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iPhone 4 Reception Recall Ruckus Roundup 479

Readers today have been sending tons of stories about the iPhone 4, so here are a few of the highlights: Following the Consumers Reports announcement that the iPhone has antenna problems, Andy Patrizio asks if Apple can withstand the pressure to recall, while CNet estimates that a recall would cost them $1.5B. But that's just the latest on the iPhone 4 — the long running carrier exclusivity lawsuit rumors have been upgraded to Class Action status.
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iPhone 4 Reception Recall Ruckus Roundup

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  • by v(*_*)vvvv ( 233078 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:19AM (#32900032)

    If they dont release a patch, their stock will be useful only as wallpaper by the weekend.

    Except, that is what many savvy investors are counting on, because the fall in their stock price is really a reaction of fear.

    Savvy investors never trade on emotion, and they bank on the emotion of others by reading the emotions that drive the market. This still works because the majority of those who trade stocks are still very emotional.

    Apple basically shot themselves in the foot, and their wounds are bound to heal. That is far better than if someone else (like MS) shot them and they got hurt, as that would be a sign of vulnurability to competition.

  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:22AM (#32900074) Homepage

    The problem is the antennas being shorted by a slightly conductive (sweaty) finger bridging one or more of the three breaks.

    Apple doesn't need a recall to fix the problem: future phones can have a coating, and a free bumper ($10 cost to Apple) to existing customers solves all the problems.

    At 2M iPhones, the "recall fix" would be a whopping $20M.

  • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:24AM (#32900124) Journal
    I'm very disappointed in the way they've handled this. The least they could do is issue certificates for free bumpers IMMEDIATELY for any iPhone 4 owners who want one, in addition to waiving the restocking fee (which they already did). That would have done a lot to shore up customer loyalty and keep their image good.
  • smart move (Score:5, Interesting)

    by p51d007 ( 656414 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:27AM (#32900196)
    The reason I have passed on ALL of the iPhones so far is I don't buy into the hype, not to mention a LOCKED OS. Hey, if you just pick up a phone to use it, then perhaps the iPhone is for you, but, if you are a "tinker" type, I don't see how the iPhone would be good. Even given all of the faults with WinMobile, at least you can hack it til the cows come home. The way I look at it is it is MY phone, and I'll screw around with it how I want to. I don't like "locked" phones. My current phone, HTC Rhodium (Tilt2) never even had the stock OS fired up. I told the guy at the at&t store that I would set it up later (since I already had a Touch Pro). Took it home, unlocked it, wiped out the stock OS and put one from XDA-Developers on it and tweaked it exactly how I wanted. Job's & Company have a MAJOR public relations nightmare on their hands, and a golden opportunity for some of their competitors to run ads that exploit this problem.
  • The thing is... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sjonke ( 457707 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:28AM (#32900206) Journal

    ... that my iPhone 4 is outperforming my 3GS, in terms of 3G connection quality and reliability, sometimes to pretty miraculous degree, such as at the train station I wait at every work day, where my 3GS's signal would jump up and down and go away and come back and even when it was showing 5 bars the performance was horrendous. With the iPhone 4 I can in fact reproduce the signal drop when held in my left hand, going pretty dramatically from 4 bars to only 1, but even at 1 bar the performance is outstanding and for the first time ever I've got a 100% reliable and fast connection here. I can stream audio and browse the web and it's fast, even at 1 bar. At 4 bars if not left handed.

    So I'm not downplaying the drop in signal strength issue, as that is there when you hold it left handed (and I do usually), but that in practice it performs better, even a lot better, then my iPhone 3GS. So is the antenna flawed or not? I would say that it is flawed, but only from a PR standpoint. It's a public relations disaster, brought only by people who don't have an iPhone 4 and who seem to have a vendetta against Apple for not making a phone that they want, and due to magazines like Consumers Reports, who aren't seeing the forest for the trees. They are focusing solely on that there is a drop, and ignoring how it performs in practice. You need to just use the phone and see how it works for you, and most, I suspect, once they stop staring at the signal strength gauge, are going to find that it does better then their previous phone, even by a wide margin. The iPhone 4 is a great phone. Yes, you should put a case on it, as that will reduce the signal drop issue, but that issue is not nearly as big of an issue as it is being made out to be. It's not a non-issue, it just not the main thing you should be concerned about. You should be concerned about how it performs in practice, and the iPhone 4 excels there.

