Free Bumpers Not Enough

If Steve Jobs had hoped that Friday’s press conference would put an end to ‘antennagate’ and silence critics of the defective iPhone 4, he is probably disappointed. While offering free bumpers to iPhone 4 customers may have been a step in the right direction, many are still unconvinced that Apple has done enough to honestly address the problem. Consumer Reports, whose decision to not recommend the iPhone 4 caused shockwaves, wants to see more before it changes its stance.

Consumer Reports believes Apple’s offer of free cases is a good first step. However, Apple has indicated that this is not a long-term solution, it has guaranteed the offer only through September 30th, and has not extended it unequivocally to customers who bought cases from third-party vendors. We look forward to a long-term fix from Apple. As things currently stand, the iPhone 4 is still not one of our Recommended models.

PC World echoed this sentiment, stating that,

“[G]iven all of the issues we’ve personally had with the phone, we cannot recommend the iPhone 4 to other consumers until these problems are. A bumper feels like a clumsy solution and the proximity sensor issues inexcusable for a smartphone of this caliber.”

Competitor smartphone manufacturers took exception with Jobs claim that all smartphones suffer from similar attenuation and signal loss problems as the iPhone. Research in Motion, who manufactures Blackberry mobile devices, issued a press release challenging Apple’s assertions about its phones.

Apple’s attempt to draw RIM into Apple’s self-made debacle is unacceptable. Apple’s claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public’s understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple’s difficult situation. RIM is a global leader in antenna design and has been successfully designing industry-leading wireless data products with efficient and effective radio performance for over 20 years. During that time, RIM has avoided designs like the one Apple used in the iPhone 4 and instead has used innovative designs which reduce the risk for dropped calls, especially in areas of lower coverage. One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity. Apple clearly made certain design decisions and it should take responsibility for these decisions rather than trying to draw RIM and others into a situation that relates specifically to Apple.

Nokia, HTC, and Motorola issued similar statements in defense of their antenna design.

Still others, including Slate, had issue with the overall defensive and condescending tone of the press conference.

I just wish Jobs could have handled this mini-crisis in a classier way. His data clearly show that the new iPhone is dropping more calls than the old one. He could have admitted a problem, offered a fix, and said, “We’re sorry for any trouble we caused you.” Instead, he sounded wounded and paranoid, as if we were all being ungrateful for not recognizing Apple’s contributions to the world.

Many questions still remain, including the validity of reports that Apple was aware of the defective antenna early in design stages and what will happen after September 30. Free bumpers may be a short-term fix, but in the long run, Apple will need a stronger band-aid.

If you own an iPhone 4, and are interested in participating in our lawsuit against Apple and AT&T, please email me at dan@wardlawdc.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Dan Ward

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