Billions of dollars in research and some of the top engineers in the world could not detect iPhone 4’s so-called “death grip” problem before it’s release but a frame-like piece of rubber and plastic can fix it.
Apple is confident enough in that piece of rubber and plastic, commonly known as a bumper case, that its CEO, Steve Jobs, announced today in a news conference that the company will give free protective cases to buyers of its latest iPhone.
CEO Steve Jobs apologized Friday to people who are less than satisfied with the iPhone 4, even as he denied it has an antenna problem that needs fixing.
“We’re not perfect,” Jobs said at a news conference. “Phones aren’t perfect.”
The case is supposed to alleviate the phone’s signal problem caused when holding it with a bare hand. More than 3 million people who have already purchased the phone and buyers who purchase before Sept. 20 are eligible. Those who already bought the $29 case will be refunded.
“So we do all this because we love our users. And when we fall short, which we do sometimes, we try harder. We pick ourselves up, we figure out what’s wrong, and we try harder. And when we succeed, they reward us by staying our users, and that makes it all worth it,” said Jobs at the press conference.
Jobs, expressing irritation with the critical coverage of the phone’s reception problems, echoed an earlier statement from Apple that no cell phone gets perfect reception. He played a video showing competing phones, including a BlackBerry from Research in Motion Ltd., losing signal strength when held in certain ways. He talked for 45 minutes and took 45 minutes of questions with Apple’s chief operating officer, Tim Cook, and Bob Mansfield, a senior Apple executive in charge of hardware engineering.
Phones usually have an antenna inside the body. In designing the iPhone 4, Apple took a gamble on a new design, using parts of the phone’s casing as the antenna. That saved space in the tightly packed body of the phone, but means a covered spot on the lower left edge of the case blocks wireless signal.
Matthew Stille, a Bonita Springs resident, got his 4g iPhone the day it came out. He has not had signal problems, but he is having SIM card issues. His phone is not reading the card causing the phone to lose reception and, sometimes, completely turns off. Although the phone is not working properly, Stille is standing by his iPhone for its convenience and features.
“I still love the phone,” Stille said, “This is my first iPhone. I love having the e-mail, internet and YouTube all in one. The whole phone problem sucks, but I’m still very much in love with it.”
Jobs said the iPhone 4’s antenna issue isn’t widespread. He said just over five out of every thousand users have complained to Apple’s warranty service, and less than 2 percent have returned the device.
Marco Frenzeo, a Cape Coral resident and long-time iPhone user, is also not experiencing signal issues from his new phone. He looked for the decreased signal strength by holding it in different ways and did not find anything.
“I have no problems with mine. I tried it, like this, like that and nothing” said Frenzeo while gripping the phone, “Even if I did, I would fix it or buy a new one. I’m a loyal Apple customer.”
Jobs also said buyers who are not happy with the phone after getting the case can return their undamaged phones to stores for a full refund and no re-stocking fees. That even applies to those who have long-term contracts with AT&T Inc., the iPhone’s exclusive U.S. wireless carrier.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to make them happy and if we can’t make them happy we’re going to give them a full refund and say we’re really sorry we inconvenienced you, and we’re going to do better next time,” said Jobs.
This is a rare public relations crisis for Apple, which has enjoyed positive reviews for many of their products and previous iPhone models. Even through this crisis, it seems like fans are sticking with Apple and its popular iPhone.
“People always come in droves to buy their stuff,” Stille said, “It’s almost like they have a cult following.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.