Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat


Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Dan: The drama surrounding iPhone 4 reception issues moved up a few notches yesterday when Consumer Reports announced that they were reversing position and announced that they could not recommend the iPhone 4 due to a design flaw in their external antenna. Bear in mind that they seem to love every other aspect of the phone and give it a score of 76 out of 100 with the next highest ranked phones, the iPhone 3GS and the HTC Sprint Evo each getting a 74, but the particular antenna issue is, for them, a deal breaker.

As the day went on, things heated up. Twitter was buzzing, the blogosphere was blogging and we were chatting away behind the scenes. Then last night Cult of Mac ran a post entitled “PR Experts: iPhone 4 Hardware Recall is ‘Inevitable'”.

I emailed a link to the post to Judie, Larry and Carly with the “extensive” commentary of  “Holy Crap!”.

The following Gear Chat then unfolded …

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Larry:

While I’m not saying it won’t happen I’d be very surprised if there was a recall at this point. Apple would lose millions. It’s not like a car where a simple trip to the dealer and that slap a new part in.

We’re talking about them having to replace millions of phones – based on what this perceived issue is that would involve an entirely new design, which means not “repairing” the phone but replacing them all with brand new models. It would be utterly devastating for them financially. I think they stand to lose less by calling it a non-issue and telling people to simply hold the phone a different way.

I also believe the media is blowing this issue way out of proportion. I’d love to see a survey of real-world users and how many of them are effective by, or even aware of this issue.

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Judie:

I am not going to send in my flipping iPhone if there is a recall, since I do not have any issues. Then again, if they want to send me a new iPhone and let me swap mine out, then I am down with that. 😉

But seriously. I have no issues, but I wouldn’t object to a refund from Apple for the two bumpers I ordered, however.

By the way, my mom even mentioned that she had read there is a class action lawsuit coming together.

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Larry:

Yup, The first suit was filed 10 days ago by two people in Maryland, and since then at least five additional class actions suits have been filed, including one in Texas.

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Judie:

Gah. Nutty. Again, Kev and I both have iPhones with no issues. Do you two have any??

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Dan:

If I hold it tightly I do see a drop. But that is only when I hold it tightly without a case … Which I don’t do.

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Larry:

No issues here, but I have the Clear-Coat on still – I think the side pieces stop the issue. I also don’t really hold my phone in the lower left. I tried to replicate the issue tonight for a friend and couldn’t.

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Dan:

In part, this is just the blog world getting worked up in hysteria. At the same time Apple is not helping themselves by being quiet. I have a case on mine so I’m happy with it, but they can’t hide from the issue anymore.

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Larry:

They aren’t hiding — they are saying it’s a non-issue. According to them, the issue is how the phone is held. Simply don’t hold it on the lower left corner and all is well. Easy fix.

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Dan:

Come on. For the first time ever they release their own case … like that is an accident? They knew this was an issue. They made something that fixed it, but then charged a ton for it.

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Larry:

Well sure. But that’s their fix. No one is being forced to buy the phone or the bumpers. If it doesn’t work for someone, then they have every right to return it.

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Dan:

Agreed. Just don’t feed us some nonsense that it is all about the formula used to report bars etc. That is just insulting. Come clean and be done with it. Say something like “We made a design choice. It was a trade-off and we made a judgment call”. Oh, and it is not a “fix” if you have to buy it.

Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat Carly:

The amazing/stupid thing is that none of this circus would have happened if Apple had just given free bumpers to complainers. People who were angry would have been mollified by free stuff, and that’s the end of it.

This sort of reminds me of the iBook logic board issue a few years ago…apple quietly replaced logic boards but claimed a non-issue, and then suddenly if your serial number was between x and y, you could get a new board even out of warranty. (The details are fuzzy but I vaguely remember that being the solution).

My guess is free bumpers in the future to complainers…which silences enough of them that the outcry dies down.

So are you having reception issues? Does this color your perception of Apple? If you don’t have an iPhone does it make you more or less likely to get one? We want to hear from you.

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.

