Apple has found itself in an unfamiliar position. A company that has built a reputation for delivering outstanding hardware that it does right the first time is being forced to answer questions about reception problems iPhone 4 customers are experiencing. So far, Apple has said little.
In an e-mail released June 24, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said users just need to hold the device differently. That was later echoed by Apple in an official statement. The company said antenna issues are “a fact of life for every wireless phone” and users should avoid holding the iPhone in a way that covers the antennas or “use one of many available cases.”
It’s a shame that Apple has handled user antenna woes like this. The company had the opportunity to do the right thing and start making good on its promise of offering the world’s best smartphone.
But it’s failing right now. And until it finds a way to address the problem, some folks will be thinking twice about buying an iPhone 4. Yes, it has a nice display and is arguably the most capable iPhone the company has ever released, but until Apple starts treating customers fairly and addresses this problem, who would really want to get involved with Apple or its products?
1. Offer the case for free
Currently, Apple offers a case called the Bumper, which is designed to keep the iPhone 4 safe. According to the company’s statement, the case is one of many that will keep users from experiencing antenna problems. The only problem is, the case is currently retailing for $29. To make this right and save itself from a potential PR crisis, Apple should offer all current iPhone 4 customers a free Bumper case. Yes, it will cost the company millions of dollars, but it’s a better solution than losing revenue on all the iPhone 4 units consumers don’t buy. It’s a small price to pay for making this right.
2. Update iOS if it’s a software problem
Speculation abounds over what the exact causes of the iPhone’s signal problems are. Although the company advised users to stop holding the device in a way that cuts down on signal strength, some reports have suggested that it’s actually a software problem and Apple will be addressing it in the iOS 4.0.1 update. If that’s true, then the company should be getting to work on addressing the problem sooner rather than later. The longer this goes on, the worse it looks for Apple.
3. A public apology would be nice
Apple isn’t one to admit when it’s wrong, but this is a case where the company should issue a public apology and reassure current customers that it will do whatever it can to address the problem as swiftly as possible. Too often, tech companies like to sweep issues under the rug in the hope that customers will simply forget. Apple is in danger of becoming one such company. It needs to do the right thing and apologize. It might be just one step of many that Apple needs to take to fully fix this problem, but an apology will go a long way toward setting things right with customers.
4. Stop the ‘death grip’ nonsense
Some people are taking personally the idea that Apple is tutoring them on how to hold a phone. Yes, cell phones have antenna problems, but customers shouldn’t be forced to hold a device a certain way just to use it. This isn’t the 1990s when antenna problems were par for the course. Things are different now. And Apple’s insistence on telling people to stop with the “death grip” is becoming more and more insulting by the day. It’s not the user’s fault that the iPhone 4 is having antenna problems; it’s Apple’s.
The First Step: Admit Theres a Real Problem
5. Stop the complacency
Since the iPhone 4 hit store shelves, Apple has seemed complacent. The same way it’s treating Adobe and developers who want to use Flash, Apple is expecting customers to acquiesce to its demands. The company ostensibly believes that it’s right and that consumers will need to learn to hold a phone in a different way than they do now. And it believes that if it sticks with the game plan of changing how customers hold phones, this problem will eventually go away. Apple’s strategy is nonsense. Complacency isn’t doing any iPhone 4 customers any good.
6. A recall is the last resort
Some rumors over the weekend of June 26 suggested that Apple might recall the iPhone 4 to fix the problem. A recall should be the absolute last resort. Although it might be the easiest way to address the iPhone 4’s problems, it’s the least ideal. By recalling the iPhone, Apple would force customers to find another phone to use until their iPhone 4s are returned. And for many who switched to AT&T from a different carrier, that might be impossible. A recall is an extremely bad idea. Apple needs to find a way to address the situation without requiring users to send their smartphones back.
7. Fix it in the white version
Apple was forced to delay the white version of the iPhone due to manufacturing problems. That might be a good thing for the company. If Apple’s smart, the iPhone 4 white version will ship with the fixes in place to ensure that those customers don’t have the same reception troubles when they finally get their hands on the smartphone. It won’t solve the problem for those who own the black version of the iPhone 4, but it will help keep the issue contained.
8. Don’t be Apple
Apple is in danger of repeating history with this recent antenna snafu. Time and again, Apple has basically bullied consumers, partners and just about everyone else simply because it has an ego that no other company in the market can muster. This is not the time for Apple to play the same game it always has and treat customers poorly when it doesn’t want to admit defeat. The iPhone 4 has antenna problems and they need to be addressed quickly. That should be Apple’s goal right now.
9. A small discount would be fine
It might be a highly unlikely scenario, but perhaps Apple should offer a rebate on those iPhone 4 units that were affected. It doesn’t need to be substantial, but a $50 rebate might be in order. It wouldn’t be the first time Apple followed such a strategy. The company offered a $100 Apple store credit to first-generation iPhone early adopters that purchased the device before the company cut its price. Although it isn’t a price-drop problem, Apple could address the antenna issues with some money back. Even an Apple Store credit would be nice.
10. Keep communication lines open
If Apple plans on addressing the iPhone 4’s antenna troubles, the company should keep a line of communication open with its customers. Current iPhone 4 owners have every right to know what kind of progress is being made in addressing the problem and should be able to ask questions as they come up. Apple has been a notoriously secretive company, and for years, that has worked. But in this case, that approach could come back to haunt Apple. The last thing Apple should do is close off its iPhone 4 fixes from the world. This issue is now shared with consumers, and it can’t keep them out of the loop.