This article was published 14 years ago

Apple won’t admit its’ new antenna is the problem

iphone 4 Apple AT&T
Image credit: Flickr / Shuichi Aizawa

Apple is notorious at building immense hype on their products, especially when a new iPhone is launched. It’s the only company that has tens –  if not, hundreds –  of rumor sites dedicated to covering rumors on future products –  ranging from the Beatles joining the iTunes catalog to an Apple LCD TV.

Apple wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for their PR push to get consumers to buy their products. Consumers get the message that Apple products are must-have and will pay extreme amounts of money to have those products. Even wait in line fore days in 100 degree heat.

But this iPhone launch has been different. Early adopters, mostly people that work in the media, discovered that the iPhone 4 has a design flaw that can kill the signal when grip tightly in your left hand.

Those people talked loudly about the flaw and eventually spread to the mainstream press, especially Consumer Reports. Now Apple is on the wrong side of publicity and Steve Jobs does not like it –  even though this is the same the company has been known to push the button on extreme publicity when a product is launched.

The small mob of irate iPhone 4 users cornered Apple CEO Steve Jobs and held Jobs’ arm behind his back. Jobs finally succumbed to the pressure and cried “uncle” at an unexpected press event Friday

“Ok, great! Let’s give everyone a (free bumper) case,” Steve Jobs sourly announced at the press conference, almost admitting defeat.

Jobs also scolded reporters during the “Nixon”-styled press conference, almost blaming them for stopping short his vacation from Hawaii to address this problem that Jobs said was “blown out of proportions.”

He didn’t have to end his Hawaiian vacation and could have issued a press release from the hotel he was staying at. Jobs also could have someone else do the press conference.

It’s almost as if Steve Jobs asked LeBron James for advice on how to handle the antenna problem. The only thing missing was a Comic Sans letter filled with quotation marks, bold letters and 40 point type.

In this case, it might have been better to issue a press release instead of holding a press conference because Jobs made the situation worst.

One item Jobs pointed out in the press conference suggested that data from AT&T shows that the iPhone 4 drops more calls than the 3GS model. “Even though the iPhone 4 antenna is superior to the iPhone 3GS, the iPhone 4 drops more calls per hundred than the 3GS,” Steve Jobs tells the press like a teenage son tells his parents how his day was in one word. But he also added, “the phone drops less than one additional call per hundred than the 3GS.”

The numbers that Jobs stated may sound like a small amount of calls are drops, but Jobs added more fuel to the fire that the product does have a defect. The only items people will notice is Jobs proclaiming that the iPhone 4 drops more calls than the 3GS.

Jobs also pointed that the return rates for the iPhone 4 are lower than the previous model, although the data shown was from AT&T stores and not from Apple retail stores.

But the main problem Jobs featured in the press event was how the phone was tested with the help of AT&T.

The wireless carrier has a cell tower on the Apple campus in Cupertino, California and compared to the entire network, the Apple tower has the fastest download speeds. Many iPhone users reported that the phone gets killed by the “death grip” when the phone gets an average signal. Users also reported that if the phone is near an AT&T tower, you probably won’t experience the fading call quality.

It’s possible that Apple wasn’t aware of the antenna flaw during the design phase because of the strong signal on the campus. It’s also entirely possible that Apple knew about the problem and decided to go ahead with the design as both Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal have reported. Jobs dismissed the Bloomberg story as a “crock” and called the story “bullshit”.

In the end, the press conference was only made to make aware that only a small fraction of the 3 million iPhone 4 users are complaining about the problem. And to also point out that a case does solve the “death grip” problem. But Apple doesn’t want to admit a screw-up and is aggressively trying to paint a sunny picture on a field covered in nuclear waste.

Flashback to the World-wide Developers Conference in June 2010 when Steve Jobs excitedly proclaimed on stage that the antenna on the new iPhone 4 has “never been done before” and is an example of “brilliant engineering.”

Apple does not want to admit that the brilliant engineering has turned into a nightmare and is desperately trying everything to fix the problem before waving the white flag of surrender.