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Apple, AT&T Sued Over iPhone 4 Antennas 435

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the had-to-happen-eventually dept.
bannable writes "Apple has been accused of violation of the Federal Communications Act, three counts of products liability related to negligence, defect in design and breach of implied warranty, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, fraud by concealment, unfair business practices and more. 'The iPhone 4 manifests design and manufacturing defects that were known to Defendants before it was released which were not disclosed to consumers, namely, a connection problem caused by the iPhone 4's antenna configuration that makes it difficult or impossible to maintain a connection to AT&T's network,' the California complaint reads."
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Apple, AT&T Sued Over iPhone 4 Antennas

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  • Not surprisingly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jgagnon (1663075) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:22AM (#32756832)

    This will have no affect on Apple's sales.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:23AM (#32756840)

    A lot of times (I suspect most of the time) these sorts of class-action lawsuits are instigated by not just the usual suspects (greedy lawyers), but also with the support of the companies themselves. The lawyers get a big payday. The company gets shielded from any further individual lawsuits. And the consumers get stripped of their right to sue individually, for the "settlement" of a "5% off your next purchase" coupon.

    In other words, when you hear "class-action lawsuit," don't think "Yeah, we're sticking it to the big guys!" Think "No, they're sticking it to *YOU*."

    • by Pojut (1027544) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:25AM (#32756894) Homepage

      "Just don't file the lawsuit that way." -Steve Jobs, paraphrased

    • by mea37 (1201159)

      You do know there's an easy way not to be stripped of your right to file an individual lawsuit, right?

      Apple will only be shielded from further suits in which the plaintif failed to opt out of the class action.

      • by jgagnon (1663075) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:44AM (#32757186)

        In a better world, that should be "Apple will not be shielded from further suits in which the plaintif failed to opt in to the class action."

      • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:49AM (#32757268)
        Yes, so all the plaintiffs who happen to read the "You can opt-out" notice on page 32C of the New York Times classified section, then send a letter and file notarized copies of forms 339-A and 22-4D to the court--yes, all 3 of those people will still have a right to sue.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mea37 (1201159)

          Well, don't let the facts get in the way of a good indignant rant, but in point of fact the members of the class are notified by mail. I typically get one or two such notices each year.

          Next you complain that the notices are too long and nobody reads them, and then I point out you don't have to read them becuase you should know that there's always a right to opt out and all you have to do is find the info on how to do so.

          If you can't be bothered to do that, it's apparently not that important to you to prese

      • by ICLKennyG (899257)
        People don't even uncheck a box when it says "It's OK to contact me periodically(6 times a day)" Less than 10% change default states whether they are opt-in or opt-out.

        The only exception is the Do-Not-Call registry
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      They're only shielded from further lawsuits by the members of the class, aren't they?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Animaether (411575)

        Yes, but everybody is part of the class -unless- they opt out. That means that if they just happen to never even hear about the class action for them to opt out.. guess what? tough luck.

    • A lot of times (I suspect most of the time) these sorts of class-action lawsuits are instigated by not just the usual suspects (greedy lawyers), but also with the support of the companies themselves. The lawyers get a big payday. The company gets shielded from any further individual lawsuits. And the consumers get stripped of their right to sue individually, for the "settlement" of a "5% off your next purchase" coupon.

      In other words, when you hear "class-action lawsuit," don't think "Yeah, we're sticking it to the big guys!" Think "No, they're sticking it to *YOU*."

      Just because there is a class action lawsuit does not mean you have to join it, you are free to sue them yourself and try to get what you think you are entitled to.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by elrous0 (869638) *
        In the U.S. you *automatically* join a class action lawsuit whether you want to or not. You have to specifically opt-*out* of the lawsuit if you are a "member." And if you happen to not hear about it (and a notice can be as little as a small ad in a newspaper), then oops, you've just given up your right to sue without even being aware of it.
    • by jav1231 (539129)
      Exactly. If you're the only person in the filing, you might get something. If there are thousands or millions, enjoy your 35cents.
  • Good riddance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:24AM (#32756864)

    Sorry, Steve, "You're holding it wrong" just doesn't cut it.

    If your user's can't actually hold your phone, it's your problem, not theirs.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Please. You ARE obviously holding it wrong.
      It's easy enough to hold it correctly, as Master Yoda [bordom.net] can teach you:

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymusing (1450747)

      For what it's worth, the Nexus One [google.com] had similar problems... where's the lawsuit?

