43 Comments

Summary:

Apple CEO Steve Jobs responded to complaints about antenna problems with the new iPhone 4 by saying the issue had been blown out of proportion, but he also offered users free cases that could fix the phone’s reception issues. But will that be enough?

Apple is offering buyers of its iPhone 4 a free case to address the reception issues caused by the antenna’s placement on the handset, despite the fact that Apple CEO Steve Jobs told a press conference at the company’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters this morning that the antenna problem had been blown out of proportion, and that the majority of users appeared to have no issues with reception on the device. Om live-blogged the news conference if you want to catch up on the details.

Although Jobs said that the number of complaints was relatively low (just one half of one percent), he added that Apple “wants to make all its users happy” and therefore the company is offering free “bumper” cases that cover the spot on the phone’s exterior that is said to cause the antenna issues when it is held a certain way. Our own Kevin Tofel would likely agree with this strategy. Apple will also offer a free refund within 30 days of purchase if a user is not completely satisfied, Jobs said, and will waive the normal “restocking” fee in such cases.

The Apple CEO also said that the company has sold more than 3 million of the new phones in 3 weeks, and noted during his presentation that Apple engineers had found antenna-related issues with a number of other smartphones, including the BlackBerry Bold from Research In Motion and the Droid Eris from HTC. And Jobs reiterated that the company’s engineers had discovered during their tests that the software being used to display signal strength on the new phone was not correct — or as he put it, “we screwed up with our algorithm.” The latest OS update fixes that problem, he said (which is a separate issue from the grip-related antenna problem).

Some users who talked about the Apple news on Twitter and elsewhere said that the antenna issue was a tempest in a teapot, and that the company had handled it as well as it could have — but others said the offer of a free case was a cop out, and that Apple was trying to sidestep a serious issue with its phones. What do you think? Let us know by answering our poll, or by posting a comment.

Meanwhile, here’s a video of the humorous “Antenna Song” that Apple played before its press conference started:

http://www.youtube.com/v/VKIcaejkpD4&hl=en_US&fs=1?rel=0&border=1

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  1. Sanjay Maharaj Friday, July 16, 2010

    I think that is indeed a fair solution Apple is offering iPhone 4 users

    1. Agree with this. For most people this then ceases to be an issue if it ever was at all.

      However, I do think Apple’s halo is a bit tarnished after this event and describing things as ‘magical’ may be met with a wry smile in future.

  2. I’m wondering if everyone who got so riled up about this will now make public calls for RIM, HTC, Samsung, et al to offer free cases because of the attenuation issues in their own phones.

    Also, when is Google going to update their signal strength algorithm to be accurate?

  3. worldbfree4me Friday, July 16, 2010

    The Mea Culpa was very weak. They failed to acknowledge that the overall Phone design is flawed in its current form and that a solution is in the works. Appeasing current customers is one thing, but instilling confidence in future customers is another story.

    1. The “flaw” is in your mind, because you’ve convinced yourself that it’s a flaw.

      What Steve Jobs today was brilliant. He backed up his argument with FACTS. Cold hard facts. 0.55% of owners complaining about signal loss. 1/3 the return rate of the previous iPhone. These are not characteristics of a flawed device.

      You know what’s ridiculous? The fact that all these other Blackberries and Android phones suffer serious attenuation even with their antennas protected inside their cases.

      What is your phone manufacturer doing about that and why do you accept that your phone most likely suffers this issue, yet you can bear to let iPhone owners be satisfied with their phone? That is what is really messed up.

      1. “can’t bear…”

      2. relax.. we know you are a closet android lover and you are putting up an apple fanboy front.

  4. Given that my wife’s iPhone 4 still drops calls with a case in places where she never had issues with her 3G, this is not over.

    People were sold on the thin, sleek design of the device – apparently that does not guarantee it functions properly (even with a case).

    Apple needs to fess up to a defective product.

    1. No offence, but I just straight don’t believe you. Everyone who has tested this phone, every organisation, every testing facility and every antenna engineer that has chimed in on the subject says that the iPhone 4’s antenna gets more calls in marginal areas than any other phone ever made. Even those that think the death grip is a big issue start by saying that the iPhone 4’s antenna is the best at getting and keeping signal. Your wife either has a defective iPhone 4 and should take it back, or you are just making crap up.

      1. Agreed. I’ve been able to complete calls in buildings that my old 3GS could not. But wait, there’s more! ;-) Where my 3GS used to drain a battery by 4 p.m., my new iPhone 4 keeps its charge into the night. I don’t need my Mophie Juice Pack Air with this baby (besides the fact that it doesn’t fit).

  5. TiredOfStupid Friday, July 16, 2010

    Honestly, I don’t have the energy to care anymore. The smug Apple apologists and haters with nothing better to do have completely overshadowed any attempt at a rational argument with ad hominems. Trying to find a genuine debate on this issue is impossible on every tech site I’ve come across (including Om’s live-coverage post unfortunately).