  • by Monkeedude1212 ( 1560403 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:28AM (#32900214) Journal

    You realize that's 5% JUST from the buzz around Apple, and doesn't even include the cost and repercussions after they preform a recall?

    Yes, their stock price is still healthy.

    Yes, after it's all said and done, they'll probably still be above what they were a year ago.

    But these sort of things have far reaching consequences. Do you realize how many people buy Apple products because they "simply work"? This one unreliable product has planted the seed of doubt.

  • by andy1307 ( 656570 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:30AM (#32900246)

    Apple's stock has gone down a huge 5%

    That could be selling by investors who bought the stock in anticipation of the iPhone 4 launch. The "Buy the rumor, sell on the news" effect.

  • by lazarus corporation ( 701348 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:34AM (#32900322) Homepage

    Considering PR and marketing is one of Apple's strongest areas and which pushes everything they do forward, they did some incredibly stupid decisions

    Marketing is Apple's strongest area, but PR has never been been their forté.

  • by BodeNGE ( 1664379 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:39AM (#32900410)
    Design: Only an ignorant fool would put an external, metal antenna on a phone. Not only does nobody do this, nobody has ever done this in the history of mobile phones. Even the whip antennas of the 80's were coated in plastic for the very reason that a direct connection changes the electrical length of the antenna (and hence the frequencies that it can transmit and receive. When you are part of the antenna you radiate too.
    Cannot admit: iPhone4 irradiates you when you hold it wrong. It may appear that the iPhone4 gives you cancer.

    Manufacturing: There may be a manufacturing component to it as well. We know they were rushed out the door without even time for the touchscreen bonding glue to dry. Clearly the Foxconn QA was not followed. If an engineer leaves a thumbprint on an internal antenna it detunes it. Imagine what a rushed assembly with leaky glue would do to the tuning characteristics.
    Cannot admit: Apply don't pay their manufacturers enough and circumvent their own QA guidelines to rush product to market. They may appear like greedy bastards.

    AT&T: The drop problem is also in a small, small part down to AT&T's 3G network topology. Nowhere near as bad as the old iPhone problem of congesting the signalling channels, this is simply due to the fact that 3G signals are way more sensitive to received signal strength. When you hold it the wrong way not only does the handset not heat the base station well (showing fewer bars on the phone) but it is the network that cannot hear the iPhone that causes the call drops as your entire hand and arm are radiating instead of the antenna. When you broadly detune the antenna with your hand the lower powered 3G signal is simply too feint and distorted to be heard by the base station. It does explain why the locations where the issues appear are random and seemingly not related in all cases to the downlink signal strength shown on the handset. RF signals are like that.
    Cannot admit: The issue clearly isn't all to do with AT&T and they blamed them the last time with the 3GS.

  • by stanlyb ( 1839382 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:44AM (#32900492)
    Maybe they already did it, tested it, and found out that the problem is even more serious? I wonder if this the case, or some stupid stubbornness.
  • by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:46AM (#32900538)

    and doesn't even include the cost and repercussions after they preform a recall?

    What the hell makes you think a recall is going to happen?

  • Comment removed (Score:2, Interesting)

    by account_deleted ( 4530225 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:54AM (#32900692)
    Comment removed based on user account deletion
  • Two words for you... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by sean.peters ( 568334 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @10:57AM (#32900750) Homepage

    Jail. Break. The iPhone is just as hackable as other systems out there.

    Not trying to be an Apple apologist here, as I share the distaste for Big Steve's control freakery. But seriously, if you have a mind to hack your iPhone, it's highly doable. People have gotten Android running on it, for heaven's sake.

  • by fredmosby ( 545378 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:06AM (#32900948)
    Defense Lawyer: "Can it be used to make phone calls?"
    Expert Witness: "Well...yeah, but it's reception isn't as good as it could be."
    Defense Lawyer: "Is the reception worse than most other phones on the market?"
    Expert Witness: "Well no, but..."
    Judge: "Next case please."

