Blog Post

That Thunk You Heard Was The iPhone Falling Off Its Pedestal

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.

22 Responses to “That Thunk You Heard Was The iPhone Falling Off Its Pedestal”

  1. Bill is Awesome more than Jobs

    Anyway I hear that Microsoft are working on super fast and better phone gonna make iPhone 4 look bad. Have bigger everything and ap to make you happy too, more than apple shit. Also Microsoft are good men. Help Africa with profits, iphone no good for me.

  2. applesheep

    To the MotoMoron. Look up a few facts before posting:

    Verizon Wireless regardless of its Fortune 500 ranking is #1 with 93 Million subscribers. ATT is #2 with 87 Million.

    “Verizon’s network would overload, crash, and not be able to recover in months!”

    You mean like this “Customers Angered as iPhones Overload AT&T”

    Or this “Why Won’t AT&T Admit to Its Wireless Network Problems?”

    Or maybe this is the issue “Poor iPhone design was to blame for network overload: AT&T CTO”

    Personally, I think this sums it up best:

    AT&T: The most hated company in iPhone land

    NEW YORK ( — Consumer outrage about AT&T’s 3G service for iPhones is boiling over, but the dropped calls and spotty service reflect a greater lack of foresight in the wireless industry.

    So fanboys, keep playing with your defective icrap on the already slow and overloaded ATT crap carrier.

    The rest of us will keep laughing while using 4G with a better phone, open software, no app restrictions, while paying less.

    And in a year when the battery gets weak, we can actually replace the battery ourselves! Really, you should check it out. Non icrap gear comes with USER replaceable batteries. What a concept. Its like someone invented something called a “battery door” or something like that. Genius I tell you…

  3. applesheep

    How pathetic can you be? The “media” is bashing BP? So polluting the entire Gulf and fouling beaches of several states causing incalculable damage is just media bashing? You mentally handicapped fanboys are nothing if not amusing.

    Poor defenseless Apple. They made another overprices overhyped Icrap that doesn’t work right and the fanboys are tripping over themselves to make excuses why a $500 phone keep dropping calls due to faulty antenna design, faulty face sensors.

    What about the excuses of the faulty batteries, the overheating Iphones that caused discoloration?

    Just like my friends overpriced Ibook he can’t use too long, otherwise the backlighting will cause the screen to overheat and discolor the case.

    Keep buying icrap and making iexcuses. Lord Steve has said there is no problem and therefore there can’t be one. Heretics will be burned at the stake…

  4. I wonder how many of those 3+ million will return their phones? It seems the media wants to constantly bash, if they’re not bashing Toyota or BP they’re bashing Apple. My wife who read about the “oh horrific antenna flaw” was hesitant to switch from 3G to iPhone 4. She already ordered it so the day it came she tried it and the antenna issue was really a non issue. Overall I think her experience was affected by all this sensational news reporting but when it came down to the nitty gritty the matter of fact is the phone is actually faster and better than the 3G phone its replacing. We’re both fortunate enough to live in an area with decent ATT coverage.

  5. Hardy Powell

    I thought “moco” stood for mobile content, not mobile hardware. Can Moco revisit what it is supposed to be writing about? Seems like you have lost your way with this story.

    The antenna issue will come and go. But, the steamroller that is the iPhone ecosystem will roll on and flatten everything in its path. We all know it. Com on Moco get your head out of the sand and start pushing the incumbents towards greatness — we all will benefit.

    iPhone has been a destructive force for the mobile content industry. Not because of the device, though that helps. But, because of the vertical integration — iTunes accounts, Appstore and end-to-end control of the user experience including all the support needed for innovative experiences (e.g. multi-touch, 3D, accelerometer, etc). No other company has been able to replicate this success. Sure, devices are coming out with all of the boxes checked, but they are always undercut by the carrier requirements or poor UI design. Setting aside radio issues, think about this: how many companies have attempted to copy what Apple has done in terms of creating a vibrant and healthy mobile content ecosystem and achieved equal success? How many copy-cat appstores have been launched in the last 18 months and turned the industry on its head?

    So, while Moconews makes the claim that the field just “got more level,” everyone knows this is simply not true.

