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Apple to Recall iPhone 4?

Gordon Kelly


Apple to Recall iPhone 4?

Let's just say it: NO. Apple really won't do this, but the whole Internet is obsessed so we'll try and deal with it in a sensible manner...

You won't be able to read any technology site this week without reading about the iPhone 4 antenna issue. The heat cranked up on Monday with US non-profit organisation Consumer Reports extensively testing the handset and saying it could no longer recommend the iPhone 4 because of its signal problems, declaring: "We think it's the company's responsibility to provide the fix—at no extra cost to consumers."

So what? Well Consumer Reports is a major deal on the other side of the pond, especially to the non-techie general public at large. Consequently Apple's share price has taken a dive (it'll jump back up soon enough) and there are a number of high profile class action lawsuits also now in the offing.

Apple had claimed last week that a software fix would be issued to correct the flaw, but that's increasingly cutting no ice. On top of this Gizmodo has one iPhone 4 owner saying Apple is quietly conducting a silent recall having seen the finish on his handset change after having his iPhone exchanged in an Apple store. He has since been unable to reproduce the fault.

Finally Paddy Power is now getting in on the act stating it has "today slashed the odds on Apple recalling its iPhone 4 from 2/1 to 4/6 making it ODDS ON that the best selling device will now be recalled."

So let's just get this straight: Apple won't recall the iPhone 4, it has shifted too many and while the antenna issue does exist, from the experience of myself, Ed and a number of other owners I've spoken to it has been blown out of proportion. I suspect future iPhone 4s will see a tweak to the manufacturing process to fix the problem, but more pressingly Apple should make some sort of gesture to existing customers.

Will bumpers be issued or a more elegant clear strip provided to cover the affected area? Who knows. What do you think Apple should do and more importantly, what do you think Apple will do?


Consumer Reports



July 14, 2010, 7:38 pm

"I suspect future iPhone 4s will see a tweak to the manufacturing process..."

What? You mean Apple will have to completely redesign their magical antennae? That's going to make existing customers who forked out £600 and signed a 2 year contract, simply delighted! And no - free bumper's don't cut it!

I think that if Apple want to protect their brand image in the long term, that they now have no option but to take the financial hit, recall all the handsets sold and 'tweak 'em' for free and compensate owners somehow and in the long term alter their manufacturing process.

I agree that this has been all over-blown and exaggerated, but we can't forget that the Apple iPhone is a product that commands a massive premium over other manufactures products and prides itself on cutting edge design and function. The Apple crowd have already been robbed blind and have given their pint of blood, it's about time Apple ate some humble pie. iPhone owners deserve Apple to start treating them a little less like lemmings, if Apple want these lemmings to stay brand loyal in the long term.


July 14, 2010, 7:43 pm

@lifethroughalens - by tweak I'd suggest a tiny sliver of non-conductive material over the top of the antenna joins not a complete redesign. You can fix the issue with sellotape - sad as that may seem.


July 14, 2010, 7:51 pm

If they do change the hardware in any way to avoid this then it is tantamount ot a recall however it's dressed up.

The publicity around this is huge, and will only grow - surely anyone sane who has bought a handset pre-tweak will just walk into an apple store and demand a new one, and be well within their rights to do so. Any hardware change within the warranty period implies a hardware defect, however minor it may be.


July 14, 2010, 7:51 pm

I read the rss headline...then I read the article and your request for comments

thought i was reading hit baiting Gizmodo for a sec - not TR..!


July 14, 2010, 7:55 pm

@Gordon - yes, that's definitely the way to go. Maybe Apple could issue owners with an official Apple DIY fix it kit as opposed to a recall? Roll on June 2011 :)


July 14, 2010, 7:56 pm

I agree with Life mind... I honestly do think they should be considering a recallto get is set straight just to prove they are premium brand with your interests at heart.


July 14, 2010, 7:59 pm

Physical fix: easy.

Reputational fix: much more difficult.

What happens to a cool device when it's no longer cool?