      • by hedwards (940851) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:46AM (#32757210)
        Google lets us have porn on our handsets, so we look the other way. Because Google is cool like that unlike that prude Steve Jobs that suggests that we shouldn't be watching hardcore pornography on the bus.
        • by joh (27088)

          Hmm, I still think that Apple just does good old business: Pay money, get product. Google is more like give your land and blood, get shiny digital glass beads, no money needed. I know what I can deal better with. In this case I can deal with it by just not buying an iPhone or giving it back if I already had one.

          Once you have all your data in the Google cloud though, it's very hard to get it back should you suddenly realize that Google isn't that cool and you don't like to have your digital life tracked and

        • by Urban Garlic (447282) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @11:32AM (#32757992)

          > Google lets us have porn on our handsets, so we look the other way.

          That's not how you do porn. Or at least, that's not how I do porn.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by e2d2 (115622)

        You know I see this type of response here all the time and you know what? It's not a legit response. Just because there was no lawsuit for a completely different product does not mean this one is baseless or unfair. Anytime an apple product is shat upon someone has to come out of the woodwork and point out another inferior product, like that makes it all okay. Well, no, it doesn't.

      • Re:Good riddance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Skuld-Chan (302449) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @11:08AM (#32757600)

        I expect the signal to vary when I touch the phone - that's a given. I remember when doing amateur radio as a child there was a calculated (and sometimes very noticeable) gain loss when a handheld radio came in close proximity with the human body - and most of these radios had really really efficient antennas compared to most cell phones.

        I think with the iPhone 4 - the issue is if you have particularly sweaty hands (which I do) they can short the two antennas and increase the swr so much it effectively knocks the signal out *completely*. When putting the piece of tape over the gap solves the issue I think its more of a design flaw than common problem. I had a rubber antenna for some handheld radio that had a short in it once - you couldn't hear hardly anything unless the transmitter was right on top of you.

        In the link you have there - the Nexus 1 owner/author admits that the signal doesn't go completely away - it still lets you make a phone call.

        My Rev 2 Nexus 1 (the one made for AT&T/Telus) this issue occurs, but in most cases its not a big deal (maybe 10-20 db - if that). I had the same issue on my Nokia N97 too.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by godawful (84526)

          My understanding is that people are judging things by "how many bars are on my phone?".. not "can i still make a phone call?"

          Anandtech [anandtech.com] has a very thorough review of the iPhone 4.. but in particular page [anandtech.com] which talks in depth the changes happening when one uses the grip o' death, etc etc.

          Such as:

          From my day of testing, I've determined that the iPhone 4 performs much better than the 3GS in situations where signal is very low, at -113 dBm (1 bar). Previously, dropping this low all but guaranteed that calls wou

      • Re:Good riddance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DRJlaw (946416) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @11:17AM (#32757728)

        For what it's worth, the Nexus One had similar problems... where's the lawsuit?

        You merely assume that the problems are similar. Upon what are you basing the assumption?

        Could you 'short' the antenna in the Nexus One merely by holding a phone in the 'wrong' way? No.
        Did the Nexus One signal drop by 24 dBm when you held it in your hand? No. [arstechnica.com]
        Is the reception quantifyably worse than either the Nexus One or the previous generation iPhone? Yes.

        A 10dBm drop compared to the iPhone 3GS is unacceptable when the primary function of the device is to serve as a wireless phone.

        The lawyers suing Apple are not going to let it confuse the issue between absorptive signal loss due to coupling with a nearby hand, which indeed most phones are suspectible to, and antenna detuning due to galvanic conduction over an uncoated external antenna, which is a design decision worthy of a Gumby. [wikipedia.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)

          A 10dBm drop compared to the iPhone 3GS is unacceptable when the primary function of the device is to serve as a wireless phone.

          Is it? I thought the primary purpose was to serve as a status symbol, the secondary purpose was to buy overpriced apps, the tertiary purpose was to browse the web. Being a wireless phone is way down the list.

  • by XPeter (1429763)

    If Apple is stupid to only do testing:

    A. In their Cupertino facility, which has it's own AT&T tower
    B. In the field, but covered with their 30$ bumpers

    Then this case may have some potential even though it will drag on for years and only the lawyers will gain millions of dollars, with the end result being a small settlement not beneficial to the consumer. Just like all IT lawsuits.

  • Just Return It (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CowboyBob500 (580695) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:30AM (#32756960) Homepage
    FFS, if I bought a phone and it didn't work I'd just take the thing back to the shop and get a refund. That way I get my money back so I can buy a different phone as a replacement. With a class-action lawsuit they'll get $5 worth of iTunes vouchers and still have a phone that doesn't work. What planet are these people on?
    • The idea behind the lawsuit is to remind Apple that marketing poorly designed or tested products is not acceptable. I think.
    • Re:Just Return It (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nanoakron (234907) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:36AM (#32757060)

      You're absolutely right.