    This is not the year of the smartphone, its the year of the self-important-idiot. You’d think people were debating which way to put the toilet paper on the roll…

    …not really on-topic I know, but it needed to be said.

    1. For you and all the others, then what would have satisfied you? It appears that nothing Apple could have said or done would have satisfied the detractors short of a total product recall, Apple’s abandonment of the iPhone 4, and their pledge to try better next summer.

      While that may have gratified a small vocal minority, I imagine the 99% of satisfied users would object. So tell us, what else can Apple reasonably be expected to do for a product that the vast majority are entirely satisfied with?

      No, I’m serious. What else could Apple have done to appease the dissatisfied while at the same time not pissing off the majority that are perfectly happy with the product?

  6. Francisco Geraci Friday, July 16, 2010

    I think Apple did great today. They also posted a good page at http://apple.com/antenna to support their efforts to educate about antenna attenuation and cell phones.

  7. who even cares, absolute nonsense…the issue is minor compared to common issues like: 20 minute reboots on a blackberry, most linux interfaces, rubbish on android marketplace, the palm pre’s plastic mattel toy casing…the list goes on and on…most very thing things have problems, just ask kate moss…

    1. sorry, meant, “most very thin things” ;)

      and no, as jeff has implied, i do not believe that apple has jumped the shark..not at all.

  8. Antennagate?

    Apple said today the return rate of iPhone 4 is 1.7%!!

    That’s some disaster! Antennagate indeed!
    (you would think the real problem Apple has to where to put the money from the other 98.3% sales).

    Well over three million iPhone 4s sold (compare to 300,000 Evos after many more weeks of EVO sales).

    Steve Jobs says iPhone 4 returns is only one third iPhone 3GS. So where’s this widespread user dissatisfaction and widespread problems as reported widely in the press?

    Doesn’t this show the issue is way overblown by Apple haters and sensationalists?

    Apple doesn’t deny a small percentage of users have issues and they are concerned for them no matter how small a number they are. So they are offering free bumpers and 30 day no restocking fee returns.

    The real scandal is how the Apple haters followed by the press have blown up this issue.
    Most electronics firms will die for a 1.7% return rate of their products.

    1. Folks still miss the business essentials of the statistics offered by Steve Jobs. The acceptable return rate for new products like this one – as far as Apple’s spreadsheet projections are formulated – is 6%.

      Even if the sales all were the $199 models x 3M sales x 6% = they have a slush fund of easily $36M to fritter away on legitimate complaints. Given the current rate, they’ll have three-quarters of that remaining to spend on straight-up advertising if they wish.

      The complaints from the trolls are meaningless, of course, because they’re too cheap, too strung out on ego problems to buy products bearing the Apple logo in the first place.

      In the second place, their acquaintances recognize the uselessness of technical advice from the incompetents representing themselves as the geek equivalent of Tea Party flag wavers. Unless they’re attending the same group therapy sessions.

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  10. the only thing that Apple made Go Away is the myth that its products are: “Magical..!”, “Best Ever..!”, “Borne by Unicorns..!”, blah blah blah. I hope that Apple tones down the overblown hype words it uses to describe its products, but I doubt it, and Apple will continue to be lame.

    1. … and successful.

  11. Mike Loukides Saturday, July 17, 2010

    It’s a good solution. That’s not the problem; it’s the denial, paranoia, blaming-the-customer, and just plain distortion (signals too weak? update the software to give customers more bars) that preceded it. It’s not about nasty people ganging up on Apple because they’re so successful, or about the perception that Apple is “perfect.” It’s about the truly awful way they handled it.

    If Apple had presented this solution at the start, it would have been a complete non-issue. This really isn’t about antennas, it’s an inside look at a great company that has become dysfunctional at the highest levels.

    1. The update doesn’t give more bars. It actually gives LESS bars. Read that open letter more carefully (or just go to Anandtech).

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  13. Dr. Roland Kehr Saturday, July 17, 2010

    It might be well for “non-believers” of Apple’s testing protocol to read the Endgadget article post of the testing facility tour at Apple headquarters. As a health care provider of 40 years, I can apperciate the importance of extensive and exhaustive testing prior to a product release. I do not currently own any apple products, but, I apperciate open minds when it comes to products in the tech field.

  14. Seems like Apple did the best they could:

    Good: Providing a free bumper
    Decent: Offering free returns within 30 days
    Bad: Insinuating that phones from other manufacturers have problems.

  15. The issue have been taken out of proportion. And not by a large portion of customers. But by Apple haters that make the most of trying to make anything Apple fails.

    I don’t know if this people realize that having a strong Apple is good for them even if they don’t buy anything from them. Apple innovates and other follow and with that strong competition both apple and others keep pushing for even better devices.

    But the haters are not rational.

  16. Hey, I don’t see the issue. If the phone sucks return it and buy a different one or don’t buy it in the first place. That’s why stores have return policies, ’cause people return stuff they don’t like. WTF!

