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iPhone 4: The Forbidden Grip

Steve Jobs wants to keep you happy by giving you a free case for his company's defective iPhone 4.  (Source: ArsTechnica)
"Phones aren't perfect" -- Steve Jobs

Today at Apple's 1 p.m. EST, 10 a.m. PST press conference, Apple finally formally addressed the iPhone 4's faulty antenna, which its engineers reportedly warned it about last year, but it ignored.  Despite reports claiming that it might initiate a recall, Apple took a hard line, with most of its presentation boiling down to one word -- denial.  But to Apple's credit it is giving users a free bumper case and letting them return their phones for free within 30 days if they're still unhappy.

Apple CEO Steven P. Jobs who infamously told users "You're holding it wrong" took the stage and began by stating, "We're not perfectPhones aren't perfect either... But we want to make all of our users happy.  We love making our users happy.  We're going to talk about how we're going to do that today... but before we get into that I want to talk about the problems and the data we've got so that we can make sure we make all our users happy."

Jobs then turned to a bit of bragging -- a record 3 million iPhone 4s sold in only 3 weeks.  He described it as the best smart phone in history, saying reviews back him up on that.

He then commented, "We started getting some reports of people having issues with the antenna system..People were touching this spot here.  Seeing a large drop in bars... sicne dubbed Antennagate.  We heard about this just 22 days ago from today. It's not like Apple's had its head in the sand for 3 months on this... Apple is an engineering driven company."

He then turned to tests which Apple engineers conducted.  He claims those tests show similar drops in signal, based on hand grip with a Blackberry, the HTC Droid Eris, and the Samsung Omnia 2.  Jobs' conclusion?  "This is life in the smartphone world. Phones aren't perfect."

Of course Jobs failed to show a wide variety of smart phones -- such as the HTC EVO 4G, Droid Incredible, etc.

He again reaffirms his stance that users need to be sure to have the correct grip and that the problem is mostly imagined stating, "We went to a lot of trouble to put this beautiful line in the stainless steel to say here's where you touch it everybody... and we had incorrect bars, so when it did drop the drop looked far more catastrophic."

Apple says that its testing to come to this conclusion was extensive.  It spent $100M USD on its signal testing facility, complete with anechoic chambers.  It has hired 18 PhD scientist and engineers (though earlier reports indicate it perhaps wasn't listening to them).

In his presentation, Jobs cites AppleCare numbers which he claims indicate that only 0.55 percent of customers had enough of an issue to contact Apple.  Further, he says that return rates on the iPhone 4 are a miniscule 1.7 percent down from 6 percent (granted maybe some customers were waiting for Apple's response).

Jobs did admit that the iPhone 4 drops more calls that the iPhone 3GS, but claims that it only drops 1 more call per 100 calls than the 3GS hardware -- in other words less than a 1 percent difference.  He claims his inbox has been overflowing with emails telling him how wonderfully the iPhone 4 is working and how great it is.  In fact he claims he received 5,000 such emails.

He concludes by summarizing about the cosmetic "fix" to the number of bars drawn.  And then finally, he tosses customers a bone.  Apple will be giving out a free cases (Apple's own $30 USD newly designed case which reportedly fixes much of the signal problems or similar third party designs).  Until Sept. 30 Apple will give one of the cases to every iPhone 4 purchaser for free.  Customers who already bought a case will be refunded.  And international customers will be eligible for the offer as well.

The proximity sensor issue was also briefly mentioned, and chief Jobs says a software fix is incoming.  He also reminded that the white iPhone 4 will arrive at the end of July and that the iPhone 4 will launch in 17 countries on July 30th, as well.

The conference wraps up with Jobs commenting, "We love our users.  We try very hard to surprise and delight them.. we work our asses off and we have a blast doing it.  What motivates us is to have them love our products.  We also connect them with great apps and content.  We love our users so much we've built 300 apple retail stores for them.  When we fall short we try harder."

"And when we succeed they reward us by staying our users... so that's what drives us. And when we have problems like this and people are criticizing us, we take it really personally. Maybe we shouldn't, but we do.  We all read these stories and we take it seriously.  We think we've gotten to the heart of the problem, and the heart is that smartphones have weak spots. And so for those small number of customers that are having problems, we're going to give them cases, and for those that are still unhappy we're going to give them a full refund.   But the data supports the fact that the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone in the world, and that there is no antennagateAnd that's what I had to present to you today."

A class action lawsuit on the problems is pending.

All Mr. Jobs' quotes were taken from this live feed from the company's press conference.


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RE: Was called
By alifbaa on 7/16/2010 5:12:07 PM , Rating: -1
Although I own no Apple products and have no love for the company's tactics, I wholeheartedly agree and think the article title was a little harsh.

I'm not sure what else Apple was supposed to do. As Anandtech's testing showed, the problem wasn't much more severe than many other competing phones and was nearly eliminated by the bumper/case solution Apple is offering. In the meantime, the external antenna and other hardware changes gave the phone better poor-signal call quality than any phone they examined.

Sure, Apple screwed the pooch on this one by not paying attention to their engineers and a terrible initial response. But now that the problem is solved in a manner that should be acceptable to everyone, let's remember that this is still a great phone (albeit one that apple uses to invade the rest of our lives with) and move on.

Now I'll duck for cover with you.


RE: Was called
By NanoTube1 on 7/16/10, Rating: -1
RE: Was called
By priusone on 7/17/2010 3:40:37 AM , Rating: 2
Patent trolls and Apple. Those are the only two types of drama that I allow into my life. Patent trolls are allowed to do their thing thanks to government regulations. I have lefty acquaintances who have Apple products, so stuff like this just adds fuel to a well lit fire. And as an avid camper, I make sure that the fire stays hot.


RE: Was called
By Senju on 7/20/2010 12:33:51 AM , Rating: 2
I have to agree!
If you put your iphone in a Microwave and then complain you are not getting signals, are you really going to blame Apple?
People need to take more responsibility on how they use products. With some command sense, I believe you can avoid such drop calls.
<Is there room for me to get into the bunker too?>


"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs














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