      And the best thing is...this phone's only been out a week. 1 whole week.

      And there's already hysterical screaming from the rooftops and people running to lawyers because they see Apple as a potential cash cow, rather than returning a defective product and being done with it. No, they want to have their cake and eat it too.

      Not to mention the largest of these suits only names 11 plaintiffs. 11.

      I've got an iPhone 4 myself, as do two of my friends and none of us are able to reproduce this reception issue.

      I know the plural of anecdote isn't data but we're already nearly a quarter the way to the number of plaintiffs in this suit.

      • Re:Just Return It (Score:5, Informative)

        by PPalmgren (1009823) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:55AM (#32757370)

        Anandtech just popped out a fantastic writeup on this issue in their iPhone 4 review. Check it out, its very informative for those who don't have basic antenna design knowledge from EE in college. To paraphrase, it reduces signal by up to 27 dbm, which is almost 50% of normal signal range. (50 to 113 dbm). This will not effect you or show on your bars if you get a better signal than ~75 dbm on a normal basis.

        Pretty much anyone who has had an introductory course in EE should have forseen this after the keynote...including their employees. It is a case of gross engineering negligence. Yes, interference does happen with all phones, but the effect is much more pronounced with the iPhone 4 due to an exposed antenna and lack of spending to fix / spot the issue.

        In short, your anecdote doesn't address the problem because you are in a good coverage area, and the signal degredation doesn't ruin your reception.

        • Re:Just Return It (Score:4, Informative)

          by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @11:04AM (#32757534)

          Anandtech just popped out a fantastic writeup on this issue in their iPhone 4 review. Check it out, its very informative for those who don't have basic antenna design knowledge from EE in college. To paraphrase, it reduces signal by up to 27 dbm, which is almost 50% of normal signal range. (50 to 113 dbm). This will not effect you or show on your bars if you get a better signal than ~75 dbm on a normal basis.

          Pretty much anyone who has had an introductory course in EE should have forseen this after the keynote...including their employees. It is a case of gross engineering negligence. Yes, interference does happen with all phones, but the effect is much more pronounced with the iPhone 4 due to an exposed antenna and lack of spending to fix / spot the issue.

          In short, your anecdote doesn't address the problem because you are in a good coverage area, and the signal degredation doesn't ruin your reception.

          Showing again why Anand runs the best tech site on the internet. Mod the parent up and everyone go read http://www.anandtech.com/show/3794/the-iphone-4-review/2 [anandtech.com] before posting saying that the antenna problem makes the phone unusable or posting that is has no effect.

      • Re:Just Return It (Score:5, Interesting)

        by mikael_j (106439) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @11:07AM (#32757580)

        Ah yes, I found the Anandtech writeup pretty funny, at least the following part:

        Cupping tightly - This is the absolute worst case and involves squeezing the phone very tightly, like people are doing online in videos demonstrating all the bars going away. I squeeze the phone hard and make sure my palms are sweaty as well. You'd never hold the phone this way because it's physically painful.

        I have no doubt this is a real problem but it definitely seems to be affected by the usual "let's piss all over Apple" thing that always happens when a fault with one of Apple's products has been discovered...

    • Re:Just Return It (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DWMorse (1816016) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:38AM (#32757090) Homepage

      It's not exactly about the phone. Yes, you CAN return the phone, but it's too late at that point - now you're in a 2-year AT&T contract, that you then have to pay $375 to get out of. All thanks to your phone, sold to you by Apple, not working as advertised.

      So then you have a choice, do you eat the $199 or $299, and the cost to get a different phone, to hold up your contractual obligation? Or do you start lighting a fire under Apple's ass to fix the phone so you can get the phone and service you paid for? AT&T blames Apple, Apple blames the consumer, so the consumer is going to have to sue to get things righted.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        you've got 15 days to return a phone per their contract agreement for buyers remorse.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        In most states a lemon law/buyers remorse period will protect you from being stuck in the contract and most carriers give you 15 days or more to return any hardware and get out of your contract. You can even port your number back over to a more reliable carrier.

      • by perpenso (1613749) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @11:30AM (#32757952)

        It's not exactly about the phone. Yes, you CAN return the phone, but it's too late at that point - now you're in a 2-year AT&T contract, that you then have to pay $375 to get out of ...

        I just went through AT&T's iPhone 4 online upgrade process far enough to be shown:
        Service Cancellation & Early Termination Fee
        Call the number on your invoice/receipt to cancel your service. You may cancel service within 30 days from the activation date to avoid the applicable early termination fee (the "Early Termination Fee" or "ETF").

