Steve Jobs gave a presentation which was followed by a long Q&A. The press conference aimed at identifying the iPhone 4 problem, providing data related to the issue and offering solutions.
The tone of the event was “smartphones aren’t perfect” and almost every smartphone manufacturer has to deal with weak spots. When you grip your phone tightly or touch its weak spot the signal bars drop and it is not unique to iPhone 4. Steve Jobs compared the signal bar drop in Blackberry Bold 9700, HTC Droid Eris and Samsung Omnia II which showed that the death grip issue exists in those phones too.
Nokia recently responded to Apple mentioning the fact some of their phones ship with stickers on the back that say “don’t touch here” and said:
In general, antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held.
One of the reasons why many people were able to reproduce the signal drop due to antennagate was that iPhone 4 design marks its weak spot with a line in the stainless steel band. If the line did not exist then everyone would have touched the phone at a different point and thus would not have identified it as a major issue.
Steve Jobs said that people are reporting better reception than they ever did with any other version of iPhone and they were aware of the weak spot but didn’t think of it as a big issue as it exists for the entire industry.
During the press conference Jobs offered some interesting data which suggests that the issues are being faced by very few people.
- Only 0.55% customers have called AppleCare to report reception or antenna issues
- AT&T return rates for iPhone 4 turn out to be less than a third when compared with iPhone 3GS
- AT&T call drop information provided to Apple suggests that iPhone 4 drops less than one additional call for every 100 calls when compared with iPhone 3GS
Apple would go onto investigate why even after an improved antenna design the iPhone 4 drops less than one additional call for every 100 calls. Steve Jobs suggested that this could be because 80% of iPhone 3GS users bought a case for their device while only 20% users bought a case for iPhone 4 and cited Consumer Reports who recently reported that Apple’s bumper case solves the death grip issue.
The iPhone 4 “issues” according to Apple is affecting a very small percentage of users and to make everyone happy Apple will offer bumper case for free to all iPhone 4 customers. If you’ve already bought a bumper case then you would be eligible for a refund however the purchase of third party cases won’t be refunded. Bumper cases will be offered for free until September 30th and after that Apple will re-evaluate their strategy. You will be able to choose either a bumper case or third party case from Apple’s website sometime starting next week.
Apple will be releasing a software fix for the proximity sensor and also announced that the white iPhone 4 will be available later this month. iPhone 4 will be available in 17 more countries on 30th July.
By highlighting the antennagate and weak spot issue in most smartphones Steve Jobs acknowledged that this issue exists for the entire industry and is a challenge which they hope to overcome in future. For customers who are still not satisfied with a free bumper or the weak spot explanation, Apple suggests getting a full refund by returning the undamaged device.