Apple, recently under fire for iPhone 4 antenna problems, publicly addressed the issue in a special press conference at its Cupertino headquarters today. Steve Jobs explained that the company isn't perfect, but they want to make their users happy. Over three million iPhone 4 units have already been sold.
According to Jobs, for 22 days Apple has been working non-stop on determining the root cause of the problem and coming up with a real solution. Reports have indicated that connecting a gap with your hand in the metal band around the outside of the iPhone 4 can cause a drop in signal strength. The media has affectionately referred to this hand position as the "death grip."
The problem is not unique to the iPhone 4, however independent testing from Consumer Reports confirmed that the problem is worse on the iPhone 4 than on other models, including the iPhone 3GS. Consumer Reports also determined that a case such as an iPhone 4 Bumper solves the issue. At the press conference, Jobs displayed Apple's own test results, which showed that bars indeed drop when smart phones such as the HTC Droid Eris, BlackBerry Bold 9700, and the Samsung Omnia II are also held in a "death grip."
Apple was aware of the issue, which is not unique to iPhones, however the company did not anticipate it would garner this level of attention from consumers. They tested the device in their $100 million state of the art facility. Because the antenna is external on the iPhone 4, the line on the lower left side of the device makes it easy to see exactly where the worst antenna attenuation occurs, whereas in other phones the antenna is internal.What made the problem worse was incorrect signal strength reporting in how many bars are displayed, which Jobs contends has been corrected with the iOS 4.0.1 firmware update. He explained that other companies may not be as forthright about their signal strength calculations as there are no standards for how many bars are supposed to be displayed in a given situation.
The iPhone 4 antenna is supposed to be superior to the iPhone 3GS antenna, and it has been shown to increase reception in low-signal areas. Jobs went through some interesting data relating the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 3GS:
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- Customers calling AppleCare about reception issues on the iPhone 4 are 0.55 percent of total iPhone 4 owners.
- Return rates for the iPhone 4 at AT&T stores are 1/3 the iPhone 3GS return rates.
- Dropped calls on the iPhone 4 compared to iPhone 3GS amount to less than one additional dropped call per every 100 calls made.
Although Jobs has indicated the "antennagate" problem affects such a small number of users, he contends that the company loves and cares about every user. Apple will offer a free iPhone 4 case or refund for purchased bumper cases for every iPhone 4 bought before September 30.
Apple can't make enough of their iPhone 4 Bumper cases to fulfill demand, so the company will source other cases and give iPhone 4 owners a choice of free cases for their device. Applications for free cases will be offered on the Apple website. In the meantime the iOS 4.0.1 update fixes the cellular bar problem, and Apple is working on a future software fix for proximity sensor issues experienced by some users.
Users who are not satisfied with their iPhone 4 or the free case offer can return an undamaged iPhone 4 within 30 days of purchase for a full refund (no restocking fee). Finally, for those who were wondering, the white iPhone 4 model will ship at the end of July.