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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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Painful
By ralniv on 7/17/2010 12:10:39 AM , Rating: -1
The bias in this article is painful.

Denial
You summarize the press conference in a word and you chose "denial". What exactly did they deny? Did they deny the black strip is the Achilles heel for their antenna? Did they deny that gripping the phone can attenuate the signal and reduce signal strength? Did they deny that the signal attenuation can cause a call to drop? Did they deny that their phone is not perfect? You don't need to answer these... anyone who actually watched the press conference knows that it's "no". In summary... nice summary. ;)

Test Samples
You criticize Apple for not showing more test data. If you look at Jobs' talk you will see that Apple selected (and perhaps even cherry picked) one phone for each major smartphone OS. Did you really expect a press conference to have a laundry list of phones? Again, if you listen to Jobs' words you will know that Apple concluded that "most" phones exhibit this problem when gripped, but not all. This type of stone throwing would apply to anyone that doesn't get up there are spend 2 hrs describing the test methods and samples in great detail.

Listening to Engineering
At one point in the article you write, earlier reports indicate it perhaps wasn't listening to them, but you forgot to mention that these are only allegations at this time. Apple has publicly denied this claim, so I must concede that Apple did deny something in this whole affair.

Cosmetic Fix
What are you trying to imply by calling the iOS 4.0.1 update a "cosmetic" fix? Jobs did not claim or imply that this update fixes the signal attenuation issue. Jobs explained that their signal strength algorithm was wrong and they corrected it. It's a value-added update for the 99.45% of users that haven't been bitching to Apple about their iPhone 4 reception. In other words, it's intended to benefit all iPhone 4 user.

Sometimes I ask myself 'why do I come to this site every day?'. I guess that I like to get riled up. Thanks for your expert riling. :)




RE: Painful
By Dingmatt on 7/19/2010 4:04:24 AM , Rating: 2
^ Thats some hardcore fanboi lovin'.

Have to admit it does worry me when people can except such flaky explanations/generalisations unquestioningly, Its a brainwashing of sorts.


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