"This has been blown so out of proportion that it is incredible" Steve Jobs said at a press conference at Apple headquarters where he announced that Apple will be giving away free cases to all iPhone 4 users.
Jobs admitted that the iPhone 4 drops slightly more calls than the 3G. Although he didn't say how many calls either phone drops, he did say that the difference is less than one additional call in every hundred calls.
I think Jobs did the right thing and the press conference was pretty close to what I predicted. Jobs started off by talking about how incredibly well iPhone sales are doing (3 million units so far) and said that only 1.7% of the phones purchased had been returned compared to 6% for the iPhone 3G (he didn't say the period of time for the 3G returns). He also said that only 0.55% of iPhone 4 users called to complain about the antenna problems which prompted someone to Tweet "because no one can get a signal to call."
Truth be told, iPhone 4 users can get a signal just as well as with any other phone as long they don't put their finger on the little crack in the lower left side of the wrap-around metal antenna.
Free Case or a Full Refund
In addition to giving people free cases or bumpers, Jobs promised to give people a full refund on their phone if they're not happy. He said he believed that AT&T would let them out of their contract.
I was pretty pleased with Apple's response except for one thing. Jobs spent a fair amount of time claiming that other phones have similar problems. According to the New York Times live blog he showed a "Blackberry Bold, Droid Eris and other phones dropping bars when gripped."
Defensive Comments about Other Smartphones
First, I'm not sure how true that is. I've used a Blackberry Bold and never noticed that problem and although I haven't tried the Droid Eris, I've used many Android phones including the Droid and Droid X and have never encountered a "grip of death." I have, of course, encountered plenty of dropped calls on every cell phone I've ever used which does help put this general issue into some perspective.
Jobs, according to CNET, claimed "People are reporting better reception with this antenna than any other smartphone before" and then went on to say "What have we learned ... Smartphones have weak spots."
Knew About Antenna Problem
Jobs admitted that he knew there could be a problem if people touched the antenna in that spot but, according to CBS News, he said "We didn't think it would be a big problem because every phone has this issue." CNET's live blog quoted Jobs as saying "We went to a lot of trouble to show people where you can touch the antenna. You might as well put a red flag there."
After the antenna problem surfaced, Apple did say that people should avoid touching the crack along the side, but I was at the World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco when Jobs bragged about the metal band being an antenna and he said nothing but good things about the idea at the time.
Follow Larry Magid on Twitter: www.twitter.com/larrymagid