July 14, 2010, 8:13 pm

oh right, so they wont recall it because they sold too many. So following that theory you can flog anything duff and as longa s you shift tons you're in the clear? i think what'll happen is the same debacle as with the ipods with the duff batteries; the yanks will get a free replacement cos they can sue with class action, and everyone else (the brits) will be told to get stuffed. So much for our consumer protection.


July 14, 2010, 8:17 pm

"...it has been blown out of proportion."

The irony. :)


July 14, 2010, 8:33 pm

Awww, if only you'd held out on this story for a day, @ravmania would've been able to proclaim (again) tomorrow that there were no Apple stories on the first page.

@Gordon: Now I know I'm perceived as an Apple Hater here - no wait - I admit I'm an Apple Hater, however I too considered that this "issue" may be blown out of proportion simply due to our modern connected world. Much as I like bashing Apple, false claims help no one. However, it's become pretty clear that this IS a big problem. It's definitely there. On every single handset. And yes you can get it to work by "not holding it that way" or making sure you're in a strong signal area when you make a call. But that's beside the point. Steve's usual cockiness on-stage when talking about their new antenna design just makes this all the more embarrassing. And well worth the ridicule.

Right, now that I'm done kicking Apple: no, I don't think they'll do a recall. They're even cockier than Sony in that respect and not likely to admit failure easily. I was going to say they could offer free bumpers, but then they've been selling them for a while at £25 a pop on their website if I remember correctly. That's called cashing in. And those who bought so many bumpers early on (didn't they sell out at one point?) would then likely want a refund.

I expect they'll do nothing. They'll do a silent replace same as the customer in the article reported, or possibly come out with a new case of some kind, that doesn't look like the bumper. Although again, they can't really give those away for free without looking like admitting failure.

P.S. Did you really need to ask for comments? We know this is going to top 50 at least, as per usual.


July 14, 2010, 8:35 pm

Who cares whether the problem is fixed. The damage is done, for the time being anyway. Within days of release the problem was highlighted and the answer from Apple was not satisfactory, or respectful of its customers.

Having experienced Apple support and their arrogant disrespectful attitude, plus the poor performance of the iPhone 4 as a phone, I wouldnt buy another iPhone in a hurry, but would instead wait for the reviews and see what people say about it.


July 14, 2010, 8:43 pm

I like to slag Apple off as much as the next person when opportunity arises but I think this is blown out of proportion and that Apple will provide a fix to users when they work it out.

It's only a small percentage of phones (or maybe some people aren't conductive?) and once they find an easy way to cover the flaw they'll tell people to bring them into stores to get fixed on the spot. New phones will come with this as standard. Maybe they'll give users with the problem a $10 gift certificate as well or something like that.

In time everyone will forget this and the iPhone will go on to greater and greater success.

PS. I don't have an iPhone and can't see myself getting one anytime soon as I dislike their business practices, but on this I think they'll do right (in time, under pressure...).


July 14, 2010, 8:57 pm

Haven't Apple already issued a no restocking fee refund?.

I normally associate recalls for devices that risk life and limb.

I personally think the best move from Apple is to give out the bumpers for free. Wound't use them myself as I've put the invisibleSHIELD on anyway, made sure I went as near to the edge of the Antenna join as I could just in case :)


July 14, 2010, 8:59 pm

While I dont dispute that the issue has been blown well out of proportion I do know of 3 iPhone 4 owners who have had stupendously bad reception issues. If it had been myself in either of the 3 cases I would have returned the phone asap. All 3 genuinely had full bar signal health when lying flat in your hand but when held in a typical grip for calling and holding up to your head all 3 lost their signal completely. Very strange to see it happen in the real world as I was a bit sceptical about the whole thing.

I do however, know of umpteen other iPhone 4 owners who have all not had a single problem at all.

A Scotland

July 14, 2010, 9:37 pm

@Gordon - the problem may seem blown out of proportion for you but I expect that is because you benefit from a strong reception signal. Mine (O2 in Finchley) is mediocre with most phones and with the iPhone4 uncased and in left hand the signal becomes insufficient to place a call. Does anybody notice that holding it in different ways can also adversely affect data connectivity?