        --
        Perpenso Calc [perpenso.com] for iPhone. Classic Scientific and HEX functionality plus RPN, fractions, complex numbers, 64/32/signed/unsigned bitwise operations, UTF-8, IEEE FP decode, and RGB decode with color preview.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by UnknowingFool (672806)
        Both Apple and AT&T have 30 day return policies. The phone has been out 1 week. Suing for emotional distress of 1 week before returning the phone smells of a quick rich lawsuit than a suit with real merit. If Apple fixes the problem with software or a recall then the lawsuit is for naught.
    • by Piata (927858)
      I don't know if AT&T works like this but for Bell Canada if you buy a new phone and talk on it for more than 30 minutes, you can't return it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745)

      If you could actually return the phone, cancel the contract and get all your money back, you would be correct.

      sadly, you can't.

  • Class Action Lawsuit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Little Brother (122447) <kg4wwn@qsl.net> on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:31AM (#32756976) Journal

    I'm already seeing all the BS going on about how a class-action lawsuit only helps the lawyers at the expense of the plaintiffs. I do not know if this is usually the case or not, but the only Class-Action lawsuit I have ever been a part of, (interestingly against apple) resulted in a solution that I found quite suitable for the offense.

    I didn't get a dime, but I didn't want one. I wanted the system I paid for to work. I got a box in the mail with express shipping paid for me to ship my laptop back to Apple. Apple replaced my defective motherboard, and shipped my computer back. All at no charge to me. I did not even pay shipping either direction.

    I bought a product that didn't work as it should. I signed up on the Class-Action, I got a product that worked as it should.

    BUT LAWYERS ARE TEH EVILZ! CLASS ACTION LAWSUITS ARE ABOUT LINING TEH LAWYERZ POCKETS NOT GETTING ANYTHING TO THE PLAINTIFF!

    • by eagee (1308589) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:46AM (#32757214)
      Ummm so the result of the class-action lawsuit is that Apple had to do a standard warranty repair? I mean, wait a minute - are you a lawyer?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wjousts (1529427)
      Don't be silly. If people have to think beyond empty platitudes like "all lawyers are evil", who the hell knows what will happen. Perhaps they'll start wondering if the phrase "all politicians lie" is a bit of a simplification; and maybe it isn't such a good thing to throw that out to avoid actually thinking about the issues.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      And in this case, it seems that Apple could resolve the issues by posting out a 2" strip of electrical tape.
      • by Flamora (877499)
        The problem is that they do not perceive it as an issue. Even their internal paperwork to employees at their retail stores emphasizes the whole "this is not a problem, do not admit that it is a problem, do not offer warranty repairs for this, do not offer anything free" mindset that they're pushing. For a company as seemingly devoted to the "user experience" as Apple is, this is a laughably embarrassing position to take.
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      That's the exception not the rule. For every class action that you know you were in, there are probably 100 others that you were in that you didn't even know about. You didn't get jack from any of those other 100. And if your product from one of those ever stops working/explodes/catches on fire/etc. and you try to get it fixed, the company can tell you "Sorry, you missed out, we don't have to fix it now--and you can't sue us now either."
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kimvette (919543)

      That is an excellent and probably the very best possible solution.

      I hope in the instance of the Apple iPhone4 class action suit, Apple quickly pushes out a redesign of the case (why can't the case be a clear polymer with black and metallic inserts, so the antennae are at least insulated from shorts?) and issues field replacement units to stores, and issues a recall. The cost would be fairly minimal relative to the amount of GOOD PR Apple will gain by providing the sort of customer care they purport to prov

  • by Itchyeyes (908311) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:39AM (#32757104) Homepage

    I believe this put's us right about here:

    A minor, rarely occurring flaw in the device begins to be discussed in the Apple support forums. Whiny, artistic types post lengthy diatribes about how this terrible design flaw has made the device unusable and scarred them emotionally. Electronic petitions are created demanding that Apple replace the devices for free, plus pay for counseling to help traumatized users overcome their emotional distress.

    In the Apple Product Cycle [misterbg.org]

  • if just holding the phone in your hand causes the iphone to lose reception and transmission, guess where all that RF energy is going, right in to your hand, the idiots should have put an external antenna stub on the top of it plus a plug on the back or side so you can connect a magnetic antenna from the roof of your autombile & a hands free setup kit, but i guess steve jobs was so wrapped up in form and fashion he did not even consider functionality.
    • by Stumbles (602007)
      But but... an antenna stub would have De-Applefied its prettiness and we all know all Apple lovers WOULD NEVER buy something "ugly"... even if it meant the product not working right.
    • Steve designed a nice little turtleneck sweater which is an optional accessory that takes care of the problem.

