area of the touchscreen was not functioning as advertised. The problem flew under the radar for the most part, but always reared its head when using features such as the phone keypad. Dialing anything with the numbers, 6, 5 and 4 turned into one of the most frustrating experiences: hitting the area of the screen where 6 was located would register a 3 or a 9 — the two numbers located above and below what I actually wanted. Same problem with the 4 and 5 keys, only with the 1 and 7 and 2 and 8, respectively. It was as if an entire strip along the touchscreen had simply gone stupid and failed to recognize what my fingers were in search of.

It wasn’t just the keypad, either. Accessing contacts, appointments, or just general scrolling…they were all affected by this “dead zone” on the iPhone. I did the general troubleshooting routines such as restoring the phone to factory defaults, updating to the latest software releases, even cleaning the screen of any smudges (which is probably tech support’s equivalent of asking a user if his or her computer is plugged in). After running through all the items on the checklist, the problem persisted and even seemed to grow more severe. At this point, I broke down and made my Genius Bar appointment.

As it turns out, this dying touchscreen issue is becoming fairly common. After milling around the Apple Store for a half hour, I was called up to the Bar to speak with a harried Genius who simply asked me if the dead zone was located in the top third of the screen or the bottom third. I wasn’t peppered with inane questions or forced to recreate the problem; she simply took the phone from my hands, entered my information and laid my dying friend in a styrofoam shipping coffin to be sent back to Apple Service Heaven.

Apple’s customer and “technical” service provided me no ammunition to gripe about, but knowing there’s a fatal flaw in the company’s latest “high technology” is a downer. I’m not angry, irate or feel I am obligated to some sort of compensation — I was an early adopter after all and these risk-taking, hoop-jumping scenarios are part of the package deal. Still, an ugly scratch on my iPod nano is one thing. Not being able to dial my phone is another.

For now, I’m back to using my old Moto Razr with my iPhone’s 3G sim card. The Apple Genius said I should be receiving a new one within two days, but I’m not holding my breath. If people out there are experiencing problems with their iPhones similar to what I have described, it may not be your disgusting, greasy finger smudges causing the touchscreen’s accuracy issues. Take it in, get it replaced and close this painful chapter of your life.