Steve Jobs: There's No iPhone "Antenna-Gate," But Here's a Free Case

By Joseph Calamia | July 16, 2010 5:10 pm

iphone4Earlier today on Apple’s Cupertino campus, Steve Jobs held a press conference regarding the iPhone 4 reception saga, which he said is not “antenna-gate.”  The overall gist: Jobs says the iPhone 4’s reception isn’t perfect, but not any worse than other phone’s, and Apple will give out a free “bumper” case to iPhone 4 phone buyers.

The cases are meant to reduce the dropped reception problem that can occur if a person’s hand covers a crucial bit of the antenna. The bumpers will be free until September 30th, and buyers can return their phones for a refund if still unhappy.

We’ve rounded up opinions of Jobs’ conference, which you can catch a video of through Apple’s site, here.

Jobs started the meeting by showing other phones (BlackBerry Bold, Droid Eris…) also dropping signal strength depending on how they’re held. But some think that comparing the iPhone 4 to other devices isn’t a valid excuse when you have a brand built on exclusivity (and expense).

It didn’t matter whether Jobs thought complaints about the reception problem were overblown. Nor did it matter if other phones had similar problems–if you set yourself up as a premium brand generating fanatical loyalty, the last thing you want to do is say “but others have the same glitch.” [Computer World]

Others think Jobs kept his cool in a situation that might have had some executives pressing the recall button, a reflex that will at least make investors happy.

Journalists are howling. Customers are complaining. Late night comics are cracking wise. Drama, however is Apple Chief Steve Jobs’ thing. . . . The master showman didn’t flub any of his lines Friday as he sought to reframe the discussion about problems with the new iPhone’s antenna, which wraps along the outside edge of the phone to form an integral part of the smart phone’s shell. [Forbes]

If the phone is no worse than others, then why the apparent reception debacle? Jobs implies that it’s a matter of perception; in part, the phone has gotten too much bad press and not enough cases (which improve reception). But if the dropped call ratio is in fact worse than the previous 3G model (Job says less than 1 more dropped call per 100), some argue, you can’t blame the phone’s problems all on image.

Like Mark Twain’s death, reports of the iPhone 4’s reception problems have been greatly exaggerated, Jobs insisted. A mere 0.55 per cent of iPhone 4 users have called AppleCare about reception problems, he said. Only 1.7 per cent have returned their phones, under a third of the six per cent returns of its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS. That 1.7 per cent, by the way, apparently didn’t include the unfortunate phone of TV talk-show [the View] host Whoopi Goldberg, who instead “murdered” her malfunctioning iPhone 4, according to CNET. [The Register]

Though originally some customers called for nothing short of a recall, Andy Ihnatko at the Chicago Sun-Times empathizes with Apple, defending the device which he happily purchased after testing, despite knowing that it “sporadically” lost its reception.

It’s a demonstrable and repeatable problem, but mostly it’s being experienced by people who are actively trying to make it happen … folks like me, who write about technology and review new hardware. “There’s yet to be any video of a baby dolphin coated in spilled iPhone 4’s, adorably drowning,” I said in a morning blog post. So in the end, it was the trickiest kind of PR problem imaginable: the kind in which the company can do way more damage by responding poorly than they might by simply letting events take their course. A massive recall of the iPhone 4 would have heaved the phone on the scrapheap next to the G4 Cube, a desktop Mac design that was just as innovative as the new iPhone, but which was never heard from again. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Do you have an iPhone 4? Did you see Jobs’ speech? What are your thoughts on Apple’s response?

Related content:
80beats: The iPhone 4: Snappy Visuals and Shiny New Video Chats
Discoblog: Lefties Cry Discrimination Over iPhone’s Faulty Antenna
Discoblog: Shoot it, Blend it, Burn it: 3 Ways to Destroy Your iPhone 4
Bad Astronomy: Resolving the iPhone Resolution

Image: flickr / William Hook

  • da bishop

    Steve is such a liar these days, terribly sad. There’s too much at stake these days, apple are no longer the underdog, they’re the big target.

    But this is what happens when you test a design that’s so radical that it has to be field tested hidden in a case. Of course they didn’t find out until launch.

    The iphone 4 has a case-addiction.

  • Ajs

    You guys are morons! Stop hating! The iPhone 4 works just fine. There are too many negative people that try to cash in on slamming apple. Apple will do just fine with or without your opinions.

  • blueshifter

    freaking brilliant move, “giving away” the cover that costs cents to manufacture. avoids a recall, kills the story.

  • carbon fiber hoods

    I will not buy an iPhone 4, back to the waiting game, the reception on my 3G totally sucks as it is, I can’t take another hit in that department.

    I’ll wait for the iphone 5

  • Rain

    Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry, all make some really good phones. What is the obsession with iPhone? How about google’s phone?

  • Eric H

    I already knew there was going to be something wrong with apples new phone. I’m the type who does not rush out to purchase a brand new product for this exact reason, let it run its course and filter out all bugs first!

  • David

    A premium price deserves a premium product. What if I dint want a case on my phone. To sale a product that requires and additional option towns it work properly is poor engineering. It’s another example of incompetent develors using their customers as a test bed to meet the marketing dollar. I’m very disappointed.

