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Apple's fix for iPhone 4 antenna angst: free cases or a full refund (updated)

Apple still doesn't think there's anything seriously wrong with its new iPhone 4 and says it has the data to back that claim up--but just in case, it's offering free cases to customers worried about the device's reception and will offer a full 30-day refund on the device to those who can't live with it.

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Chief executive Steve Jobs announced these responses in a half-hour press conference at its Cupertino, Calif., campus this morning. The quickly-scheduled event followed weeks of increasingly uncomplimentary commentary and coverage about the possibility of the iPhone 4 losing AT&T's wireless signal when held with a palm or a finger over a gap between its two externally-mounted antennas.

(Apple now has video of the press conference on its site, but you should also consult the liveblogged coverage of Engadget, gdgt, Macworld, and others.)

Jobs used much of the conference--which led off a with the playing of an "iPhone Antenna Song", lately popular on YouTube, mocking media coverage--to suggest those fears were overwrought. As proof, he cited Apple's own research, the iPhone 4's retail sales figures and tech-support data from Apple and AT&T. Specifically, he said that with 3 million copies of the iPhone 4 sold, AT&T was reporting a return rate of 1.7 percent--compared to 6 percent for the iPhone 3GS. Among tech-support calls to Apple about the iPhone 4, only .55 percent involved complaints about reception. And AT&T's call drop data show only a 1 percent increase in dropped calls between the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4.

Further, Jobs said, other phones have the same reception issue when held the wrong way--including earlier iPhone models and also such iPhone competitors as the BlackBerry Bold 9700, HTC's Android-powered Droid Eris and Samsung's Omnia II, a Windows Mobile phone. Apple has since added a page to its site documenting these tests.

(I happen to have the Droid Eris's Sprint sibling, the HTC Hero, sitting on my desk. I have not been able to duplicate that phenomenon; when I grip the phone as shown in Apple's video, the signal fluctuates a little but does not drop to zero or close to it.)

The iPhone 4, however, has an extra problem: It features a line on the outside of its case that tells people exactly where to hold it to experience this issue. Jobs also repeated an earlier Apple explanation that the iPhone's original software overstates AT&T's signal in some cases, causing the slight drop in reception caused by holding the phone in the wrong way to look worse; a software update released yesterday should fix that and, on an iPhone 4 loaned by Apple, causes AT&T's signal in my home to appear one or two bars worse.

But while Apple doesn't think there's a serious problem here--it's ruled out recalling the iPhone 4--Jobs said it wants to make its customers happy. So it's taking two extra steps. They will be able to order a free case of their choice--a fix for the reception issue that everybody seems to agree works--through Apple's Web site in a week or so; customers who already bought Apple's $29 "bumper" case can get a refund. Jobs also said any dissatisfied customer can get a full refund, no questions asked, for an undamaged iPhone 4 up to 30 days after its purchase (but the company already seems to have decided to waive the restocking fee it usually charges in these situations).

Jobs added that Apple is still working to fix issues with the iPhone 4's proximity sensor, which some users have complained doesn't correctly shut off the screen's touch sensitivity when they hold the phone to their faces.

Said Jobs: "We love our users. We really love 'em. We try very hard to surprise and delight them. We work our asses off for them."

Jobs does not share those warm feelings about the media, to judge from much of his remarks and some exchanges in the Q&A that followed the conference. He criticized obsessive coverage of "antennagate" and described a Bloomberg BusinessWeek story alleging that he ignored engineers' warnings about reception problems as "a crock."

Setting aside his critiques of particular stories, though, Jobs has a point. The amount of attention paid to this issue--including a grandstanding statement released by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) demanding that Apple fix the issue for free--has gotten ridiculous. As a hardware story, this saga simply doesn't deserve all the pixels and pages that have been devoted to it. If you really expected perfection from the iPhone 4, you've spent too much time watching Apple's ads and not enough time using its products.

The real problem here remains the sluggish and secretive way Apple deals with queries and criticism from its customers and the public in general. Jobs's appearance today may address the concerns of individual iPhone users, but it doesn't suggest the company is working on a bug-fix release for that larger issue.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  July 16, 2010; 2:06 PM ET
Categories:  Mobile , The business we have chosen  
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Comments

Apple's Jobs admits `We're not perfect'

The temperature in hell just dropped to 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now if ONLY ONE lame stream socialist media hussein sycophant says the same thing about TheOne, hell will totally freeze over.

