This morning, Apple CEO Jobs acknowledged there are issues with the iPhone 4's antenna and will give free cases (or bumpers, as users prefer to call them) to solve the "death grip" issue. Users who already bought bumpers from Apple will get a refund, and restocking fees are now waived for customers who return an undamaged iPhone 4.
That was the right thing to do, but doing the right thing sort of got lost in Jobs' 15 minutes of justifying the reception issues. Jobs said repeatedly that all phones have such problems, where touching a device in certain spots (which vary from device to device) causes a signal degradation that can lead to dropped calls. He showed a video of a BlackBerry 9700, an HTC Droid Eris, and a Samsung phone doing so.
Then Jobs tried to suggest the iPhone 4 reception issues were caused by an aesthetic problem: The part of the iPhone 4 where gripping the case can lead to dropped calls happens to be where Apple added some horizontal lines into the case, which, according to Jobs, caused people to place their fingers there. "X marks the spot," he said in what seemed like an attempt to be humorous.
That unhappy coincidence may in fact be causing users to weaken the antenna's receptivity more than usual, but it neglects a key point: The phone's radio management software is supposed to account for such weakened reception and not drop the call. After all, as Jobs said repeatedly, all phones are subject to such reception interference -- so deal with it.
Jobs spent a lot of time detailing how much iPhone 4 customers loved their phones and how its return and complaint rates were lower than previous models. That's probably true -- and there's no question the iPhone 4 is a remarkable device in so many ways. Jobs also made gratuitous plugs of other Apple products, which seemed to trivialize the serious issue at hand. This was not the occasion to pitch products.