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Apple in denial about iPhone 4 flaw, offers free bumpers

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  iPhone 4 antenna 16th July 2010

 At a hastily arranged press conference today, Apple attempted to draw a line under what has been dubbed "Antennagate" by some. Claiming that the problems with the iPhone 4's antenna have been blown out of proportion, CEO Steve Jobs sought to downplay the smartphone's reported faults.

Defending his company, Steve Jobs explained that they had spent $100 million testing the new iPhone 4 with a team made up of highly qualified experts and state-of-the-art facilities. Apple demonstrated that the HTC Droid Eris, BlackBerry Bold and Samsung Omnia II also suffer signal degradation when held in a certain way.

While this is certainly true, Apple made a big deal about their antenna arrangement being better than traditional phones, so at the very least this is an acknowledgement that it isn't better at all.

 Apple iPhone 4 Jobs asserted that the number of people complaining about antenna issues was small, at 0.55% of the 3 million units sold so far. Return rates for the iPhone 4 are also very low at the moment, with just 1.7% of units returned.. although it has only been on the market for three weeks.

Apple also announced a bugfix to their iOS operating system, dealing with what they say is a misrepresentation about signal strength common to all iPhones, where the handset claims to have a strong signal in what is actually a weak signal area.

Statistics from Apple show that the iPhone 4's drop rates are actually slightly worse than the iPhone 3GS (Apple claim that the 4 drops less than 1% overall more than the 3GS), but without actual numbers it is hard to compare like with like.

Apple's solution for this problem is to send free "bumper" cases to those iPhone 4 customers who want one, users can choose from a selection and Apple will apparently mail them out. People who have bought an Apple bumper already can claim a refund, although we suspect that many will opt for a different coloured bumper instead. The offer will apparently run until the end of September.

Customers who are still not happy can return their iPhone 4 within 30 days for a full refund.

Jobs also said that the delayed white iPhone 4 will ship by the end of the month, and that 17 more countries were due for launch on 30th July. There is also a reported problem with the "proximity sensor" that Apple are working on a software fix for.

Jobs claims that there is no "Antennagate" and that people took advantage of problems with the bar display and widespread issues with signal loss common to other smartphones.

Our opinion is this: Apple are still in denial about the faults. Thousands of customers are unhappy, although it is fair to say that many more customers are probably very happy with their purchase. Apple still deny that the antenna design is flawed, but their offer of free bumpers is surely a tacit admission that there's a problem. Although it may well be true that only a small number of people have a significant problem, Apple's technical explanation seems like flimflam. Many customers will not be happy with the bumper solution, although we expect that it will please the majority of them. However, we could still see this one in court at some time in the future.


Hat tip: Ryan Kim, San Francisco Chronicle for live coverage of the event. Analysis and comment is our own.


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