Posted by: TeaPartyPatriot | July 16, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

WHAT deathgrip. Remember the swine flu thing? The swine, as in brain-dead unemployeds, can crawl back under the rock. Everey phone I ever purchased came with a 30 day no questions asked moneyback guarantee. No like? Hike.

Posted by: craigslsst | July 16, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Apple's Jobs admits `We're not perfect'

The temperature in hell just dropped to 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now if ONLY ONE lame stream socialist media hussein sycophant says the same thing about TheOne, hell will totally freeze over.

Posted by: TeaPartyPatriot

* * * * *
Dude everything doesn't have to be related to Obama. Such mindless comparisons nullify any reasonable criticism.

Posted by: eaglechik | July 16, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

I enjoyed all of Steve's digs at the media for blowing this all out of proportion. (I know you have been mystified by the attention it is getting, Rob.) I wish Steve would have tackled Consumer Reports' (lack of a) recommendation more directly and said that CR should go back and test different grips on all smartphones and withdraw their recommendation from any other phones that are susceptible to "death grips".

Posted by: frigate32 | July 16, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

@TeaPartyPatriot -- The last perfect person to walk this earth was Jesus.

Runteldat.

You are paid to spew seditious hagiography using code words such as "illegals," "Obamacare," and "state's rights" which are sent to you from a person who thinks she's perfect .... like Caribou Barbie!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yeagh!

Posted by: bs2004 | July 16, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Apple: Highest retail product price, lowest 3rd World wages...

Balkingpoints / www

Posted by: RField7 | July 16, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

The irony of Apple complaining about media coverage. They thrive in an envelope of near complete adoration from customers, bloggers, tech columnists, etc. Own up to the problem and move on.

Posted by: greg4408 | July 16, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I am sitting in my office with my finger over the suspect area: no change in signal strength - full bars. But maybe that's because I'm in a strong signal area and I have dry (less conductive?) skin

Posted by: maus92 | July 16, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I've got another question for you.

What happened to Brian Krebs, a journalist whose hard work actually got spammers thrown in jail? Why does this news site now just meekly follow the pack and rewrite "news" or pr baloney that everybody already read somewhere else?

Posted by: LynneLovesMints | July 16, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

How utterly embarrassing for the brain cancer cell-phone generation.. Maybe if they pushed them up harder to their ears they might be able to hear something... How funny is that? How much is one of these things anyway? Is the price coming down? Are there any recalls? Ha Ha

Posted by: icurhuman2 | July 16, 2010 3:26 PM | Report abuse


The new Droid X blows iPhone 4 out of the water, feature for feature, in every performance category you would care to name.

Including phone reception and clarity.


Posted by: screwjob17 | July 16, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Apple's Jobs admits `We're not perfect'

The temperature in hell just dropped to 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now if ONLY ONE lame stream socialist media hussein sycophant says the same thing about TheOne, hell will totally freeze over.

Posted by: TeaPartyPatriot | July 16, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

He's not perfect, don't think anyone has ever proclaimed that, except for you, tard.

Posted by: Bigfoot_has_a_posse | July 16, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

It's nice that Pegoraro finally admits that this story has gotten blown WAY out of proportion. But I guess that seals Apples place at the top of the tech world: it is now the #1 target for schadenfreude-seeking loser bloggers and journalists.

Just get a case. They're free now, so you have no excuse to whine. Or stick a tiny piece of clear packing tape over the gap - if you're too short-sighted to want to protect your $200 phone.

And now, the droid-loving howlers can officially shut up.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 16, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

When you sell 3 million of these things, even a smaller percentage of defective phones can cause a pretty big scene. 1.7% is 50K unsatisfied customer.

Posted by: Chuckled | July 16, 2010 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"Apple's Jobs admits `We're not perfect'

The temperature in hell just dropped to 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now if ONLY ONE lame stream socialist media hussein sycophant says the same thing about TheOne, hell will totally freeze over.

Posted by: TeaPartyPatriot | July 16, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Please leave your noxious politics out of this discussion, "Patriot."

Posted by: TruthTeller41 | July 16, 2010 4:05 PM | Report abuse

They made Toyota recall there cars why not the Iphone 4?