    • by joh (27088)

      It's not that there is RF energy going somewhere else, it's the antenna getting detuned if you bridge the gap between the 3G antenna and the WiFi antenna by pressing a nicely wetted and salty hand over it.

      I certainly think that this antenna design has its flaws. It also has it good points (very good reception when you don't bridge that gap, nicely integrated frame, sleek profile) though.

      • by FudRucker (866063)
        what a load of crap! as an avid radio enthusiast for over 20 years, i know damn well touching an antenna with a conductive object (in this case your hand) that RF energy will go in to it,
  • Nooo, it's DOS 4.0 all over again. DOS 3.3 was a great release and then they brought out DOS 4.0 which was so bad I had to wait till DOS 5.0 before I could upgrade. Stick with 3.x releases, they're always the best :D

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:45AM (#32757190)

    I can see where perhaps there would be a case over this design flaw, but to claim it's "difficult or impossible" to maintain a call is simply a lie. In everyday use, not being careful how I hold the phone at all, I have had no issues with calls with the new phone.

    If you make the claims too absurd the case will not have a good chance of success.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Are you perhaps in an area where reception is already reliable? There has been suggestion of not only the obvious trait of it only exhibiting when signals are weak, but also exhibiting when conflicting information about different towers is used to decide which to communicate with. It could well be that only quarter or less of AT&Ts asserted "coverage area" is susceptible to this problem and users not in that area "cannot reproduce it at all", but that's still way way way too much. There are more than

    • by Hijacked Public (999535) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @11:08AM (#32757594)

      Yes but that is a quote from a complaint and it needs to be a damning as it can be as long as there is a kernel of truth to it.

      I'm in an area where all the carriers have spotty signals. I am left handed. I have an iphone 4. If I purposely bridge the gap in question it degrades the reception enough to prevent me from making calls when I'm in an area with a weak signal. So indeed there are situations where the issue makes it 'difficult or impossible'.

      Luckily for me I don't naturally hold the phone that way, but it would indeed be annoying if I did. I've been using a cell phone for 15 years and would not be interested in adapting to a new phone's peculiarities.

  • by acomj (20611) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:51AM (#32757296) Homepage

    Ars has some good analysis. Seeing the games companies play with signal bars apples are oddly accurate... and logarithmic...

    http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/06/putting-hard-numbers-to-the-iphone-4-antenna-issue.ars [arstechnica.com]

    I don't know what % of iphone users use cases, but I'd imagine its a fairly high %.

  • The only way... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ap0 (587424)
    The only way I can reproduce the problem is to hold the phone in a way I will never, ever hold it (holding this way obscures a large portion of the screen to hold it in a way that affects my signal). I suppose it could be a design defect if it actually negatively impacted me. What impacts me more is the awful AT&T reception I get at my office -- it's almost unusable there.

    My guess on the outcome? Bumpers for everyone! I'm sure spending a dollar per phone (which is about what I'm guessing bumpers
  • ATT's return policy (Score:5, Informative)

    by Wiarumas (919682) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @10:52AM (#32757318)
    ATT has a return policy where you can exchange a phone for another one within 30 days:

    http://www.wireless.att.com/cell-phone-service/legal/return-policy.jsp [att.com]

  • by Mr_Silver (213637) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @11:08AM (#32757590)

    What I didn't realise until I read a review recently is that although the Bumper solves the antenna issue, it means that you cannot plug in your standard iPod/iPhone connectors!

    The "solution" is that you have to take the phone partially out of the case so you can plug the connector in - in other words, every single time you plug it in to charge, sync or hook up to your car stereo!

    I'm rather surprised that a company that prides itself on the quality of its products manage to muck up what should be a simple plastic case.

  • by al0ha (1262684) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @11:32AM (#32757988) Journal
    This kind of thing, "You are holding it wrong" is par for the course with Apple and no surprise to a long time user.

    Back in the day, circa late 80s and into the 90s, Apple computers were mainly used by artists with little technological experience. As such Apple's customer was essentially beholden to the company because let's face it, what were they going to do, use a PC? These days the Apple customer is vastly different, and though the products are nifty and slick, continuing the arrogance towards the end user may prove counter productive in the long run.
  • Heheheheh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by billsayswow (1681722) on Thursday July 01, 2010 @12:07PM (#32758432)
    They told everyone to just go get a case. They didn't know everyone would come back with a court case.

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