Despite the fact that this seems to mark a major shift in Apple’s attitudes toward their iPhone4 customers, it’s simply not enough. This becomes incredibly apparent when you read the text of Apple’s letter.
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Apple starts the letter by acknowledging the widely-publicized issue exists. “Some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.”
However, Apple’s apology takes a hard right turn into fantasy land immediately thereafter.
Apple claims to have discovered the reason behind the problem. And it’s software-related. “Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars.”
Is this at least somewhat plausible? Yes. Is this glitch completely responsible? Absolutely not.
The biggest problem with this explanation is that it doesn’t even begin to explain why holding the phone with your left hand causes dropped calls. A more accurate reckoning of how many bars you actually have is great (unless you’re AT&T, at which point your customers will realize how bad your network actually is). However, even if callers only actually have three bars when it looks like they have five, this doesn’t explain why those three bars disappear when you touch the phone.
Apple’s indignantly refusing to remedy the problem that everyone who’s held an iPhone4 has been able to replicate. Sure, holding my iPhone 3G in a certain way will cause it to lose a bar. However, it won’t cause it to drop a call from a five-bar signal, like the iPhone4 will (as shown in the video below).
It’s called a design flaw, Apple. Sure, it’s not as bad as the exploding gas tanks on the Ford Pinto, but an iPhone without the phone is nothing but an overly-expensive iPod Touch. And you need to make it right.
However, based on the policy that the Applecare hotline has been pushing, Apple doesn’t appear willing to do much. In the words of the policy itself, “We ARE NOT appeasing customers with free bumpers – DON’T promise a free bumper to customers.”
The letter also fails to address the “you’re holding it wrong” idiocy that Apple has been perpetuating. Sure, there is a way to hold the phone that doesn’t touch the area in question, but it involves clinging on to the phone by the slippery glass back, a recipe for disaster. Steve Jobs’ solution is no better.
While it would seem, at least on its face, that Apple’s apology is an attempt to sincerely address the issue, it falls short. Upon reading the letter, it becomes apparent that the apology is insincere at best and patronizing at worst. It’s a start, for sure, but Apple must go the extra mile and devise a fix for the hardware problem plaguing their device. In the meantime, I’m ordering myself a Vapor4.