I have a 3gs and its been quirky since i upgrade to 4.0.
I believe its software and hardware problem.

A bumper thats the best you can do for a person who bought your product?
Then you insult people more when you say that I don't believe there is a problem!
Apple needs to stick with computers if thats how there going to conduct business.

Its sad job apple did with Iphone 4 between them and AT&T i would advise people to look at Droid.

Posted by: shamken | July 16, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

What has been lost in the controversy from the time of the original iPhone is that Apple did not invent the dropped call. But how many stories before that time targeted, at this level of scrutiny, a particular manufacturer, or telcom provider?

@Rob
You have no quantifiable evidence that there is a "...sluggish and secretive way Apple deals with queries and criticism from its customers and the public in general." Hard data: Apple has the highest customer satisfaction of any smart phone maker, or computer maker for a few year running. Furthermore, it is amusing that you think that Apple needs to address the concerns of the "public in general." Lots of criticism (probably most) comes from people who disagree with Apple's business model and who have no intention of buying Apple products. What could Apple say to mollify these people? My guess is not much.

Posted by: scsmits | July 16, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Tea Party Patriot wrote:
Apple's Jobs admits `We're not perfect'

The temperature in hell just dropped to 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now if ONLY ONE lame stream socialist media hussein sycophant says the same thing about TheOne, hell will totally freeze over.
__________________________________________
Are you talking about Neo from "The Matrix"? Psst...idiot...yes, you, watching Glenn Beckaroonie...it's a technology story!

Posted by: fluxgirl | July 16, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Apple still doesn't think there's anything seriously wrong with its new iPhone 4 and says it has the data to back that claim up--but just in case, it's offering free cases to customers worried about the device's reception and will offer a full 30-day refund on the device to those who can't live with it.

So die hard APPLE FANS state there's a problem and Apple denies it. There answer A CASE... LOL As for the 30 day money back refund period this is standard for any thing purchased from AT&T. It sounds like a little consumer fraud going on here....

Posted by: askgees | July 16, 2010 4:49 PM | Report abuse

I enjoyed all of Steve's digs at the media for blowing this all out of proportion. (I know you have been mystified by the attention it is getting, Rob.) I wish Steve would have tackled Consumer Reports' (lack of a) recommendation more directly and said that CR should go back and test different grips on all smartphones and withdraw their recommendation from any other phones that are susceptible to "death grips".


Posted by: frigate32 | July 16, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

This may be the best description of a LIB T@RD I've ever read. No need to fix the problem. Just make sure everyone else has the same problem. I guess it's easy to see why you bought the iPhone.

Posted by: askgees | July 16, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

This appears to be an Apple cover up. Blame someone or something else and hope the problem disappears. Sounds a lot like software problems with Macs, just do a bunch of updates without saying what they are, and hope...

Posted by: gmclain | July 16, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I recall Apple did its phone demo in a low-signal area. If you are trying it in DC the signal may be so strong you can't get it to go down.

And, so, that raises an interesting point. Could you get an iPhone 4 to go down relative to another smartphone in a high-signal area? If so, that points to an issue with the iPhone 4 antenna -- not necessarily a "problem."

Bottom line, a metal cell phone antenna should not should not be coming into direct contact with the skin.

They are dancing around the issue a bit with their limited, selective test.

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | July 16, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Great. Now that we're done with this story (3,000 nearly identical versions of it on Google News!) can we get back to mourning the death of the media?

Posted by: yetanotherpassword | July 16, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse


Wow ... iPhone 4 finally gets a 5 Megapixel camera and an LED flash ... like the original Droid had a year ago. Meanwhile Droid X has 8 Megapixel, dual-LED flash and HDMI output.

Things like "removable battery" are a huge technology leap, if you are an Apple fanboy.

Posted by: screwjob17 | July 16, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

You're not going to see anyone returning their iphone for the pathetic Droid X. I dumped my Droid for the iphone 4. No bumper-- and have never dropped or heard a denigration in service. My Droid (worst name for a product ever) dropped calls all the time. Version service is not that great and the Android OS blows. Use both, you'll choose the iphone hands down.

