iPhone 4 owners: Expect Bumper cases, not recall

“Apple Inc. said Wednesday that it will hold a news conference Friday concerning its iPhone 4, which is facing mounting criticism over reception problems tied to antenna design,” Yukari Iwatani Kane reports for The Wall Street Journal. “An Apple spokesman declined to give further details, including whether the conference will address reported reception problems or Apple’s response to those problems. Apple plans to hold the conference at its headquarters, the spokesman said.”

“Apple watchers speculated that the company will offer a solution,” Kane reports. “‘Given the intense pressure and scrutiny Apple has come under on the problem with the iPhone 4, it’s going to be about some kind of fix or compensation for the owners of the phone,’ speculated Ed Snyder, an analyst with Charter Equity Research.”

“Even as the phone has continued to sell well at stores, it has been plagued with user complaints about dropped calls when the phone is held in a way that covers part of the antenna,” Kane reports. “Antenna-design experts have said that the phone design, while cutting-edge, was risky because it exposes the antenna to touch. While this problem can occur in all mobile phone devices, the design of the iPhone 4 makes it more susceptible than others.”

“What started out as a small number of users complaining about reception has now ballooned into a full-scale public-relations issue, potentially threatening to hurt the brand image Apple has so carefully built up,’ Kane reports. “Apple’s ability to maintain the brand image it has worked to hard to build will depend on how it addresses the issue going forward, said Allen Adamson, managing director for Landor Associates, a branding firm. ‘If they bury their heads in the sand, and don’t engage in conversation and act in an arrogant way they’re going to erode a bit of their brand,’ he said.”

Kane reports “A recall of the device is unlikely, because since the problem doesn’t affect safety and only occurs for some users in certain situations. But financial analysts said Apple could give away its $29 rubber ‘bumper’ case, which they said would solve the antenna reception problem. Analysts estimate that such action would cost Apple $1 to $5 a phone.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: A few points:

• If those Bumper cases are costing Apple $5 each, they need to renegotiate with their Chinese supplier(s).

• Apple needs to act because at least some (maybe all) iPhone 4 units can clearly be attenuated by placing a thumb or part of your hand over the lower left “gap” – especially in low signal coverage areas (where you can knock the iPhone 4 off AT&T’s oh-so-luscious network with your thumb). Place your thumb over the iPhone 4’s gap, wait 20 seconds or so and watch the bars. According to many reports, iOS 4.1 beta changes the signal bars display. It does not, of course, remove the ability to attenuate with your thumb. The negative PR debacle won’t stop until Apple provides adequate perceived recompense. Better than adequate recompense might even generate net positive PR for Apple after all is said and, most importantly, done.

• iPhone 4 does not attenuate in the same manner with an Apple Bumper case. We’ve tried multiple iPhone 4 units in Bumpers with all available iOS versions and cannot knock it off the network with the same thumb or hand placement as on a naked iPhone 4.

• As we’ve been saying throughout: If the iPhone requires a Bumper or some addition to the unit in order to operate normally when held in the hand, then Apple should provide a means for iPhone 4 owners to acquire said solution free of charge. Customers bought iPhone 4 units with the assumption that they would work when held in the hand; especially as Apple’s many promotional and demo videos, TV commercials, and their CEO have demonstrated holding the iPhone 4 in ways that cause attenuation on iPhone 4 units.

• Customers who have already purchased cases for their iPhone 4 units should be offered Apple Store credit or a rebate from Apple. We’ll see if Apple goes that far, as some people obviously bought cases for other reasons (cosmetics, protection, etc.), they might have an issue with the concept of paying for Paris Hilton’s Swarovski-encrusted iPhone 4 case.

• Apple should explore a hardware revision for future iPhone 4 units; clear non-conductive coatings, etc.

• There is no need for a recall. Apple’s iPhone 4 is the best smartphone on the market, bar none. wink

• If and when Apple does right by their iPhone 4 customers, the unscrupulous can start looking for another issue to overhype for their short and distort schemes.


  1. If the phone requires a case to work properly, then Apple should not advertise or display it without one. If that’s the fix, I’ll probably return mine. Part of the reason for buying an iPhone or any apple product is the looks. I’m not going to put it in a cheap rubber case.

  2. Tomorrow is all about damage control – nothing more, nothing less.

    The software fix (= more realistic bar view) will not fix the reception problem itself unless the software is at the moment instructing the iPhone4 to drop the call when it goes under a certain signal strength level (highly unlikely imho).

