Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't "fix" the problem, does lower Apple's standards

Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't "fix" the problem, does lower Apple's standards

Summary: Apple's Antennagate fix to give away free bumper cases is hardly a fix to the bigger hardware defect problem - and, quite frankly - lowers the standards of a company that's long been able to charge a premium price for quality products.

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Crack open the champagne bottles! Apple is giving away free bumper cases to iPhone 4 owners.

The giveaway, of course, is Apple's way of addressing an antenna problem that Apple doesn't really see as a problem. But, hey, if dropping a million bucks or so to get bloggers - and maybe even Consumer Reports - off Apple's back, then so be it.

For 90 minutes this morning, Apple CEO Steve Jobs talked to a select group of reporters, bloggers and analysts about the perceived problem with the iPhone 4's antenna design. I say perceived because - based on live online coverage of the event - there seemed to be a strong hint of arrogance emitting from Jobs that this wasn't a problem worthy of so much attention.

Related: Apple iPhone 4 press conference - Live coverage

Photo Gallery from event

He went out of his way to highlight the signal deterioration the occurs with three other smartphones - a Blackberry, an HTC and a Samsung - and spoke about the very small number of complaints that AppleCare has received over this matter. In other words: This is a problem that affects all smartphones and, in reality, our customers don't seem to mind.

There was also a hint of a "This is all in your imagination" sort of mentality - especially when Steve and a couple of other execs held up the case-free iPhone 4's that they use as proof that this problem isn't really a problem.

Steve also let his distaste for the blogosphere be known for turning this into a big deal. But what about Consumer Reports and its scathing non-recommendation of the iPhone 4 because of this antenna issue? Jobs didn't seem to take CR to the mat - but then again, mainstream consumers (beyond the early adopter techies) are the ones who use CR as a buying guide. That matters at Apple. At least, it should.

So, here are the details. Every iPhone 4 owner is entitled to a free bumper case, or a refund if one has already been purchased. But that only applies to Apple's bumper cases. (Steve doesn't seem to care for case vendors either, seeing how they often jump the gun and don't keep Apple's secret announcement all that much of a secret.)

The bumper case offer is only good through September 30, though the company says it will evaluate after that whether or not to extend it. As for a hardware fix, there doesn't seem to be any plans for that. And Steve says he doesn't know what the antenna design will look like in the next-generation iPhone.

Bottom line: the iPhone 4 has a defect and Apple's way of fixing it is to put a Band-Aid on it. Admittedly, the bumper helps. But it doesn't change the fact that the product has a defect that prevents it from being used as it was originally intended.

In a post earlier this week, Larry Dignan referred to the bumper case as the lazy man's fix - and I agree with that. Apple is known for offering premium products - but for a premium price. As a Mac fan, I am OK with paying that premium because I know that the quality of what I'm buying is superior to whatever else is on the market. Apple's bar is higher than the industry.

But apparently, that is not the case with the iPhone. Steve makes a point of noting that antenna technology is bad throughout the smartphone industry - though I can't recall RIM or Google or Motorola or HTC having to hold press conferences to address perception of a widespread problem.

There's an important word: "perception." As Steve talked about the antenna woes of the rest of the industry, he said that he thinks Apple is "where the rest of the industry is right now."

As a Mac fan, this is not what I want to hear from Apple's CEO. As a consumer, I do not want to pay a premium for something that's comparable to the rest of the industry. Oh sure, the app store and user interface and screen technology may be out of this world - but if the phone doesn't work, what good is it?

The new perception is that Apple has lowered its standards and has accepted sub-par technology.

People have asked me what response from Apple would have satisfied the critic in me. That's easy. I wanted Apple to address the bigger problem - not point fingers or blow it off like it's all in the imagination of Consumer Reports and bloggers looking for page clicks. Did that mean a full recall? Actually, yes - but not a Toyota style recall.

The bumper is a lazy fix. But it could have been an interim fix, right? Apple could have said it was issuing free bumper cases and then was headed back into the engineering labs to come up with a hardware fix to address this defect. Sure, it would cost money - but Apple takes pride in the quality of its products and it has a few bucks in the bank to cover it. A fix would also take time - but the case would have been something to hold users over until Apple could come up with a permanent fix.

That would have restored my faith in Apple as a company that takes pride in its products and would never want to lower its standards to be put on the same stage as "the rest of the industry."

But that didn't happen today, folks.

The press conference was a public relations nightmare. (In fact, someone commented on our live analysis coverage that this event could go become a public relations case study for other companies on how not to handle such a situation.) The arrogance was evident. The finger-pointing came across as childish. The comparisons to other devices tried to cloud the issue.

Steve noted early in the press conference that "We're not perfect." Maybe not - but I always thought you were better than this.

For years, I had iPhone envy - but have refused to take the plunge because of the poor AT&T signal in the Bay Area. I no longer have that envy. In my eyes, the iPhone 4 will remain a device with a defect - and I just can't see paying that much money for a product that only works if I put a case on it or agree to not touch it in a certain way.

I may be alone in this camp - as true iPhone diehards will probably take me to the mat on this one. But I suspect that I'm not the only one who lost some respect for Apple today.

Related coverage:

Topics: Hardware, Apple, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

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157 comments
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  • What exactly are they suppose to do?

    Redesign the phone? That will probably come, but right now they're in a ramped up production cycle, probably having ordered millions of them. I don't even have a smart phone, but my basic cell phone drops calls occasionally and loses reception in many place. All sounds like a bunch of whiny people with money to burn.
    GoPower
    • Stop production?

      @GoPower

      That is always an option, especially when the antenna design is defective. But instead of doing that, they continue to make defective hardware and remedy it with free cases. That normally would be a nightmare for any other company. But Apple is above such things. Sam is right, the arrogance shows.
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Defective?

