Opening the "Antennagate"

Apple recently wrapped up its press conference regarding the media hooplah surrounding the iPhone 4’s antenna, which Steve Jobs himself dubbed “Antennagate.” Apple gave us some facts from their end.

  • The issue isn’t unique to the iPhone 4. Apple demonstrated the exact same issue on a Blackberry Bold 9700, an HTC Droid Eris, and a Samsung Omnia II. These phones ran different operating systems — Blackberry, Android, and Windows Mobile, respectively. And we all know the Droid Eris is exclusive on Verizon, so that eliminates purely blaming AT&T (keep in mind this happens in non AT&T countries as well). The point is that every phone has weak spots that can be attenuated.
  • Apple acknowledged once more their software had a reporting error that displayed the bars incorrectly. This was fixed in yesterday’s iOS 4.0.1 update, available by updating your iPhone via iTunes.
  • Only 0.55% of iPhone 4 owners have filed an issue with AppleCare.
  • AT&T, Apple’s largest iPhone reseller, has only reported a 1.7% return rate of iPhone 4, compared to 6.0% in the same time frame last year with the iPhone 3GS.
  • Apple admitted that the iPhone 4 is dropping more calls than the iPhone 3GS. However, it is dropping less than 1 call per 100 calls more. 

So, it is pretty apparent that the media has overblown the issue. Very few customers who actually have this phone are complaining. Honestly, in my own usage, I can’t get a call to drop on my iPhone 4. Sure, I was able to drop it from five bars to one bar on iOS 4.0, which is now more like dropping from 4 bars to three or two bars on iOS 4.0.1. And even then, think about it, these phones are digital, if you have one bar, you have the same quality of signal as five of them.

But Apple isn’t stopping with just the facts. They did offer up a solution. They said that a case does alleviate the attentuation of the signal. So, every iPhone 4 buyer is eligible for a free case. And if you’ve bought one already, Apple will pay you back. Now, of course I thought Apple means only its Bumper case, but they said they can’t make enough, so they will have a selection of third party cases available as well. As far as refunds go, I do believe that may be limited to the Bumper case, but I am unsure. This program will be valid until September 30, when Apple will revaluate the overall issue to determine their next step. Users can apply for their free case in about a week on Apple’s website.

Apple also touched on the less publicized issue of the proximity sensor behaving erratically. Basically, the proximity sensor isn’t always shutting off the screen when the phone is held against one’s face during a call. This allows for one’s cheek to begin activating buttons, such as the End Call button. My wife suffers from this more than I do (I’ve only had it happen once). Apple said a fix will be in the next software update.

Apple also said the white iPhone 4 would be available at the end of July in limited quantities, and that iPhone 4 would be available in 13 more countries on July 30.

My Thoughts

I think this is probably the best solution given that the iPhone 4 has only been out for 22 days. Apple dispelled some of the hype from the media, which I do honestly think has been overblown. Case in point: I’ve read and heard more griping from folks who either have older models of iPhones or, even better, have other smartphones on other carriers than I have from actual iPhone 4 owners. And as I have previously said, I can’t actually get this thing to drop a call using the “death grip.”

Now, the case offer is a decent olive branch. I personally don’t like cases on my phones. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m just not a fan. My wife will be pleased, as she has been looking for a case for her iPhone 4, to give it a little extra protection when she carries it in her purse. 

Finally, Apple did mention if anyone is truly dissatisfied, they can bring it back within 30 days, undamaged, and get a full refund.

I would have rather had Apple truly fix the problem, but maybe that will come with more research and we’ll hear something else in September. In the meantime, I don’t think it is nearly as huge of an issue as it has been made out to be. The iPhone 4 is still the best phone I’ve ever owned.