iPhone 4 Antenna Issues: 10 Questions Steve Jobs Needs to Answer

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2010-07-19

iPhone 4 Antenna Issues: 10 Questions Steve Jobs Needs to Answer

On July 16, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage at an iPhone press conference and told those in attendance that as hard as they might try to only blame Apple for the iPhone 4's problems, they need to take a long, hard look at the rest of the industry and realize that Apple isn't alone.

Jobs also attempted to show that the iPhone 4 compares quite nicely to the iPhone 3GS and the device's competition in terms of dropped calls and overall quality. All the while, he clearly made his intentions known: he is ready and willing to fight to preserve his company's brand and the iPhone 4's market appeal. And he won't allow anyone or any company to stand in his way.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that Apple is now safe from criticism. Jobs might have convinced a few folks that his company's smartphone really is an ideal offering, but as people continue to suffer with antenna problems, Apple has answered few questions. For more than an hour, Jobs spoke, and over that span, he revealed little. It's unfortunate and it's causing consumers and even some enterprise customers to ask more even more questions.

Let's take a look at some of the questions that Apple and Jobs still haven't adequately addressed.

1. What's the real problem?

At his press conference, Jobs continued to drive the point home that, at the time, it had only been 22 days since the company started working on the iPhone 4's antenna problems. He was indicating that there simply wasn't enough time in that span to adequately determine exactly why the iPhone 4 is dropping more calls than its predecessor. The conclusion that Apple provided was that it's simply the nature of smartphones in today's marketplace. Unfortunately, that answer wasn't satisfactory. The market still has no idea what the real problem is with the iPhone 4. And until it's confirmed that it's either a hardware-design problem or a software bug, the guesses will keep coming.

2. What happens after Sept. 30?

Steve Jobs said that those who want a free case will be able to get one through the end of September. But the Apple CEO didn't provide any details on what will happen after September. He said during a question-and-answer session that he plans to re-evaluate the situation at that time to determine Apple's next move, but gave no indication of what kind of future decisions he might make. Apple might decide to continue giving consumers free cases through the end of the year. It might suspend the offer and come up with a real fix. Or it just might ignore the issue altogether. At this point, no one knows.

3. What about future versions of the iPhone 4?

Apple obviously knows that there is a problem with the iPhone 4 that needs to be addressed. And yet, Jobs made no indication that the company will change the design of future iPhone 4 units to save consumers from experiencing the problem. That ostensibly means that the iPhone 4 will remain unchanged in all future production cycles. On one hand, that might be a good thing, since the device is so aesthetically pleasing. But on the other hand, it could prove troublesome, since it's possible that a hardware-design flaw is causing all this trouble. Hopefully Apple will make a decision one way or the other as it continues to sell more smartphones.

4. Will the white iPhone 4 have the same problem?

An educated guess would say that the white version of the iPhone 4 will have the same antenna problems as the black version, but Apple made no indication that it would. It makes some sense. The consumer space is now fully aware of the iPhone 4's antenna issue. If Jobs came out and said that the white version would have the same problems, he might lose sales as consumers looked elsewhere for their next smartphone. By saying nothing, Jobs can keep the mystery alive and coax consumers that want to get their hands on the new iPhone to actually do so. If one had to guess, it probably would be safe to say that the white iPhone 4 will have antenna problems, but since Apple hasn't confirmed that, there is no way to know for sure until it launches.

Jobs Turns iPhone 4 Flaw into Industry Challenge

5. Will this happen on Verizon's network?

There is rampant speculation that Apple will be bringing the iPhone 4 to Verizon's network. At the press conference last week, Jobs made no mention of Verizon or the possibility of his smartphone ever coming to that carrier's network. But during the question-and-answer session, Jobs was quick to point out that San Francisco-based users might be having trouble connecting to AT&T's network because of the difficulties the carrier has bringing service to a big city like that. It was a quick jab at the carrier, but it caused some to wonder if it's just another example of Jobs setting the market up for a Verizon iPhone. It seems highly likely that the iPhone 4, antenna problems and all, will be coming to Verizon's network soon.

6. Is this going to be the norm going forward?

Will every future version of the iPhone have antenna problems? At this point, it certainly seems that way. At the press conference, Jobs made it clear that due to the design quirks of smartphones nowadays, devices have antenna problems when they're being held in a certain way. He even showed signals dropping on competitors' devices to drive the point home. But he made no mention of the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 6, and whether those products will suffer from antenna woes. Given his comments, it seems that Jobs is setting up the market to accept antenna issues going forward, which might only mean that future iPhones will have the same problems.

7. What about those who don't like using a case?

Steve Jobs said that if users are dropping calls while using the iPhone 4, there is a quick and easy solution: a case. That's why Apple plans to give all iPhone 4 owners a free case. But what about those folks who don't like using a case, and would rather have a device that works the way they expect it to? At this point, those people are just about out of luck. The iPhone 4 is one of the most beautifully designed smartphones ever released. Some folks just don't want to cover up its design, simply because Apple hasn't come up with a better solution yet. Apple is all about image and design. It should appreciate that putting a good-looking product into an ugly case doesn't appeal to its customers.

8. How will Apple address industry-wide antenna issues?

Jobs attempted to show at his press conference that it's not just the iPhone 4 that's experiencing antenna issues. But by doing so, he also showed that Apple, like the competition, now must find a way to improve reception and antenna without sacrificing the quality of a smartphone. Jobs said that he would like nothing more than to see Apple lead the way in improving antenna design, but didn't say how his company will achieve that. Maybe it's time he starts thinking about it. The iPhone 4 has brought an industry-wide issue to the masses and as the leader in that space, it's up to Apple to fix it.

9. How will Apple respond to the competition?

Jobs also managed to irk competing smartphone makers after he showed a few of their models that experience signal-strength losses after being held with the now-infamous "death grip." Research In Motion especially didn't like being dragged through the mud for the sake of Apple proving a point. Now, it seems that Apple has caused a stir in the market that will see the company get pelted by even more marketing efforts on the part of companies such as RIM that want to make it clear that their products don't suffer from the same issues as the iPhone 4. Upon doing so, Apple will need to figure out how it will respond. It can either ignore the competition's marketing efforts or fire back. But rest assured that it will need to do something.

10. Is this all Apple will say?

Apple said little about the iPhone 4's antenna problems at its recent press conference. Yes, the company decided to offer free cases and it admitted that there was a problem, but with more questions now than there were before, some might be wondering if Apple will say anything else on the matter. Depending on how the next couple months go, Apple might be forced to address the problem again. But if things quiet down and the focus on the iPhone 4's antenna problems go away, it might be able to pretend like this never happened. At this point, there's no telling if Apple will say anything else about the iPhone 4. But it would be nice if it did.

Rocket Fuel