    So yeah Apple will prolly provide everybody a free case free of charge to fix the dropping-calls problem and a software fix to display the signal strength more accurately.

  3. I returned my bumper case.

    The bottom port area is very hard plastic and tight. I couldn’t use my current accessories when I had the bumper case on.

    Plus the bumper case is very hard to take off. I had to take it off for it to sit in my iPod/iPhone clock radio.

    Nonetheless, these things cost Apple only $2 to make (guessing) and it should of been included free in the iPhone packaging to begin with.

    Besides, who owns an iPhone without a case to begin with? A case, any case practically solves all of these reception issues.

    But if Apple would of field tested the new iPhone without hiding it in a secret case to make it look like a normal 3GS, then maybe this all could of been prevented.

  4. addressing the antenna issue is fine, which I bought a bumper case and really have not noticed any difference in performance. Still have dropped calls. Other issues I would like to see addressed:

    FaceMute- phone mutes during conversation
    FaceDial- phone dials during conversation
    SpeakerBlast-During a call the phone switches from ear to speaker.

    EmailBodyInvisibility-email loads, but body of text is not there.

    And yes I have tried resetting, restoring, and returning. On my second iP4.

  5. So what happens to us dopes who already bought a case? In my case (no pun intended), I got one of those BodyGlove hard cases (the blue was too nice to me to pass up).

    Nice thing about it was the AT&T;guy in the store knocked 50% off. But still………I paid good money for a case. I think I’m entitled to a bit of compensation. Likely I won’t get any…..and neither will anyone else.

  6. Ok, I already have a bumper. I don’t have any problems with signal with it or without it installed when I use the phone throughout the day (or night). I don’t really want another bumper right now. I only got it because at the time of pre-order, there were no other options to pick from and I needed some sort of protection (cough). There are several other cases I would prefer to have at this point.

    That being said, the bumper is a nice piece of plastic, rubber, and metal. The metal buttons feel and work great, the bumper fits well and does not wiggle or create problems in and out of the front pocket. Is it worth $29? No… $9.99 would have been a more reasonable price. I’m sure it costs Apple a couple bucks to make and package. Maybe $2.50 given the volume of them they made.

  7. Oh, and the bumper does not work with the dock… another thing that I purchased, and so far have not been able to use. Perhaps I will return that and get a universal dock instead.

  8. FYI, anyone notice how the ONLY charging cord is that will fit through the Bumper Case slot is the Apple charging cord? Go ahead and try. I have numerous other cords from other manufactures that when inserted into the slot is just a fraction too large to connect to the phone.

  9. Even when Apple “Fixes” the problem (regardless of how they choose to do it), you will still have media sources saying that it’s a bad fix and that the problem still exists etc… they are just whores for visitors.

    My take on what Apple will do….

    Apple will go into a short presentation about how 5% – 10% of all new products on the market have major issues which require a replacement or major repair of the device. This is just a fact of large scale production.

    Then they will separate the problem into two classes. Class 1 will be the devices that actually are having problems physically keeping a call connected while holding it wrong. Class 2 will be the devices that are just reporting software wrong, and while you can get the bars to drop by holding it wrong, it doesn’t necessarily drop the call (even though it might say no service).

    Class 1 will be considered the “actual” problem devices, and it will probably make up less than 5% of all the iPhones sold. Apple will trumpet this as a huge success saying they are well below industry standard for problem devices. They will offer a free trade out for Class 1 devices.

    Class 2 will be considered a “mistake” on their end that is easily fixable. The devices have the appearance of being able to reproduce the problem, but since the calls aren’t actually physically being dropped, a software fix or bumper fix should solve the problem.

    Then Apple will offer up the Software or Bumper solution to all iPhone purchasers. Most likely the black or white ones for free, and a small premium for the color bumpers.

    Apple will trumpet the success of the iPhone, the media people that have said “Even with the problem, it’s still the best damn phone out there” and make everyone understand that speed bumps occurs in all product launches, but that it’s now fixed.

    Then as a final surprise, [This is a guess of course], Apple will announce jointly with Verizon it’s plans for launching on Verizon in January 2011. (Which is why AT&T;bumped up all those upgrades from July – December to June. They wanted to get those folks that might bolt for a better network tied into a new contract before Apple jumped ship).

    I shall come back on Friday to see how accurate I was.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.