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Friday, July 16, 2010

Apple Offers Free Cases to Address iPhone Issue

CUPERTINO , Calif. — Steven P. Jobs, chief executive of Apple, acknowledged Friday that the company’s iPhone 4 had some problems with its antenna but said the same problems affected all smartphones and had been widely exaggerated by the media.

(The so-called iPhone “death grip.”)

“This has been blown so out of proportion that it is incredible,” Mr. Jobs said at a news conference at the company’s headquarters here.

Mr. Jobs said that to put the problems behind it, Apple would give free bumpers — cases that wrap around the rim of the phone — to all iPhone 4 buyers who want them. And he said those who had already bought the cases would get a full refund. The price of the bumpers from Apple is $29.

Customers still unhappy can return the phones for a full refund. The cases will remain free until Sept. 30.

Mr. Jobs insisted that the iPhone 4 was the best phone Apple has shipped and the best in the market, and said other smartphones suffered from similar problems. Mr. Jobs said he had data to prove it, but did not display it at the news conference.

He did, however, show videos seeming to demonstrate that other smartphones, including a BlackBerry, an Android-powered phone and a Windows Mobile device, all dropped signals when they were held in a certain place.

Only one in 200 buyers has called the company to complain about antenna issues, Mr. Jobs said. Return rates at AT&T have been one-third of historical return rates of the iPhone 3GS, he said. AT&T is the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States.

Mr. Jobs conceded that the iPhone 4 had a slight increase in dropped calls over the iPhone 3GS, but said that the increase was minimal and that he believed it was because fewer iPhone 4 customers used a case. Wrapping the phone in a case solves the problem.

“The data supports the fact that the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone in the world,” Mr. Jobs said. “And there is no ‘Antennagate.’ There is a challenge to the entire industry to improve antenna performance so that there are no weak spots.”

Mr. Jobs also defended Apple’s response, saying it had been only 22 days since the phone shipped. “Some people would want us to run a little faster,” he said. “I don’t think we could run any faster” and get to the root of the problem.

Mr. Jobs also said Apple had sold more than three million iPhone 4’s. He said white iPhones would start shipping at the end of July. On July 30, Apple will start selling the iPhone 4 in 17 more countries including Australia, Austria, Italy, Ireland and Switzerland.



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