10 Comments on "Apple Picking iPhone Reception Issues- A Gear Chat"

  1. It also got coverage on “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” although the TechCrunch blogger they had on was a little scornful of Consumer Reports for giving the iPhone 4 the highest rating of all phones tested, *and* recommending against buying it. “This is truly a superb phone; don’t buy it, though.”

  2. Dan Cohen | July 13, 2010 at 4:35 pm |

    Yes. Second release from CR in just as many days. They are milking this one…

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  6. Haesslich | July 13, 2010 at 9:37 pm |

    Well, the whole thing could’ve blown over if they’d not done three things:

    1) Say there was no issue, and that people were imagining things.

    2) Say that it was all the user’s fault, since they were HOLDING the phones by the sides. Given the glass, I’m not sure I’d want to hold it by gripping the front and back glass in a pinch-grip, especially not while holding the thing.

    3) Say that it was a problem with the signal-calculating formula that made the signal look stronger than it really was. Yes, there’s no standard formula to calculate signal strength, but trotting out THREE different responses in the span of a month just discredits them further.

    If they’d just said that ‘yes, we know there’s an issue with the antenna, buy a case or hold it differently’ when the issue was first noticed, it wouldn’t have gotten the play it has. EVERYONE I’ve talked to about the iPhone 4, or who’s even mentioned it in conversation, immediately brings it up. And, contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity – just ask any city named ‘murder capital of ‘. Or Microsoft.

  7. Wayne Schulz | July 14, 2010 at 6:20 am |

    If other phones had this type of reception issue – I think Apple would be in the clear. Most don’t. Prior iPhone’s didn’t.

    That’s the problem Apple is facing.

    First, they really came up with a very poor explanation of why the problem exists — basically the bars were wrong. Uh, yeah ok.

    Second, they stand silent ( I suspect rapidly working on a slipstream fix to start shipping ) as Consumer Reports issues a “not recommended” …

    If I were Apple I’d be automatically sending every owner a bumper in every color, and honoring vouchers for those who preferred to upgrade to the next generation ( patched/modified/fixed) phone. I’d probably also give a $20 iTunes credit.

    The claims that a recall is “inevitable” seem a little far fetched — though I suspect that the iPhone 4 will very quickly receive an upgrade and that Apple’s just not quite ready to make any final announcement.

    Don’t discount the Consumer Reports factor.

    Remember how Sharper Image used to rake in the dough selling those air cleaners?

    I don’t think CR is going to bring down Apple but as people see my new iPhone EVERYONE (and I mean from my kids to my Mom) are asking if that’s the phone with the signal problem that drops calls when you hold it a certain way.

    And competitors haven’t yet capitalized on this.

    • Dan Cohen | July 14, 2010 at 6:29 am |

      “as people see my new iPhone EVERYONE (and I mean from my kids to my Mom) are asking if that’s the phone with the signal problem that drops calls when you hold it a certain way.”

      EXACTLY the problem Apple is now facing. This has gone so mainstream that it is feeding on itself… antenna issue or not.

    • Re competitors not capitalizing on this –

      I saw a tv ad a week or so ago that said, “And this one you can even hold on the sides” with a smile.

      (Maybe it was a joke ad)

  8. Lightwave | July 14, 2010 at 8:27 am |

    My wife had an iPhone 3G and upgraded to the iPhone 4. Inside the building where she works, AT&T doesn’t have a very strong signal. On the iPhone 3G, she would get 2, sometimes 3 bars. On the iPhone 4, in the same building, most of the time she gets no service. She bought an Apple bumper case and this has helped. However with the bumper case, she usually still gets 1 bar. The iPhone 3g was given to a friend of hers. They can literally stand next to each other where they work and the iPhone 3g will display 2 to 3 bars while the iPhone 4 displays 1 bar or no service (with the bumper installed).

    Maybe she has a defective unit, I don’t know. With that said, this issue with my wife’s phone has been witnessed by at least 3 potential new iPhone owners that opted to go in a different direction due to her reception and the public responses by Apple.

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