Apple moved to address concerns about its newly released iPhone 4-specifically that touching the smartphone's rim in a certain way will result in reduced reception.
The iPhone 4 debuted in stores on June 24 to around-the-block lines and general pandemonium as Apple fans strove to be the first in their office to obtain the device. Just as thousands of people began to test their new iPhones, however, a portion began to experience a technical issue: Touching the device's metal antenna band, which runs along its outer rim, seemed to reduce their reception to zero. The tech blog Gizmodo-likely not Apple's favorite media outlet, thanks to its public dissection of a lost iPhone 4 prototype in April-began collecting videos from around the Web demonstrating the phenomenon.
Some of those reports suggested that touching the bottom-left part of the rim was responsible for the reception drop, and the problem could be rectified with either a piece of clear tape or a daub of nail polish. In any case, Apple responded to those complaints.
"Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas," Apple wrote in a widely circulated June 25 statement. "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 the many available cases."
The situation also became fodder for online jokes.
"First of all, this is not a big issue," Fake Steve Jobs, the alter ego of Newsweek journalist Dan Lyon, wrote in a June 24 posting on his eponymous blog. "If you're experiencing this, most likely it's not the phone at all-most likely you're just living in a place where there's bad reception, in which case the solution is simple: You need to move."
The iPhone 4 retails with a two-year contract for $199 for the 16GB version, and $299 for the 32GB version. Features include a front-facing video camera for video conferencing, a larger battery and the new iOS4 operating system, which includes multitasking among its bevy of new tricks.
The iPhone 4 has received largely positive reviews from some high-profile tech critics, including The New York Times' David Pogue and the Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg, the latter of whom was kind to the device but not AT&T, which is the iPhone's exclusive carrier in the United States.
"The most important downside of the iPhone 4 is that, in the U.S., it's shackled to AT&T," Mossberg wrote in his review, "which not only still operates a network that has trouble connecting and maintaining calls in many cities, but now has abandoned unlimited, flat-rate data plans. Apple needs a second network."
Barclays Capital analyst James Ratcliffe predicted in a June 22 research note that, based on "channel checks by our communications equipment and semiconductor research partners," the iPhone will launch on Verizon in early 2011. Should that occur, he predicted that between 500,000 and 1 million AT&T customers, dissatisfied with their carrier service, will jump with their iPhones onto Verizon's network.
For their part, Verizon executives have indicated that an iPhone on their company's network is more a question of "when" than "if."