Grip of Death

The proverbial feces has hit the proverbial fan in iPhone 4 “antenna-gate”…

Personally I think it’s sad the way Apple CEO Steve Jobs treats his customer’s (and the world) with so little respect.

Jobs is now telling the world that all phones suffer from the same problems that plague the iPhone 4, and he’s showing numbers to prove it.  Now, Job’s hasn’t commissioned a large study performed by an independent testing firm; he’s not using numbers published by each phone’s manufacturer; he’s not basing his claims on customer complaints; he’s not performing tests of large statistically sound sample sets of handsets… he’s just (as usual) running off at the mouth and trying to tell his customers what they should be thinking and what they should be buying.

Well, I certainly don’t see any appreciable difference in my signal strength dependent on how I hold my HTC smart phone… in fact, I didn’t see any problem with the previous two HTC handsets I had either — so maybe Mr Jobs needs to consider the possibility that designing a phone based on aesthetics rather than performance might be the root of his problem; and that maybe some of his customers want more than just a fashion accessory or a “me-to” statement.  It’s funny that I really couldn’t find any Apple marketing material that was centric on signal performance of the iPhone 4 — of course, since Apple still only offers the iPhone on AT&T it might just be an assumption that anyone who buys an iPhone really doesn’t consider reception or network performance to be a real concern (remember, AT&T’s network has been plagued with over subscription, and their solution was to stop offering unlimited data plans).

The other absolutely ridiculous thing about Job’s is he can’t seem to get his story consistent.  I mean, is it a hardware design flaw correctable by a rubber phone bumper (which will increase the size of the iPhone), is it a software glitch that your programs will resolve (by what — removing the call to “if (grip-of-death) then drop-call” — or just changing the signal display so it’s less of a indication of reality than it is now), or is it just something that any and all smart phone users have to live with (why aren’t there lots of complaints from owners of other models, brands — and why didn’t previous iPhones suffer from this problem).

The really interesting thing is that “antenna-gate” has grown from a bit of grumbling by tech-savvy users online, to getting the notice of online tech magazines, to crossing over into mainline media, to now causing a stir by at least one elected official.

HTC, Samsung, and Research In Motion (RIM) have all categorically stated that the problems that the iPhone 4 are displaying are not an endemic problem with other smart phones in the market place.  And Consumer Reports stated that it couldn’t recommend consumers purchase the iPhone 4 (but their reports did indicate that a rubber bumper, or even a piece of tape placed over the “gap” between antenna sections would greatly resolve the issues).

And while Job’s might be trying to put any spin he can on this to make other smart phone vendors look bad — in the UK, Samsung is providing disgruntled iPhone 4 users with free Galaxy S Android based handsets (all they need to is post their displeasure with the iPhone, contact Samsung, and the next day they’ll have a Galaxy S handset).

My personal belief on this is that Apple is running scared.

They know that they’ve shipped over three million handsets that have a manufacturing defect; and that they realize that forcing individuals to accept a material different product than they purchased is going to end up backfiring.  I mean, let’s face it — iPhone 4 users purchases an iPhone 4, not an iPhone 4 with a rubber bumper around it (changing the size and aesthetics).

Apple’s based in Cupertino California — California is one of the states with a lemon law which clearly states that if the manufacturer is unable to fix the problem in three tries, they have to provide a full refund for the item.  And materially changing the size and appearance is probably not something they can choose to do… so I’m really surprised that the legal beagles aren’t initiating litigation against Apple for recovery of actual, consequential, and punitive damages.

But this isn’t a concern to me — since I’d never purchase a phone without a keyboard; so I’ll never have an iPhone — and I don’t think anyone who’s serious about a communications device would ever purchase one either.


Senator Schumer’s letter to Steve Jobs (at Apple):

July 15, 2010

Dear Mr. Jobs,

I write to express concern regarding the reception problem with the Apple iPhone 4. While I commend Apple’s innovative approach to mobile technology and appreciate its service to millions of iPhone users nationwide, I believe it is incumbent upon Apple to address this flaw in a transparent manner. According to Consumer Reports’ review, released Monday on its Web site, the iPhone 4’s signal-strength problem is a hardwire glitch triggered by gripping the device in a particular manner. This finding, according to Consumer Reports, “call[s] into question” Apple’s recent claim that the problem is “largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software.” Consumer Reports declined to recommend the iPhone 4 because of this hardware design flaw.

Given the discrepancy between Consumer Reports’ explanation of the reception problem and the explanation provided by Apple in its July 2 letter to customers, I am concerned that the nearly 2 million purchasers of the iPhone 4 may not have complete information about the quality of the product they have purchased. The burden for consumers caused by this glitch, combined with the confusion over its cause and how it will be fixed, has the potential to undermine the many benefits of this innovative device. To address this concern, I ask that Apple provide iPhone 4 customers with a clearly written explanation of the cause of the reception problem and make a public commitment to remedy it free-of-charge. The solutions offered to date by Apple for dealing with the so-called “death grip” malfunction–such as holding the device differently, or buying a cover for it–seem to be insufficient. These proposed solutions would unfairly place the burden on consumers for resolving a problem they were not aware of when they purchased their phones.

I also encourage Apple to keep its promise to provide free software updates so that bars displayed accurately reflect signal strength; I further urge Apple to issue a written explanation of the formula it uses to calculate bar strength, so that consumers can once again trust the product that they have invested in.

I look forward to Apple’s swift action on this matter, and once again laud Apple for its innovative efforts and service to millions of Americans.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

Originally posted 2010-07-31 02:00:45.