Seems I've had a run of three Dig/LCD assemblys with touch problems --
One has the third vertical column of non-reactive icons.
One has the bottom row ...etc
One has the problem on the bottom row, third icon area, really shows up when can't type certain letters in msgs.
My main question: Since it doesn't appear to be a software problem (many restores, reboots, DFU; and, trying other assemblys -- Is this a Digitizer or LCD problem?
yes it would be safe to assume it's a digitizer or LCD issue, and since Apple store isn't an issue, unfortunately you're either stuck with it like that or you'd have to replace the digitizer/LCD yourself or find a place that will do it ..