It’s Time Apple Fixed the iPhone 4 Antenna Problem
* By Brian X. Chen Email Author
* July 15, 2010 |
The iPhone 4 antenna problem is real. Apple needs to step up and make things right for the customers affected by it, and that may be what the company plans to do during a last-minute press conference Friday.
The press conference will start 10 a.m. at Apple’s town hall in Cupertino, Calif. Wired.com will provide news coverage of the event. You can also follow follow @gadgetlab or @bxchen on Twitter to stay plugged in to the news in real time.
Multiple independent tests have found that the iPhone 4 was more likely to suffer from attenuation (i.e., signal degradation) compared to similar handsets, when held in a very natural position covering the antenna gap in the lower-left corner.
The tests so far, performed by Consumer Reports and some bloggers, aren’t perfectly scientific, but they are consistent and repeatable. They point to the same inescapable conclusion: The iPhone 4’s antenna issues are related to a hardware design flaw.
That’s not a problem that can be resolved with an upcoming software update to correct the way the iPhone 4 displays signal strength, as Apple has promised.
On top of that, the reader reports about this issue continue to pour in to inboxes of several tech publications, including Wired, Gizmodo and Engadget.
Sure, there are lots of reasons to cheer about the iPhone 4. We like it, too, as shown in Wired.com’s very positive review of the device. In that review we did note the iPhone 4 is not a reliable phone, but a great overall device, particularly if you’re among that growing majority of people who use their phones more for Twitter and e-mail than for talking.
And in our own tests, as well as the reports of many readers, the antenna problem is not especially serious. It is likely that it only affects the minority of iPhone 4 customers, either because of quirks in Apple’s manufacturing process or because those users are in especially weak signal areas.
Still, even if the antenna issues are affecting a minority, the minority population for the iPhone 4 is big. Keep in mind this device is on track to be the best-selling phone ever, with sales topping 1.7 million in the first three days of launch.
Apple has long been a brand respected for excellent customer service and rock-solid industrial design. Wired.com believes that Apple should do the following in order to retain the respectability of its brand and loyalty of customers:
Change the antenna design
A full hardware recall, which an analyst estimates would cost Apple $1.6 billion, isn’t necessary. But at this point, Apple can still remedy the hardware defect in later shipments.
Provide free bumpers
On Apple’s support website, iPhone 4 customers should be able to request a free bumper if they report experiencing the problem. It’s an easy enough fix that’s been confirmed to alleviate the problem, for those who don’t mind wearing an ugly bumper.
Replace the phone for those who ask
If iPhone 4 customers bring their handsets into an Apple Store, they should be able to exchange the device for a newer “fixed” model at no charge, as long as they’re under warranty. We think many users will be satisfied with a free case — in addition to providing antenna insulation, it also protects the iPhone’s two glass faces — but for those who aren’t, a replacement phone is a fair deal.
These steps may cost Apple a lot of money, but it’s the right thing to do. And whatever the cost, it’s nothing relative to the long-term damage that this problem will inflict on Apple, if it goes unfixed.
For proof, look no further than the billions of dollars in market capitalization that Apple has shed since the iPhone 4 launch. There’s no clearer sign that the market wants this problem fixed, and now.
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