ap­ple of­fers iphone rem­edy

‘We’re not per­fect,’ CEO says in apol­o­giz­ing for an­tenna trou­ble

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Jor­dan Robert­son

CU­PER­TINO, Calif. — Ap­ple Inc. will give free pro­tec­tive cases to buy­ers of its lat­est iPhone to al­le­vi­ate the so-called “death grip” prob­lem in which hold­ing the phone with a bare hand can muf­fle the wire­less sig­nal.

Call­ing the sit­u­a­tion “An­ten­na­gate,” Ap­ple CEO Steve Jobs an­nounced the give­away Fri­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the com­pany’s head­quar­ters, even as the com­pany de­nied that the iPhone 4 has a prob­lem that needs fix­ing. The more than 3 mil­lion peo­ple who have al­ready bought the iPhone 4 and new buy­ers through Sept. 30 will all be el­i­gi­ble.

Peo­ple who al­ready pur­chased the $29 “Bumper” cases will be re­funded.

Ap­ple will pro­vide cases made by third-party providers be­cause Jobs said the com­pany can’t make enough. Users will be able to or­der them on­line start­ing next week. “Pick a case — zoom, we’ll send it off to you,” Jobs said.

Jobs be­gan the event by say­ing, “We’re not

Con­tin­ued from B per­fect” but was quick to say that no cell phone is. He played a video show­ing com­pet­ing smart phones, in­clud­ing a Black­Berry from Re­search in Mo­tion Ltd., los­ing sig­nal strength when held in cer­tain ways.

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 outer cas­ing as the an­tenna. That saved space in­side the tightly packed body of the phone but means that grasp­ing a spot on the lower left edge of the case blocks wire­less sig­nals.

Con­sumer Re­ports mag­a­zine said cov­er­ing the spot with a case or even a piece of duct tape al­le­vi­ates the prob­lem. It re­fused to give the iPhone 4 its “rec­om­mended” stamp of ap­proval for this rea­son, and it had called on Ap­ple on Mon­day to com­pen­sate buy­ers.

On Fri­day, in the com­pany’s first re­marks af­ter the mag­a­zine’s re­port, Jobs said Ap­ple was “stunned and up­set and em­bar­rassed.”

Jobs said the iPhone 4’s an­tenna is­sue isn’t wide­spread. He said about five users out of ev­ery 1,000 have com­plained to Ap­ple’s war­ranty ser­vice and that less than 2 per­cent have re­turned the de­vice.

“We’re not feel­ing right now that we have a gi­ant prob­lem Ap­ple was ‘stunned and up­set and em­bar­rassed’ af­ter Con­sumer Re­ports de­clined to en­dorse the iPhone 4, CEO Steve Jobs said. we need to fix,” Jobs said. “This has been blown so out of pro­por­tion that it’s in­cred­i­ble. I know it’s fun to have a story, but it’s less fun when you’re on the other end of it.”

An­a­lysts have crit­i­cized Ap­ple’s first re­sponses to re­ports of re­cep­tion prob­lems as dis­mis­sive. Ear­lier, Ap­ple said the prob­lem with the phone was pri­mar­ily a soft­ware is­sue, with iPhones dis­play­ing more cell phone sig­nal “bars” than they should have. Ap­ple is­sued a soft­ware update Thurs­day that it said would make the num­ber of bars shown on the phone’s face more ac­cu­rate.

But Con­sumer Re­ports painted the prob­lem as much broader. On Fri­day, the mag­a­zine said the free cases were “a good first step to­ward Ap­ple iden­ti­fy­ing and find­ing a so­lu­tion for the sig­nal-loss prob­lem of the iPhone 4.”

Jobs apol­o­gized to buy­ers who had less-than-per­fect ex­pe­ri­ences with the new de­vice: “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 go­ing to do bet­ter next time.”

Paul Sakuma

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