    I'm not surprised that that the iPhone 4 isn't absolutely perfect in every way. No product is. This is a pretty minor issue that has been blown out of proportion. If I were in charge of Apple I would just give out those 'bumpers' for free and hope this all blows over.
  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:23AM (#32901258)
    I have to support hundreds of iMacs and MacBooks at work, and I've had to call in tons of warranty repairs the last couple years (easily 10x than from our pool of HP and Dell machines). I thought maybe apple was ditching quality on the macs in favor of the iPhone, iPod, because of iTunes $$$, but it seems they're just neglecting quality across the board. It doesn't "just work" anymore; it just looks pretty (until the style looks outdated).
  • by donny77 ( 891484 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:25AM (#32901290)
    Here's the rub. Apple has a history of doing the right thing. They just replaced the nVidia card in my MacBook Bro after 3 years due to a defect, free of charge with no extended warranty. The problem is, it's been 3 weeks. I know everyone here on the Internet is an expert. We all have intimate knowledge of every R&D test Apple performed before deciding on the antenna configuration. We all know it is a hardware defect that can only be fixed by a complete redesign...

    Or maybe, we don't know. Maybe Apple has a list of 5-10 possible solutions and is busy testing them. Maybe as soon as they have the BEST solution they will publish it. In the mean time what do we expect from them? Publishing all of their 4 years worth of R&D documents so we can see how they came to their conclusion and their competitors can copy them? Not going to happen. They have to deny and hold tight until they have a solution. This is true of ANY company that has ever gone through this. Deny, deny, deny, then suddenly a patch or recall.
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:32AM (#32901394) Journal
    It's been in the forecast for a long time. C64Love is not the right person to answer economics questions... some googling should help you.

    The gist of it is that the US enjoys a very stable dollar because it is the world's reserve currency, and because oil is purchased in dollars globally. The speculation has been that the USD would be dropped as a reserve currency because it is no longer as stable as some of the alternative currencies (in particular, the EUR). C64Love is a little behind the current thought among most economists, however -- as we've seen this year, the Euro is not a valid alternative to the USD as a reserve currency -- the problems with the economies of Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Greece mean that the EUR has a lot of question marks.

    Since China's currency is still pegged to a basket of currencies (though less so than it was), their currency is not a valid reserve either -- no one knows if China would one day decide to screw everyone over by revaluing the currency.

    In short, the USD is a lot less stable, especially forecasting 10-20 years from now, as it has been in the past. Fortunately for Americans, there are no currencies out there that look better.

    Interestingly, currency issues have been mentioned as a big reason why the US went into Iraq in the early 90s... Iraq was beating some drums about selling oil in Euros. That would have been *disastrous* for the US economy...

    But I'm assuming you're aware of most of this, and just questioning C64's claim since he talks out of his ass...
  • by splatter ( 39844 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:38AM (#32901488)

    I have a 3gs from beginning of this year so I'm not eligible, but my wife is and has been waiting for a few months for the 4g to come out.

    It now looks like she is going to either wait for apple to issue a fix or go with an android phone. If anything I know she is not alone and I'd guess she probably represents 2 or 3% of potential customers that are now not going to buy this device.

  • Re:smart move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pak9rabid ( 1011935 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:42AM (#32901572)

    Took it home, unlocked it...

    And how is this any different than having to jailbreak an iPhone to do whatever you want with it?

    I love how the Fandroids out there always praise how "free" and "non-locked down" their phones are, but in actuality you still have to jailbreak it (aka root it) in order to actually do what you want with it. So, I ask again...how is this any different from an iPhone?

  • Are you kidding me? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by donutello ( 88309 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @11:56AM (#32901840) Homepage

    Defense Lawyer: "Is the reception worse than most other phones on the market?"
    Expert Witness: "Well no, but..."

    My wife and I upgraded our phones from Razr's (also with AT&T) to iPhone4's on launch day. AT&T's network is not nearly as bad as the iPhone makes it. I can't make or receive phone calls in my office any more. We get calls dropped all the time. We've had occasions when one phone shows 4 bars and can make and receive calls and data while the other one just shows "Searching...". The only solution I found was to reset the Network settings. I can call my phone while it claims to have 3 or more bars and I'll hear ringing before being directed to voicemail on the calling end while the iPhone remains completely silent on the subject. I don't get notified of voicemail until hours later - all while the phone pretends it has connectivity.

    My friends tell me this is just what you expect with the iPhone and that my phone actually works better than their previous generation iPhones. So your statement might be correct if you define "most other phones on the market" as all the previous generations of iPhones but is completely false otherwise.

