At today’s press conference Steve Jobs took stage and explained their side of the situation. It’s been 22 days since the release of iPhone 4 and Apple has been working diligently to get to the source of the problem.
The first thing Apple realized is that these reception issues are not unique to iPhone 4. Jobs played videos of the Blackberry Bold 9700, HTC Droid Eris, and Samsung Omnia II exhibiting the same problem plaguing the iPhone 4. I think the real reason that this is such an issue for Apple compared to other phone manufacturers is that Apple put a black line on the side of their device showing you exactly where you can put your hand to reproduce the problem.
Apple chose to argue their point with hard data. Only 0.55% of iPhone 4 owners have called AppleCare regarding reception issues, AT&T is seeing return rates that are a third of what they saw with the 3GS, and the iPhone 4 drops less than one additional call per 100 calls when compared to the 3GS. It’s hard to argue with those numbers. If you paid any attention to the coverage of iPhone 4 you would probably think that nearly half of all iPhone 4 users were experiencing serious problems with their handset, but that simply is not the case.
To me, the only overly interesting bit of data that was presented today was the additional dropped calls when compared to the 3GS, however Steve Jobs shared a fantastic theory that I think is the likely culprit: when the iPhone 3GS was released there was already a large assortment of cases available that fit it, because Apple didn’t change the design of the device. But, the iPhone 4’s design is different and the list of cases available is significantly shorter. Only 20% of iPhone 4 buyers leave the Apple Store with a case, compare that to 80% of those buying the 3GS at this point last year.
So to help fix the problem, Apple has decided to give a free case to every iPhone 4 sold through September 30. They’re even going to offer full refunds to iPhone 4 owners who have already purchased a bumper. But, because Apple can’t manufacture enough bumpers to meet demand they are going to offer iPhone 4 owners a choice of cases. You’ll be able to apply on Apple’s website starting late next week. And if you’re still not satisfied with the iPhone 4, Apple will give you a full refund within 30 days of purchase.
I think Apple did exactly what they needed to with this press conference, they laid it all out on the line and they seem very willing to fix the problem.
Apple has published a video of the press conference on their website along with a page showing the industry-wide issue of smartphone antenna performance.