July 14, 2010, 9:56 pm

@HK: Is doing right(in time, under pressure) actually doing "right" at all?

@Keith: I thought the point was the antenna join needed to be covered (hence the tape used in the article video) as the main problem was your human finger bridging the gap itself.


July 14, 2010, 9:59 pm

@Gordon "You can fix the issue with sellotape"

just like the NHS glasses with selotape wrapped around the arm - iSpecs, the iPhone 4 fashion accessory ;)

@Nytol ""...it has been blown out of proportion. The irony. :)"

Spot on. If you live by the sword, you die by the sword.


July 14, 2010, 10:29 pm

I think this is massively overblown. I have an iPhone 4 and its great (my first iPhone, but had an iPod Touch for a couple of years).

Yes my iPhone has this antenna issue. However I have an excellent Proporta case for it - I was going to get one anyway. With the case covering up the gap between the antennas there is no issue.

No chance of a product recall, the most Apple are likely to do is issue free bumpers (or free sellotape!) Realistically I can't believe many people would use their £500/£600 iPhone without a case anyway.

Actually I have to say the antenna is excellent - 5 bars and as good a 3G speed as I have ever seen in most of the places I have been.

Chris Hamer

July 14, 2010, 10:42 pm

I do think Apple should actually recall and fix the phones with a new manufacturing technique. If this was any other phone manufactured they would be slaughtered and made to recall. No im not an apple hater, i do like some of their products as i have two Macs.


July 14, 2010, 10:55 pm

Free bumper for those that want them. Drop in the ocean for Apple financially.

Nothing more to see here - move along...


July 14, 2010, 11:50 pm


How can you have a tech site without an Apple article somewhere on the front page!

It's ironic that I actually thought this was the first iPhone that was actually any good. I do think that Apple's (non) handling of the issue had led to it blowing out of proportion. Any problem is bad but reacting to it with so much arrogance is just plain disrespectful towards your customers.

But do people seriously think that handing out bumpers is sufficient? Yes it may solve the issue but that's beside the point. I don't use a bumper on my Desire and have no wish too. Any product needs to be fit for purpose as sold. Not once it's been accessorised.

After watching the keynote where he talked about the engineering of the magical steel reception band it's gratifying to see Jobs with egg on his face. Shame he didn't christen it a Restina Display type moniker.

Like Apple, hate Steve Jobs. If there's a disctinction?


July 15, 2010, 12:23 am

@lte1000 - So let me get this straight. You buy a phone that doesnt work properly but because it cost so much you should also buy a cover for it to solve the problem? I'm sorry but if I was paying the amount of cash in question then Id want it to work flawlessly out of the box. A protective cover is there to offer protection not to solve some stinking signal issue!

The most basic function of a mobile phone is to, well, work like a phone! If you cant place a call then there is a fundamental problem with the device. I would feel slightly cheated if I were a iPhone 4 owner with signal issues and the solution was a free case.


July 15, 2010, 12:42 am

If the problem arises from your finger bridging the gap between the metal plates on the side, then the issue might be present in all handsets, but due to different amounts of moisture on your hand.

No sellotape needed; dry your hands. :P

I'd be interested to see if somebody who does not experience the problem on their handset experiences it on a 'faulty' one.


July 15, 2010, 12:59 am

@drdark: I thought the point was the antenna join needed to be covered

I thought the point was to stop the 2 ariels from shorting, if there both covered there not going to short, covering the black plastic strip I wound't think would make much difference.


July 15, 2010, 1:15 am

I have the 32 gb iPhone 4. I paid £600 for it. It is my 2nd iPhone.

Apple should recall the product. Anything less will be:

a) massive ongoing reputational damage; and

b) evidence that they will not commit to fix any future problems they have. This will spread across the whole brand, including other hardware and software too.

I used to be a regular PC gamer, but don't do that much any more. Instead it is all just web, movie and photo editing. I was considering moving to a Mac as a result. After this? Absolutely no way. iPhone 4GS? iPhone 5? Steve - you must be joking. And no, I won't accept a bumper as compensation. I bought the phone for how it looks, and I don't want to wrap a condom around it for it to work.

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