    The iPhone is a really shitty phone but it's a testament to how well it does everything else that I'm still only "considering" returning it.

  • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @12:09PM (#32902106)

    Seconded. I've yet to get an iPhone, but I've got a friend who picked up a couple 4s right when they came out. He couldn't be happier. Even though they do lose some signal with the right grip, in daily use they drop fewer calls and have better sound quality than Blackberries/Palms/other phones he's used. So it's hard for him to get too worked up about this issue.

    And American phone subsidies notwithstanding, it's a $600 device. If you care about your phone, buy a freaking case or bumper already! And/or a bluetooth headset. You don't have to be that kid sitting in Starbucks showing off just how spendy a phone your parents bought you.

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @12:11PM (#32902126) Homepage Journal
    "I also hate this notion that Apple products always just work. iTunes has wiped music, ringtones and such from my phone multiple times. It crashes all the time. It messes up tags on my MP3s and stripped away album artwork so it won't display correctly in Windows Media Player."

    I was about to wonder about your problems till I saw that last part...you're running iTunes on Windows?

    I've run all of this on a mac (older one granted, a G5 Tower I got cheap)...and no problems at all. I'd dare say if you run Apple stuff on Apple products...9 times out of 10, it does just work. Mixing MS windows in the equation is likely asking for trouble.

  • by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @12:21PM (#32902292) Homepage Journal

    I actually hate many of the Mac OS X conventions and interface (especially you Finder!) and I have no interest in paying a premium on Mac hardware.

    The day they release iTunes for Linux I'll stop using it on Windows.

  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @01:11PM (#32903160)

    >Bad batteries are completely different from bad cellphone reception. The former can cause a fire, damage to the laptop, damage to the home if the fire spreads, and possibly death.

    I'd say the bigger difference is that the battery vendor paid for most of the recall. I'm sure that's in the contract. This design issue with the antenna is all Apple's fault and would involve admitting a mistake on their part, not an outside vendor, and they would have to absorb 100% of the cost.

  • by roachdabug ( 1198259 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @02:21PM (#32904242)

    I have an engineering background and while I have by no means conducted a scientific study, I can tell you with utmost certainty that the iPhone4 does hardly has a signal reception problem.

    It has a signal TRANSMISSION problem.

    I've done quite a lot of mucking around with speed test apps on the device and I have observed that while touching the left gap between antennas does cause a marginal decrease in download speed, the signal is by no means blocked. To me, it appears the device can still hear the signal from the tower pretty well even with a human hand to detune the antenna.

    Upload speeds, on the other hand, are severely crippled or blocked altogether. It appears that touching the gap has an extremely negative impact on the device's ability to emit a signal strong enough for the tower to hear. This theory is supported by call tests I conducted in which the other party was unable to hear me whenever the gap was touched, even though I could hear their voice just fine.

    Quite by accident, I also happened to set my phone down next to a set of computer speakers which were very sensitive to cell phone radio interference, resulting in the typical "GSM Buzz" which most of you of you have surely experienced. What I discovered was that a single fingertip over the gap would almost completely eliminate the speaker buzz due to the interference. Touching anywhere else on the device had no discernible effect. Once again, it would appear that touching the gap severely hinders outgoing transmissions from the device, even over extremely short distances.

    As I said, these observations are about as un-scientific as it gets, so feel free to draw your own conclusions. But as far as I can tell, touching the gap is enough to stop your phone's outgoing signal from ever reaching the tower, and a tower which thinks your phone is no longer there isn't going to maintain your call for very long.

  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday July 14, 2010 @07:20PM (#32907898) Journal

    >>>that little 28% can have a huge effect on price considering they are probably 99% of the shareholders by headcount.

    In that case the long-term investors should probably wait until 2011, because the APPL stock will bottom out around that time. Why? The US Dollar will be abandoned as universal currency, and that will drive the whole market down.

    As for Apple they made a mistake - it happens. What matters next is how they handle the mistake so as to keep customers happy, and so far they've done a lousy job. No doubt many customers are now thinking their next "iPhone" will be an Android or Nokia model instead.

You know, Callahan's is a peaceable bar, but if you ask that dog what his favorite formatter is, and he says "roff! roff!", well, I'll just have to...