During a press conference today Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the company will provide free cases to all iPhone 4 users, in response to reports of users being unhappy with the reception on their new phones. Apple will also provide full refunds to users who want to return their phones. The free case and refund offer is only good until September 30. Apple did not, however, admit to a problem with how the iPhone 4 is built and insists that the reception problems people see on the iPhone exists with all mobile phones.
Jobs began his presentation by citing statistics that they believe shows that only a small number of users are experiencing problems. Apple says only .55 percent of iPhone 4 users have contacted AppleCare about reception issues. Further, Apple says that only 1.7 percent of users have returned phones. The numbers do appear to be small, but then I wonder how many people who own iPhone 4s, experience the reception issues and read the reports about the reception issues, still feel inclined to call Apple to report them? Surely there are a not insignificant number of people who believe there is no point in calling Apple about the problem.
It has been very well reported that AT&T has network issues that have been causing iPhone 3G and 3GS users to drop calls. Despite these problems that everyone admits exists, Apple has sold a lot of phones. How are we to interpret this behavior? Should we conclude that AT&T’s network is just fine, and not too many people are experiencing dropped calls, or should we conclude that because the iPhone is so good, people are tolerating the problem? People’s tolerance to live with a problem does not mean the problem does not exist.
The truth of the matter is that we won’t know whether or not Apple believes there is a design problem with the iPhone 4 until they announce the iPhone 5. Only if the next iPhone stops using the iPhone’s 4 antenna design will we see something that approximates admitting the iPhone 4’s design is flawed. My recommendation to Apple is that they ought not intepret tolerance of a problem as proof that the problem does not exist.