        @NStalnecker

        My moto drops bars when I hold it. Is it defective too?
        People
      • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

        @NStalnecker
        Who cares about dropped bars. Can't see them anyway when your talking on the phone. And, if the call does not drop, it's a mute point!
        Jamo099
      • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

        @Jamo099 "And, if the call does not drop, it's a mute point!"

        Wow. Gotta love the grammar. And the pun that just came from the poor grammar =).

        (the word you're looking for is "moot")

        . . . and if it affects the signal strength enough to change the bars, I reckon it could indeed drop a call if you're close to the edge of a service area.
        CobraA1
      • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

        @NStalnecker
        No, the blogomatics got called on the mat because they (Sam Diaz included) keep insisting on a defect so it MUST be there.

        It's BS, and overblown, so congratulation on your overblown BS campaign. Find something worth writing about, maybe something appropriate for the audience you so blithely command.
        lelandhendrix@...
      • Who said the Antenna design was defective?

        @NStalnecker

        Or are you a parrot or just an idiot?
        Bruizer
      • Insisting on a defect!?

        @lelandhendrix

        Uh, hello, there [i]IS[/i] a defect! And it is "overblown" because Steve Jobs put Apple in that position by telling the users that they were holding the phone wrong, and refused to accept that their God device was flawed.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

        @NStalnecker

        Please keep complaining and screaming at the top of lungs. I BEG YOU TO!

        Why?

        I need a new phone, and I want to get my first iPhone. And like the market I trade, I buy low sell high. Right now Apple has real "major" problems, and thus if you keep yelling and screaming I will be able to get my iPhone cheaper.

        Ok, deal? You keep yelling and screaming?
        serpentmage
      • Who is screaming?

        I wasn't screaming.

        THIS CONSTITUTES SCREAMING!
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

        @NStalnecker Do you have an iPhone 4? I do, and it's NOT DEFECTIVE.

        In fact, it works better than the phone I had before. Better signal, more speed, the best display available, and a truly usable camera.

        Even my wifi range is markedly improved.

        How is yours??
        lelandhendrix@...
    • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

      @GoPower
      why not?
      I don't see this as a highly complex fix.
      Change it and offer a replacement as they become available to those that have them - if they choose to do so.

      So many companies have relied on their "name impact" and have eventually found out the hard way that they too can slide downhill.

      Welcome to your slide Apple.
      rhonin
      • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

        @zenwalker
        Correct. it is not complex fix and with having that much of cash they could have offered a fix for everyone. Jobs said there was only 0.55% rate that raised the voice, you never know how many more are facing and feeling shy/lazy to complain. Apple could have silently done this without even attacking the complaints. They could have replaced phones or given away bumpers instead of saying algorithm issue. That could have saved a lot of energy and time on this.
        Ram U
      • What are they to fix?

        @zenwalker

        How much issues have you had with your iPhone 4? I thought so, you have not used one.
        Bruizer
      • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

        @Bruizer - That's great your iPhone doesn't drop calls on you, but the fact that your so persistent and assumptive of other peoples phones, it shows that you suffer from Steve Job Syndrome.

        [Steve Job Syndrome: Refusal to accept facts you don't want to hear. i.e. - The iPhone 4 has a engineer flaw with the antenna - Or - People actually want to use flash on their phones]

        Get over yourself. Just because you don't have a dropped call doesn't offer any evidence or support for your stupid and ignorant position that there is no problem. The ignorance and arrogance is thick w/ Steve Jobs and evidently you as well.
        billvsd
    • Just Don't Mess Up the Next Product Launch

      @GoPower

      Let's just hope that they don't screw up their next four product launches the way that they did the iPhone 4. Here are the launches in case you are curious.

      VERY FUNNY Apple products.

      http://www.dailygoat.com/?p=1491
      pchrun
    • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

      @GoPower Exactly man. all those editors have nothing to do except raise issues even if they do not exist.
      There is no need to re-design and any re-design will be just to change the perception and is of no engineering value. This antenna design is far superior to the embedded ones. All you have to do is not to short that gap and you will enjoy superior reception.
      abisaab1
      • There is no issue?

        Then WHY does the iPhone 4 drop 22-67% more calls than all the other phones on AT&T?

        Yes, that's right. Up to 67% more dropped calls than other AT&T phones, including previous generation iPhones!

        Where are those numbers from? Well, it's simple maths:

        AT&T claim a dropped call rate of 1.4-1.7%, some tests have shown up to 4.5%

        One more dropped call per 100 means the iPhone 4 drops 2.4-5.5% of all calls. That's an increase of 22-67%.

        That makes the iPhone 4 most certainly the worst phone on the market in terms of dropped calls.

        And you deny there is an issue? Say that again, with a straight face.

        And by the way, those 0.55% complaints about the iPhone 4's reception is 35 times more complaints than HTC has recieved about the Droid Eris. 35 times.

        And that despite that most people certainly blame their issues on AT&T anyway. People are used to AT&T dropping calls, that's why they don't blame the phone (unless they've read about 'Antennagate', but those are not included in Apple's numbers, since the numbers are from before 'Antennagate').
        drphysx
    • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

      @GoPower OK lets see, I drooped my land line because when it rained the LAND LINE would drop my call. If it was to windy the LAND LINE would drop my call. Now with all the cell phones the APPLE iPhone 4G drops my calls. Now let us think about this. My LAND LINE and my iPhone 4G are both using AT&T well what do you know the cell phone has finely caught up they are both using old outdated phone co. AT&T "how may we drop your call today"?
      Par-Pro
    • RE: Apple's Antennagate: A free iPhone 4 case doesn't

      @GoPower

      "What exactly are they suppose to do?
      Redesign the phone?"

      Yes.

      I wish all answers were that easy.
      CobraA1