Apple Jedi Mind Tricks Won't Placate iPhone 4 Owners

Was it really worth the media circus for Apple to avoid admitting a problem with the iPhone 4?

For months now I've been watching the train wreck that is the Apple iPhone 4. From the accidental loss of a prototype phone resulting in an early sneak peek from Gizmodo, to the current media circus surrounding the attenuation issues with the antenna, it has been a non-stop PR frenzy of damage-control, ridiculous claims and outright lies.

Let's look at basic design flaws. When I first heard that Apple had put the antenna on the outside of the phone where people would normally hold it, I thought that was a tremendously bad idea. For years, analog and digital cellphones have kept the antenna away from direct physical contact with the user's skin because it degrades the capability of the antenna to receive a signal. Also, most cellphones are made of plastic, because a metal body also interferes with an internal antenna.

According to Bloomberg, Apple was notified early in the design phase that the antenna design was a bad idea, and they chose to ignore it. Apple of course, has denied this in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Skip ahead to the early leak of the prototype model by Brian Hogan, the guy that "found" the iPhone 4 in a bar and sold it to Gizmodo. Putting aside for a moment that Brian made no effort to return the phone, and that Gizmodo knowingly received stolen property, Apple went completely overboard in its response. They subverted normal legal channels and used their influence to violate the rights of journalists to obtain evidence.

Don't get me wrong; Gizmodo is the same group of guys that pulled the TV-B-Gone prank at CES that resulted in their journalist getting banned from CES. I don't agree with their tactics and think that they're an embarrassment to the tech world at large. However, that doesn't excuse the violation of their legal rights. Even the District Attorney on the case agreed and had the search warrant withdrawn, with orders to return all items confiscated.

Now let's move ahead to the release of the iPhone 4. Within days of public release, it became obvious to many people that there was something wrong. Most people holding the phone in their left hand discovered that signal attenuation occurred. Eventually it was linked to the connection of the gap between two of the pieces of the metal antenna by the flesh of the palm of the hand.

Apple's response was typical Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field. First they claimed that there was no problem. Then they blamed it on reporting the signal strength from AT&T improperly -- but by doing so they simply pointed out that their phones had been providing crappy reception for several years, using a cellular provider that was notorious for not shoring up its aging cell infrastructure until it was painfully obvious it could no longer handle the load of so many customers and so much data trying to pass through it.

In a fit of nearly-unbelievable foot-in-mouth syndrome, Steve Jobs actually told someone to "Just avoid holding it in this way".

And the icing on the cake? Apple started recommending bumpers for the phone, the same exact bumper that was found on the prototype that Gizmodo got its hands on. Of course, they continued to deny that they knew about the problem even during the development stage. And they charged users for the privilege of buying that bumper.

It wasn't until Consumer Reports posted their review of the iPhone 4 that Apple finally stopped claiming that it was anything but a design and engineering issue. They relented, and held an emergency press conference that admitted there was a problem and how they were dealing with it.

That wasn't the end of it, of course. In a typical display of "Hey! Look over there!" while they sneak away from the press, Apple tried to blame competitors for the same exact design flaws. Those competitors fired back. Still, while most of the hardcore rabid fanboys are taking Apple to task, there are still a few holdouts (caution, strong language) that prove they are easily duped by the RDF.

Sorry, folks, Steve's not pissed at the media. He's pissed that Apple got caught in a PR nightmare, got caught lying about it, and got caught making things worse until they were forced to acknowledge the truth. Even then, the level of arrogance on the side of Apple during the press conference was unacceptable.

According to Apple, it's going to cost them $45 million to give out free bumpers and refund the ones they charged to existing iPhone 4 customers. That's a drop in the bucket to their cash reserves, and they probably wasted nearly as much trying to pretend that this issue wasn't an issue.

Apple should take this as an object lesson for the future. For the most part, they make high quality devices that people love. If they make a mistake in design and fess up to it, their customers will forgive them. If they continue with this "Who are you going to believe, us or your lying eyes?" nonsense, they deserve to get taken to task for it and ridiculed incessantly for it, like this:

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All