  17. My impression is that most of complaining about this issue has been in the US. There seems to be very little complaining in the other eight countries that have iPhone4. Makes me wonder whether the much documented weakness of the AT&T network is a factor that exacerbates the admitted antenna issue. My point is that in other countries, the cell networks might be better so that when the antenna under performs, the user still has acceptable cell phone reception.

  18. Apple made a trade-off. Bigger battery and cool design for a more sensitive weak spot that will affect some in low signal area, but which can be solved with a bumper case.

    They had bumper cases ready day 1 because they knew it would be a problem for some. But they went ahead because it isn’t a problem for most.

  19. I really wanted to upgrade to the iPhone 4 from my 3GS. Im not going to bother now. I often work in low signal areas, so I need the best signal I can get.
    Im just not convinced.
    I would dearly love the 4, Im just not going to take the risk. I’ll wait for the next model. And I’ll wait til the next model has been out a month or 2 too.

  20. Just got a belkin case at Walmart for $20,protects the iphone great and no reception issues.I have had every Iphone and have always used a case and I have got a good resale on each one.Who doesnt use a case,I havent met them yet.If you have a reception issue,get a cool case of your choosing protect your investment and Enjoy! If not,Get an android and reception wont be your only issue

  21. I don’t even see it as a problem. If you’re not happy with the antenna bring the iphone back and you’re ok. That’s what most people >>should<< do if they have SUCH A BIG PROBLEM. But as the data showed us, people DEAL WITH IT! It’s just a press caramel you all wanna lick over and over again. Just try to shallow it.

  22. Wow, so to apple, who made this video before the press conference, it’s just a big joke to them that customers are having a problem? So, they say, we made lots of other stuff and nobody complained so we can never be accused of making a mistake, … Ever.

    I can see BP adopting this tactic. Hey, what’s one little oil spill? We drilled thousands of wells and so one of them leaked. Don’t swim in the oil if you don’t like it. Only, like 1% of our customers world-wide are affected by that well.

    1. No… Unlike BP and their oil spill being forced upon the planet, NO ONE is forced to buy an iPhone… If you don’t want one, don’t buy one… If you bought it and it doesn’t work, get it serviced at a Genius bar or return it… What the hell else can they say about a problem that only half of 1% of owners seem to care about.

      Stop crying.

  23. I think the way Apple/Jobs whine about the other smart phone lost major cool points from me.

    Before this, Apple still has some magical aura surrounding itself that make it “different”. Now Steve Jobs/Apple is just another company to me.

    My emotional attachment to the brand was serious damaged after blocking google voice and now officially over after the whining over other phones.

  24. OMG I am so sick of hearing about this…trivial bull****

    I never even realized that my 3GS has the same issue…I was able to recreate it over and over again…the difference is it’s inside the phone not on the outside…

    but I know many people that have the iPhone 4…and one guys said to me when I asked him…”oh a little sometimes at home” and blew it off as whatever…as he adored and played with his iPhone 4 in front of me…

    I hate talking on the phone anyway…text and email is my main mode of communication these days…keeps me from having to be intent on one person for any period of time…and I love that…so as long as it texts and emails well…I’m fine with it…just wish ATT wasn’t screwing me over with my upgrade date…ATT is the devil in the first place…

    I love that people are stating that the issue is very little in the other countries…and makes me believe the issue is with ATT and their substandard network…

    if ATT had spent all the money the iPhone owners had given them over the last 3 years to fix their network instead of creating a TV service then maybe we would not be having this conversation at all…because dropped calls are a part of the deal with any cell phone…I remember years ago not being able to move during any conversation for fear of losing them…and still lost the call…but those were the days where the caller was the only one using up minutes and calling a cell from a pay phone cost nothing…wow how times change

  25. A Iphone who drops calls are not a phone, it is a mini tablet.
    And as it is mostly a fashion and trend item it is still valid as such an item, but not as a mobile phone.

    As for stocks, it goes up and down all the time, thinking and betting on that it will stay on top forever are stupid.

    Calls are dropped, no one cares if there are people who do not believe it.

    Speculation on future markets are just that, speculation, discounting the competitors are NOT a good idea tho in the long run.

    Personally i doubt much can be done with software about the antenna and its connection, but i could be wrong.
    Perhaps things could be fixed on the other end, with better coverage.

    And as a pocket computer it is still cool.

  26. Did the right thing. And made everyone feel again their vain.
    They are the incarnation of the phrase about the path to hell.

  27. It seems to me that Steve dod a very good job of trying to put the whole issue in perspective. True some phones are having issues but from what I heard once they are replaced the issue goes away. But hey, that is what your warranty is for, to replace or repair defective product.

    If you want a really jaundiced view read this from down here in Australia.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/17/2956611.htm

    Hardly balanced, or accurate.

  28. I don’t get the issue get a free case or return the phone for a full refund this is my first iphone and I am very impressed holds signal way better than my Nokias and I was happy with their antenna performance. I am yet to experience this antenna issue if I do I will get a case. I am also happy with this design fits well in my pocket and GPS and Wi fi has great performance.

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