  • Andrew

    Much ado about almost nothing. AT&T hasn’t been tops for reception in general, and frankly the iPhone is not the greatest *phone* on earth (as a aportable computer that happens to make and take calls, it’s way cool). Apple is the one everyone wants to pick on, and frankly they can take it. It’s a good phone, I love my 3GS, & my friend who has a 4 loves it. I don’t doubt covering the antenna worsens performance, this has been obvious on all cellphones for years. Know where your antenna is and keep that radiation-absorbing meatbag hand away from it!

    Don’t …. trust … the … press. They are looking for attention more than accuracy.

  • David

    I agree with Andtew about the press, the 3GS and that the iPhone 4 is a great phone. My disappointment is in Apples marketing and presalinh of either a non tested phone or if it was tested but allowed to be sold knowing if the issue or their quality control is very poor. No matter how you add it up, they failed to meet the standards expected and extremely promoted by Apple. If consumers just except this type of service or just says” other phones donut too” then they win. It’s your money and time that’s being taken advantage of. I work 75% of my business on my phone. I don’t want dropped calls or no signal especially at the rate of which I pay per month. Accountabilty should be required as well as the ethical treament in Apples policies toward their customers. I’m sorry if you are ok with Apple giving you a 3 dollar piece if plastic for 500 dollar phone to fix a known issue before they sent it to you is Ok, that’s your choice. Personaly I find it insulting and I would say if truth be told alot if blogs posting this ” acceptance” message in support of Apple are Thise who are involved with Apple or just people who have been let down so many times they would except the phone no matter what the issues. Don’t just get in line with the rest of the crowd, if you pay for VIP pass then take your seat. You deserve it.

  • Cory

    The press has drooled over the iPhone (and the iPad) since its launch — this is just the first serious bad press the iPhone has really faced. No other smart phone has gotten a quarter of thr press, much less such unabashedly favorable (if not worshipful) appraisals.

    The fact that the iPhone is no better than the industry standard despite its expense really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone familiar with technology branding, but journalists have never been quick learners.

  • Keith

    I love my 4… Beautiful piece of kit, not noticed any problems with reception or dropped calls. The only problem I have is with having to use iTunes … For all the complainers out there if you don’t like it then send it back.

  • Kurt

    People who think this thing needs a case are fools, the phone works fine without it, I don’t use my bumper because I like it without it. If you don’t go out of your way to make the signal drop its fine, I know people are just trying to make it happen and you have to be getting a bad signal! Even with a bad signal and touching the “sweet spot” the signal drops but I don’t drop the call or data. People are just making a big deal out watching the bars drop when you touch the “sweet spot” but all phones do it and the industry has not found a way around physics, but I’m sure Apple will figure a way around it before anybody else does!!!

  • David

    Kurt there is a significant difference with the IPhone 4 and the 3GS. I have both and when the 4 doesn’t work the 3 does. Everyone I know that has the 4 has the same issues. It’s ok to except the phone as is but it’s not wrong for others to not except a flawed product. Once again I note , if Apple knew of the flaw then shame on them , if they didn’t then shame on them. Antennas have been around for a along time and is the primary conduit to the cell tower. Without it you have a high price PDA.

  • Matt

    I agree with Kurt, stop trying to create the issue and you will be fine! The iPhone 4 may have it’s flaws but the At&t network (not being the greatest and most reliable) may also be amplifying the issues too. If the phone had been available on stronger networks many of the “dropped calls” reported wouldn’t have occurred. It doesn’t help that this is the first re-creatable slip-up for apple in a while; and the media jumped at the opportunity. At least in Canada we have a choice of carrier, and our networks are far less overstressed. For people who rely on their phone to help them ruin their business, this my not be the best choice(its fresh tech after all); but for people like me who only call on it once a day and enjoy the “Media” aspects of it, it is perfect!!

  • Crow

    It’s completely fine to compare it to other phones. Apple knows that EVERYTHING they make is compared to the competition so why the heck not point out that they all have that potential problem.

    It’s a non-issue for me because I always hook up my outdoor antennae to my aluminum foil EM helmet when using my phone outside and just link the two with a lightweight transconduction cablet.

  • Meghan

    If you’re interested in more thoughts surrounding the iPhone 4 antenna issues, Peter Burrows of Businessweek will bediscussing the matter with Charlie Rose tonight on Bloomberg Television. For the full interview, tune in tonight at 8P and 10P ET.

  • Ken

    Stop complaining. Put it in a case, big deal. Mine works better than the 3GS, yippee. You can afford an iPhone, you can afford a case. Where’s the problem?

  • Shane

    Having had both an iPhone 3g and a 3gs, I switched to Google’s Nexus One when it first launched. I have since become a devoted member of the Android Community. I urge anyone with a little patience (with tech) to purchase an Android-based phone and you will find mostly all of the things you are lacking from your iphone are addressed within the scope of Google’s technology.

    I’m waiting for Long Term Evolution (LTE) of the cellular networks to get closer before I consider buying another phone.

  • kpss kitapları

    Sorry for the huge review, but I’m really loving the new Zune, and hope this, as well as the excellent reviews some other people have written, will help you decide if it’s the right choice for you.


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