Here’s today’s lesson: The iPhone isn’t perfect, nor are Apple’s hard-working engineers.

So if you’ve been tormenting yourself over whether…

Apple details where the antenna issue is on iPhone 4

Here’s today’s lesson: The iPhone isn’t perfect, nor are Apple’s hard-working engineers.

So if you’ve been tormenting yourself over whether to switch to AT&T (NYSE: T) for the iPhone, or wait until it comes out on Verizon Wireless, you can breathe a big sigh of relief. The iPhone is imperfect just like any other smartphone. Buy whatever you want.

Seriously, as Apple CEO Steve Jobs testified today in a last-minute press conference in Cupertino, Calif., the iPhone 4 does have a weak spot. If a user grasps the phone in just the right area, its signal strength may drop. He also demonstrated how it can happen on a BlackBerry or an Android phone. Jobs played down the extent of the problem, saying that the phone is experiencing extraordinarily low returns and complaints. Still Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is being forced to act on it, and will be giving iPhone 4 owners a free case, and if you still aren’t satisfied, you can return the phone for a full refund.

Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. During the past 22 days that Apple stayed quiet about the issue, consumers opened their minds to the possibility that the iPhone doesn’t embody perfection. And, while Jobs was apologizing today and offering up reasons of explanation, he only further confirmed that the iPhone is flawed like any other device. Even if the problems have been overblown, Apple’s pristine reputation has been tarnished.

This is not to say that Apple hasn’t been one of the biggest innovators in mobile and in consumer electronics in general — and won’t continue to be. But going forward, expectations for Apple devices may have to come back down to earth.

Up until now, the only fault of the iPhone was that it was on AT&T’s network. Now the door is open for Apple to be at fault, too. It reminds me of how IT managers were once programmed to buy from IBM or else they’d get in trouble. Likewise, consumers have been programmed to believe that they couldn’t buy anything else because it was inferior. In the past few months, Motorola (NYSE: MOT), Samsung and HTC have been proving different by launching a strong line-up of Android phones. Today, the playing field just got more level.

  1. Wow, you are still at it. I don’t know how you go away from that press conference without realizing the issue here is the media. This is like the summer of shark attacks in 2001.

    iPhone is still firmly on its pedestal. It is by far the best phone. The reviews back that up, the sales back that up, the customer satisfaction backs that up, the tech specs back that up, the profitability backs that up. The antenna issue doesn’t change that at all because it is an issue with all phones! All phones are bad in this way. Which is what RF antenna engineers have been saying from the very beginning. Nokia phones come with instructions on how not to hold the phone. Some phones have stickers showing a spot you’re not supposed to block. The original iPhone came with instructions not to cover the black part (antenna) at the bottom with your hand. But even if you ignore all of that, it’s only is areas of very weak reception that those even apply, and that is true of iPhone 4 also. That is why so few people have even seen this issue, and so few can even recreate it when they try. By acting as if this is an issue only with iPhone 4, people simply show their complete ignorance of cell phone technology. I don’t know how you watch the demos of other phones having this same issue and make any judgement that iPhone 4 is worse than other phones. It’s irrational.

    Further, when Apple shows hard data that the return rate on iPhone 4 is 1.7% and only 0.55% of support calls have been reception related, that ends the discussion. Those are awesome numbers that competing phone makers would love to have. A return rate of 5% is considered perfection in consumer electronics. Being under 10% is considered perfection in cell phones. Windows Mobile phones are returned within the first 30 days at a rate of 25%!

    So use some facts. Ultimately, the black eye here is going to the media. The black eye is for tech blogs, where people with no technical background write whatever soap opera will get page views. The black eye is for the mainstream press for reporting on what tech blogs have said as if it is factual, for not even checking with the principles, just writing plainly false, provably false stuff.

    So the thunk you heard was not the iPhone. It was your own credibility and reputation.

  2. Seriously? WTF?

    No one is perfect. In my opinion APPLE took a high road by accepting they screwed up and will do whatever it takes to make their customers happy. They have the choice of accepting cases, and if that does not satisfy them, they can get their full money back.

  3. Over 3 million sold in 22 days – and that is with all of this “overblown” media coverage. Don’t they teach objectivity in journalism classes.

  4. cyberluddite Friday, July 16, 2010

    If thou angers the iGods, their minions will rise up, and crash down upon thee in a wave of impotent fury. Let he who dares, face the wrath of the passive aggressive, the smug, the conformist, and witness their terrible might. For no man can stand long against the iClones. Amen.

  5. Interesting…usually anything that falls makes a “thud”…this author alltogether “thunk” wrong! Must have one of HTC devices that DID fall….FAR short of

  6. TiredTechie Friday, July 16, 2010

    Wow…fell off the pedestal? I’m sorry, did the author not catch that they sold 3 MILLION units in THREE WEEKS? For the love of God, it’s the most successful smartphone in HISTORY and hardly anybody is returning it! Even Consumer Reports says it’s the best smartphone out there (even though they claim they can’t recommend it). I’d love to see CR test every other phone on the market for the same problem. Lets see what the results of their recommendations would be! In my opinion, the only thing wrong here is the media and their constant desire for sensationalism to attract eyeballs and click-throughs. Pretty pathetic what “journalism” has come to.

  7. Before the iPhone was released, Some specs leaked out that said the phone would have videophone capability. I figured that if the videophone software was done with Apples’ usual level of quality, it would mark a tipping point where Apple would move toward domination of smartphones to similar levels as in MP3 players. Other manufacturers also figured this out. The article above is just one more bought-and-paid-for anti-iPhone propaganda piece:

    “you can breathe a big sigh of relief. The iPhone is imperfect just like any other smartphone. Buy whatever you want.”

    As long as it ISN’T APPLE, right paidContent (and the creeps who paid paidContent)?

  8. TheLoneUSMonk Friday, July 16, 2010

    Twas the media machine that declared the iPhone perfect and placed it on a pedestal, not Apple. Apple merely tried to do what Apple does which is to make the best products they can. In typical fashion, the same media machine that so over-hyped the iPhone now wants to make more news by declaring that it is no longer a *great* device.

    The reality is that fewer people really care about what the media has to say about most issues than the media wants to realize.

  9. Wait, really? It’s a surprise Apple isn’t perfect? All the Apple fans here are so offended someone pointed out what’s been simply an obvious observation since childhood, no one is perfect. Big whoop.

    Yes, Apple has taken a hit to their reputation, that’s undeniable. Thunk.

    It doesn’t change a lot, Apple has been holding pretty steady market share even before the 4 and the other platforms are catching up fast.

    I don’t have these numbers, but I’d guess a significant portion of 3,000,000 4 buyers are existing iPhone owners upgrading. Raw sales aren’t all that interesting, it’s the changes in market share that show Apple is merely human after all.

    And there’s nothing wrong or shocking about that.

  10. The only Iphone flaw is hardly that it is on the AT&T network. Despite the fan groupies making excuses why it fails its basic duty to be able to work as a phone to make phone calls, it has the same flaws as all previous Iphones.

    1. Battery is not replaceable by users (totally moronic for any device)
    2. Apps have to be approved and blessed by Apple (I just love having a nanny approving what I use).
    3. It is locked into a single crap carrier with a 3rd world signal coverage (ATT).

    Add to that that Apple always denies having problems until forced to act, always patches security flaws late if ever and acts as an arrogant little child with its supposed superior products and people see the Ihype to what it actually is, overpriced Icrap.


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