At the beginning of its 15 minute-long press conference this morning in Cupertino, California, Apple shared an interesting musical treat –– which can be played here. Steve Jobs told the press that Apple discovered it earlier in the morning and wanted to share it as a subtle undertone to begin a very hotly debated presentation about its fourth-generation smartphone device with an ill-fated antenna issue.
At the start of his presentation, Steve Jobs came on stage to announce that “the iPhone 4 is perhaps the best product ever made at Apple. We’ve sold well over 3 million since we launched it 3 weeks ago. It’s been judged the number 1 smartphone.” He went on to explicitly claim that the company has only known about the antenna design issue for 22 days (since the device launched) and assured press in the audience that “[Apple management] have been working their butts off. We are an engineering company, and we want to find out what the real problem is. And we want to share what we’ve learned.”
(Apple has sold over 3 million iPhone 4 units since its June 24th launch - Engadget)
A video was shown of several other competing smartphones on the market exhibiting the same problem. In a demonstration of the signal bar algorithm, Apple demonstrated bar strength for the Blackberry Bold 9700, the HTC Droid Eris, and the Samsung Omnia II, all of which expressed a similar “death grip” issue and had nonstandard signal mapping. “This is life in the smartphone world,” said Jobs. “Phones aren’t perfect. We went through a lot of trouble to put this beautiful line in the stainless steel band to say here’s where you touch [the iPhone 4], and we had incorrect bars being displayed, so when [the signal] dropped it looked far more catastrophic [than these other smartphones].”
Jobs went on to explain that Apple currently has a state of the art antenna test facility with 17 anechoid chambers operated by eighteen Ph.D. scientists and engineers. The investment cost was $100 million. "We knew that you could see bars drop on the phone when you hold it in a certain way, it's a fact, phones aren't perfect. But people are reporting better reception with this antenna than they've ever seen before."
(Apple's $100 million antenna test facility - Engadget)
According to some AppleCare support data that the company arguably presented in its favor, only 0.55 percent of all iPhone 4 users have called in about the antenna issue. In other words, or about 15,000 people. Jobs continued his presentation with a slide depicting AT&T customer iPhone 3GS return rates during the phone’s early days versus iPhone 4 return rates during its first few weeks. Again, in the company’s favor, 6 percent of all AT&T customers returned the iPhone 3GS while only 1.7 percent of all AT&T customers have returned the iPhone 4 since launch on June 24th.
Steve continued his presentation by explaining that the iPhone 4 drops less than one additional call per one-hundred when compared with the iPhone 3GS. In other words, the company still insists that its new antenna design is much superior to its previous generation design. “When our engineers and scientists look at this data, it’s very hard to escape the conclusion that there is a problem,” he stated. “But that problem is affecting a very small percentage of users. Having said all this, we care about every user.”
As part of its solution for affected customers, the rumors of a recall can now safely be put to rest. Apple is officially announcing that it will give every iPhone 4 customer a free bumper case, and if you happened to buy one, you will receive a full refund. “But we can't make enough bumpers, so we'll source some other cases and give users a choice.” So in a few minutes, we are going to happily drive over to our local Apple Store down the street and demand our $29 dollars back.
As one final remark, Jobs mentioned that “more updates are coming,” that the white iPhone 4 would be shipping at the end of July, and that the phone would be brought to 17 more countries on Friday, July 30th. “We love our users so much that we’ve built 300 Apple Retail Stores for them. We fall short and we try harder, and when we succeed they reward us by staying our users, so what’s what drives us. [All in all], we’re happy with the antenna design of the iPhone 4. It’s better than the iPhone 3GS in every way.”
Update: Regarding the Bloomberg story posted yesterday about an Apple senior engineer who forewarned the iPhone 4's antenna issue, Jobs is now claiming that the entire story is "a total crock." He notes that Apple has charged Bloomberg to come up with evidence that the story is true, but they are not able to produce any. "Certainly what was portrayed in that article never came across my conciousness," Jobs explained. "Rubin says it's total bs from his point of view too."
Update 2: Someone in the audience asked Jobs if he's willing to make an apology to investors. "As far as investors go, we want investors who are in with Apple for the long haul," he explained. "So for those investors who bought some stock and the price is down $5, I have no apology."
Update 3: Just got back from our local Apple Store. A company representative explained to us that Apple will host an online system at the end of next week (July 19 - July 23, 2010) for issuing refunds on Bumper cases and sending out new ones to affected customers. In other words, the company's physical stores are going to have no part in the satisfaction process.