  6. I really like Apple fanboys… You guys really make me laugh…
    Whatever our Mr Steavy-O says is true ain’t it?
    He says all phones have that problem and they repeat it…
    Really love it.
    I say come on Samsung, HTC, RIM… sue Apple

  7. masqu3rade

    @ JohnDoey: Antenna attenuation happens on all phones but not if you take one finger and press one spot, that’s a design flaw. It also drops more calls then the iPhone 3GS (even if it is only 1% more), and the 3GS wasn’t exactly known for having good reception… Doesn’t take away from your sales statistics, and it’s still a good phone, but the authors point remains valid. For everyone that thinks, or thought, Apple produced only ‘perfect’ products it does take some shine off of the product.

    @Simple: Offering free bumpers was the right thing to do, but it shouldn’t have been limited to September 30th. And, a condescending apology that drags other companies into their Design mistakes is hardly the “high road”.

  8. Newman

    I liked your article very much. But let’s see what happens in a year’s time. If iPhone 4 sells poorly from now and iPhone 5 receives a tepid welcome, then it will be clear you were right and deserve an applause and even a Pulitzer. If iPhone 4 keeps selling worldwide like hot cakes and iPhone 5 oversells in it’s first three weeks on the market, then you climb up a hand ladder and drop yourself to the floor with a big THUNK! (“thud”?) and then ask someone to upload the video to youtube.

  9. Moto Razr

    To the applesheep idiot who knows absolutely nothing about facts about cell phone carriers…GSM is a world wide standard. Calling AT&T technology 3rd world is the equivalent to this absolutely ridiculous article! I sell all the carriers available. If you would magically wave your bull slinging wond to magically take the number of smartphone users off of AT&T(#29 fortune 500), and throw it on Verizon(#55 fortune 500), Verizon’s network would overload, crash, and not be able to recover in months! Until they launch LTE, they don’t have the sack to handle the moneyshot. When it comes to the amount of data the iPhone community uses on a daily basis compared to that of the average android user, it’s like comparing the gas mileage of a Ford F150(iPhone) to a Prius Hybrid(Android). Sell every carrier as long as I have, educate yourselves more than the common house fly, and then maybe think about pretending like you know a thing or two about this incredible mobile world we live in.

  10. iPhone is many things to many people. You could have a pie chart. Personally, I’d prefer it if that pie chart didn’t suck me in to a different section for interoperability’s sake, or because so many other people have one (like Windows does).

    That being said, this is obviously a defect, and no, it’s not like every other phone. Usually in good ways, but this time in one bad way.

    It’s the bottom line. Apple’s culture is getting in the way. I suppose there’s a lot to be said for success on Wall Street and so on, and who am I to speak, I’m not a successful billionaire.

    But I will say this — I don’t like / have a bad feeling about the culture. No question that Apple’s turned out some great stuff, but I think it’s becoming obvious that the culture is getting in the way. It should be like spices in food — subtle, complex, interesting, fascinating, not in your face, overpowering.

    I was out shopping for some practical boots a while back. I was at a department store, and I saw some really comfortable looking, stylish boots, black. They looked cool, durable, and well made, and comfortable. I was impressed by them. I liked them better than the Timberland boots and so forth. I thought I’d try them on. I flipped over and looked at the price tag and it was almost $500. They were Pradas. So that’s cool. I had no idea, but it looked like (and probably was) a nice product. I did mention that I wasn’t a billionaire, right?

    So that kind of vibe, you see a nice product, and yeah, figures — it’s an Apple — kind of thing. That’s great. Apple can do that. But we’re headed in a direction where the “i” is like the new “Mc”. i this, i that, IQ not required. The culture is getting in the way. It’s too — in-your-face — it’s not subtle.

    Subtle elegance, quality, good impressions. Hard to do. Apple just needs to keep doing what it’s doing — but please, please, please, get rid of the culture. It’s getting in the way, and long-term, it will have absolutely no benefit and Apple will be the next Sun.

    X the culture, X the secretiveness, up the quality, elegance, practicality, and style. You want market share, Dell is your friend. SGI is your friend.

    It’s the culture.

  11. applesheep

    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.

  12. 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.

  13. TheLoneUSMonk

    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.

  14. 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)?

  15. TiredTechie

    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.

  16. TdHuUhD

    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

  17. cyberluddite

    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.

  18. oralarts

    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.

  19. Simple

    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.

  20. JohnDoey

    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.