Posted by: Pragmatist2 | July 16, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Apple iPhones are decent for he everyday user but have no place in the business world. Apple tried to bring it into the business world but their greed killed it. But hey to each their own. I will say it's the best looking iPhone thus far but doesn't meet my requirements. Apple should however address any issues that are being reported to ensure they don't have a problem. Simply offering a rubber case is not a SOLUTION. And Jobs stating they give a 30 day refund is a LIE that is offered on ALL AT&T products.

Posted by: askgees | July 16, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

I have no sympathy for the folks who bought the phone. They are fools who require "gotta have the latest even if I don't need it" gratification at any cost.

Mr. Jobs said that most users have no problem. Definition of most: 10% of users who put mere possession of the phone before anything else.

Mr. Jobs said that other phones have similar problems with the antennae. Funny, I haven't seen a story about this anywhere.

The phone should of been recalled and and replaced.

Posted by: pbarnett52 | July 16, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

You're not going to see anyone returning their iphone for the pathetic Droid X. I dumped my Droid for the iphone 4. No bumper-- and have never dropped or heard a denigration in service. My Droid (worst name for a product ever) dropped calls all the time. Version service is not that great and the Android OS blows. Use both, you'll choose the iphone hands down.

Posted by: Pragmatist2 | July 16, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse


This is what you call a grand illusion.... YOU may not return your phone but that doesn't mean everyone see's things the way you do. But keep projecting and maybe it will come true. As an IT manager I have seen 3 people in the past 6 months give up their iPhone for a different smart phone that works with corporate email systems so it happens and probably happens everyday. But it depends on what you need to do on the device. Most people have to use them for real work not just Facebook.

Posted by: askgees | July 16, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

This whole thing is B.S. Apple still rules the smartphone world. Period.

Posted by: rg019571 | July 16, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm dumping my iPhone because, based on his press conference, Jobs works for BP.

Posted by: getitritegov | July 16, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I've really lost respect for much of the media on this. It's a classic example of hyping a ridiculous non-story just because you need web hits, because your paper or magazine is dying. Kind of sad, but here we are.

3 million phones sold. 1.7% returned, even though return is free and no-questions-asked. Consumer Reports admits it is the best smartphone out there, as long as you have a case or tiny piece of tape on it. That's kind of all you need to know.

I'm looking forward to picking mine up here in the next few days. The media can drown in its own spittle fuming on about this. I won't shed a thought in their passing.

They didn't give a damn when an administration lied up and down for two years to start a war that ended up killing a million civilians. But THIS, this is an outrage! Apple's stellar new smartphone isn't 100% perfect! Oh, the horrors.

What a worthless media America has gotten stuck with.

Posted by: B2O2 | July 16, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Don't like it, take it back, no questions asked.

Who could possibly complain?

Oh never mind, this is America, where people are paid to complain, apparently.

Posted by: frantaylor | July 16, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

"Apple iPhones are decent for he everyday user but have no place in the business world. Apple tried to bring it into the business world but their greed killed it."

Since when has Apple EVER cared about the business world? They have ALWAYS been consumer-oriented, they are happy to leave the cut-throat world of low-margin business computing to Dell and HP. Lexus doesn't make dump trucks.

Posted by: frantaylor | July 16, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

screwjob17 said "The new Droid X blows iPhone 4 out of the water..." etc.

I've seen screwjob17 post the same comment once before and I imagine that he/she's posted it many times.

From everything I've read, Droid is abysmal for music. Music is the most important feature for me and the iPhone excels at it (despite an annoying bug in the iPod app).

Posted by: beetsnotbeats | July 16, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

B2O2 (a few posts up), I could not agree with you more. I mean jeez. Even the Washington Post has been reduced to cranking out link bait. (Anything for a hit, man, we're dying over here!)

This is the way things have been trending for years, yeah I know, but every once in a while I still get startled. I just wish they'd maintain some dignity on the way out.

Posted by: fakedude1 | July 16, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse


shamken:

The Department of Transportation has the legal right to force manufacturers recall if a vehicle defect puts peoples' lives in danger.

No phone on the planet puts a person's life in immediate danger.

Apple proved once again why it is an admired company -- it is giving all customers a fair solution if they are not fully satisfied. More than we can say for pretty much any other phone company out there.

...and are you a paid troll or what? Your off-subject Droid advertisment is not warranted. Rob himself uses a Droid phone and he doesn't tell us all that we should also have them. Let people choose what works best for them rather than shilling for some company.

Posted by: roule | July 16, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Good thing that you don't have to stand on one foot to get signal.

