It's been one of the most anticipated product launches in the cellphone world: The Apple iPhone 4 went on sale in a number of countries yesterday. However, despite strong sales, Apple is now facing a barrage of criticism about serious reception problems.
The Apple iPhone 4 went on sale in the United States, France, Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom June 24. Boasting a number of new features and upgrades over previous versions, Apple has seen strong sales.
According to reports, a survey of iPhone customers shows a total of 77 percent of sales are upgrades. That means nearly two-thirds of all iPhone 4 owners are previous iPhone owners.
"Apple has in three years built brand loyalty in the phone market that compels users to upgrade to the latest version and wait in line for one to six hours to pick up their iPhone," said Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster in a report to clients issued early Friday.
Munster believes Apple will sell between 1 million to 1.5 million iPhones in the first three days alone.
Despite strong sales, however, reports and videos demonstrating iPhone reception problems are flooding the Web.
Many iPhone 4 users are reporting reception problems when they cover the outer bezel that wraps the phone. More specifically, when one's hand bridges the left and bottom antennas, reception drops.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs touted the unique antenna design at the Worldwide Developer's Conference this year, saying it was "brilliant." Real-world use, however, suggests the iPhone 4 may not be as revolutionary as once promised.
In the face of mounting criticism, Apple issued an official statement to tech blog Engadget, indicating the phone works fine and the problem stems from the way users are holding it. Apple said:
Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone," Jobs wrote. "If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases."
This advice contradicts even Apple marketing and advertisements, as many video and image promos show many people holding the phone by the lower left-hand corner.
In addition to the official statement, tech blog Ars Technica also emailed Apple to get a response. "On a lark," the company CC'ed Steve Jobs who actually replied.
Jobs' response was simply, "Just avoid holding it in this way."
Jobs also elaborated to Tuaw reader Rory Sinclair who questioned the shoddy performance and said there aren't normally limitations on how to hold a phone. "Sure there are -- every phone has these areas of sensitivity, depending on the location of the antenna," Jobs replied. "Some phones even ship with labels warning customers to not cover certain areas with their hands."
ArsTechnica notes a blog written by an antenna engineer with Antennasys Inc, who said placement of antennas in cellphones is often dictated by FCC and carrier testing requirements and Apple's design is not unusual.
Not everyone is having problems with reception, either. Digital Journal asked fans of its Facebook group if they were experiencing problems, a question that quickly got an answer from a user who said, "No reception problems at all. I've tried the various methods of holding the handset that are supposed to see the signal drop. It's a fine piece of kit and no mistake."
However, another iPhone 4 user says Apple Support is blaming the reception issues on "a missing protective coating on some of the parts."
As part of the influx of coverage on this issue, tech and Web blog Mashable notes Apple sells a $29 rubber bumper that acts as a barrier between your hand and the antenna which is reportedly a fix for reception woes. As a parting note, Mashable blogger Barb Dybwad asks:
"The existence of said bumper essentially begs the question, though — does it indicate that Apple already knew about the potential reception issues with the phone? And if so, should users really have to shell out $29 to restore the reception that’s knocked out by holding the phone in an arguably natural way?"