As those following the news for the past day and a half already know, the iPhone 4’s launch hasn’t exactly gone as smoothly as Apple had hoped. There were reports yesterday that users who held the iPhone 4 in a way that covers the lower left corner of the phone would lose reception. This is due to the users’ palms bridging the left and bottom antenna sections on the bezel, leading to a sharp drop in 3G reception and dropped calls. When asked about the defect, Steve Jobs’ email response to Ars Technica was that “All phones have sensitive areas. Just avoid holding it in this way.”
While the good people here at Skatter Tech translated his reflection on the matter as “You’re doing it wrong,” Steve Jobs insists otherwise. Backing up his response to Ars Technica, Jobs emailed TUAW reader Craig Brockman a slightly lengthier and more corporate answer:
“Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.”
Jobs and Apple are consistently denying that this problem is the result of a design flaw in the iPhone 4, even though it directly contradicts statements Jobs made at WWDC earlier this month about the vastly improved iPhone 4 antenna design. This “brilliant” design entailed basically making the steel band that rings the iPhone 4 into a big antenna, and, as many astute readers may be able to infer, antennas don’t usually do all that well when they’re being covered.
It’s a little funny that Jobs is telling us to hold it in another way, since there are countless iPhone 4 promotional photos and snapshots of Jobs himself holding the phone in this “wrong” way circling the net. There is an unofficial report now that a Macintouch reader was told by Apple Support that a “missing protective coat on some of the parts” is the cause for the problem, which would explain why Jobs was able to hold the iPhone in this problematic way during WWDC demos. And isn’t it convenient that one of Apple’s $30 Bumper iPhone cases will alleviate this problem? As if consumers weren’t paying enough for the iPhone 4 already, now they have to buy a case to guarantee that they’ll get signal any way they hold it? Really?
In my opinion, it is downright disrespectful for Jobs to come out and blame iPhone users for being the cause of this signal problem. For $199 for the 16 GB model and $299 for the 32GB one, not to mention the costs of the data and voice plans, users deserve to get reception no matter how they hold their phones. Yes, other phones do have reception problems too, and that’s one of the reasons why consumers look to new smart phones like the iPhone 4, which is advertised as getting better reception, to alleviate this problem. The competition in the smart phone market is heating up; Sprint’s incredibly popular and critically acclaimed HTC EVO 4G was released a few weeks ago, and Verizon Wireless announced their new Droid X only a day before the iPhone 4’s launch. Right now, Apple really can’t afford to alienate its customers by releasing an iPhone with an obvious glitch and then blaming the users for “holding it the wrong way” instead of acknowledging that there is a problem and finding a way to fix it at Apple’s expense instead of the consumers’.