Posted by: bobbo2 | July 16, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

Too bad John Lennon isn't around--I'd like to hear his take on Apple groupies.

Posted by: rusty3 | July 16, 2010 6:41 PM | Report abuse

"Jobs does not share those warm feelings about the media, to judge from much of his remarks and some exchanges in the Q&A that followed the conference"

I can't say that I blame him. The media in general and the Wall Street Wizards in particular have predicted the imminent demise of Apple so many time that I have lost count.

Did you 'watch' the press conference blog? Watch the video? Did you actually note that the signal strengths actually dropped on each of the smart phones used in the demonstration. Please, tell me I was hallucinating because I saw those things happen.

Posted by: repmisc | July 16, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

Most Apple stories "simply don't deserve all the pixels and pages that are devoted to" them, but the fawning media, Rob included, cover everything Apple with bated breath so why complain now that that attention happens to be negative?

Posted by: scarper86 | July 16, 2010 8:05 PM | Report abuse

@LynneLovesMints 3:24 PM

"...What happened to Brian Krebs..."

Still up to his good ol' tricks at
http://krebsonsecurity.com/

Posted by: txJosh16 | July 16, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

(I happen to have the Droid Eris's Sprint sibling, the HTC Hero, sitting on my desk. I have not been able to duplicate that phenomenon; when I grip the phone as shown in Apple's video, the signal fluctuates a little but does not drop to zero or close to it.)
===

So what? I couldn't cause my iPhone 3G to drop more than a bar (or 10 dB in the Field Test screen) when I was sitting at my desk today. It probably didn't help that I could see a cell phone tower ~300m away. Did you every think that you might have such a strong signal that you wouldn't ever be able to recreate it?

Posted by: mason08 | July 17, 2010 12:27 AM | Report abuse

Steve did what he does best. He was passionate about how much Apple loves it's customers, and how hard he/Apple works to give us surprises that we are delighted with. Apple wants all users to be happy users. They work their butts off to fix things that need to be fixed. They, like all businesses, depend on customer loyalty and satisfaction. And they are not perfect. Never have been. (Every long-time Apple user knows that). They dump billions of dollars into giving us great products, incredible software, and an easy to use, complete experience. They bend over backwards to be all things to all people because they believe in what they do. That's integrity.

WOW. I get a lot of characters for this post. . . thanks. I'll keep going. . .

Over the past more than thirty years, the products that Apple has created have had a transformational impact on multiple forms of media production: print, video, and audio. Without Apple, and Adobe, as a team, we'd probably still be setting photo-type with a command line interface. The ability to create a beautiful page, a movie, or a song, without intense training, and master of a craft would not be possible.

QuickTime is superior, and continually developing. H264 rocks.

And now, Apple aka Steve Jobs, is trying to give us the ability to view and create media with no printing at all required, with the A4 iPads and iPhones, because (sorry The Washington Post) printing needs to die in order to live in the future. No paper, no film, no weight.

It's a bad feeling when you tell someone you love them, and they don't say anything back.

Posted by: novaaug | July 17, 2010 1:03 AM | Report abuse

It's amazing how badly iPhone 4 sucks. It's also amazing how Apple Fanboys will defend it until the end of time. I will freely note first off that I am not a fanboy by any stretch, however I do have the 3GS, which I love. I did buy the iPhone 4, and it was so terrible that I returned it and went back to my current 3GS. It was just that bad. It's hilarious to me what Apple fanboys are saying in forums and blogs all across the web, defending this thing like it's some sacred gem, pretending all its issues don't even exist. Ridiculous. Check out the video I made on YouTube about "An Apple Fanboy's take on Life...". It's at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPcQ-cYg8iA

Posted by: istariphoenix | July 17, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I totally disagree with the view that this problem has been over reported, over hyped, etc. (Well, with the exception of ANY member of Congress getting involved).

I subscribe to a dozen tech blogs and since the iPhone 4's release, better than 65% of the posts to these blogs have involved the iPhone 4. It's only fair that when a problem is encountered with a device that is so much in the media (including your columns, Mr. Pergaro), these problems should be reported with equal fervor.

Apple too often gets a free pass. It's time people realize Jobs isn't the Messiah, and he and his company can screw up with the best of them.

Posted by: timmdrumm | July 18, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

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