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Jobs: Free Cases and Bumpers For All

Andy Vandervell


Jobs: Free Cases and Bumpers For All

Steve Jobs was in defiant mood in the brief, hastily arranged press conference to deal with the iPhone 4's alleged reception issues. Speculation of free bumpers turned out to be true, but Apple can't make enough of them so will source third party cases that you can choose from. And, if you're still not satisfied, you can return the phone, undamaged, within 30 days. Anyone who purchased a bumper already will get a refund.

That's the good-ish news. Before Jobs announced all this, however, he went out of his way to explain away the problem.

Picture credit: Engadget

Here's a blow-by-blow summary of the Apple argument:

  • All phones suffer a loss of signal when held in a particular way. Apple did tests on the Blackberry Bold 9700, the HTC Droid Eris, and Samsung Omnia, and the bars went down.

  • "Phones aren't perfect"

  • Only 0.55% of users called Apple to complain about reception issues, and the AT&T return rates were lower for the iPhone 4 than the 3GS - 1.7% vs 6%

  • Jobs claims, based on AT&T data, that the iPhone 4 "drops less than one additional call per hundred than the 3GS".

  • Apple quoted, and must therefore tacitly agree with, the Consumer Reports conclusion: "The Bumper solves the signal-stength problem".

So that's the argument, but what to make of it? That Jobs spent most of the presentation defending the iPhone 4's record was no surprise: Apple was never going to lie down and take it. Clearly the dropped call figures, where Jobs was unable to quote the full data, only the "delta", is the most contentious issue. That the iPhone 4 drops more calls than the 3GS at all seems odd considering the new antenna was meant to improve signal quality, but more interesting is the lack of transparency on the data. If it's only one call more per hundred, how many was the 3GS dropping? Moreover, while Jobs was keen to point out that this was an industry wide problem, never did he address the idea that the iPhone 4 suffered more than competing handsets - merely that they can/do have similar problems.

Ultimately, one way or another, Apple has admitted the problem and it has chosen free bumpers as the solution. Are you happy with this? Will you be getting a free bumper, or has Apple fudged the issue further? We'll be sharing our thoughts in due course. In the meantime, let us know what you think.


July 16, 2010, 11:21 pm

Where to start?


July 16, 2010, 11:32 pm

Hmmm... Seems a good idea to me, at least they've made it clear that you can return it if you don't want it.

TBH: I'm surprised they didn't wait until the 23rd to tell us all this... Then they could get away with the 30 day return (considering nearly everyone in the entire planet bought one on day one).

As for the bumpers, I'm not sure how they'll figure out who's already got one/ if they've been given one for free already, presumable they'll somehow tie it to the phones serial number? Plus: do new buyers of the phone get the bumper included, or not?

Rob 14

July 16, 2010, 11:33 pm

Jobs didn't "refuse to quote the full data.." on dropped call rates, he explained that AT&T, quite understandably for a telecoms company, don't want to publicise their dropped call rates for fear that their competitors would use that data against them.


July 16, 2010, 11:42 pm

@SirThomas, new buyers get a free bumper included.

Better late than never, for Apple. I hold differently, no problem with iphone 4 ant issue, even I dont have one, yet.


July 16, 2010, 11:47 pm

So a premium product requires a cheap chinese rubber skin to make it work LOL

john g

July 16, 2010, 11:47 pm

I'd start by saying that, even when I was a schoolboy interested in electronics, I knew that an antenna's behaviour changed vastly when touched. Secondly, a return rate of 6% for the iPhone 3GS sounds like a business catastrophe - if anything I'd ever designed had a 6% return rate, I'd have been made to walk the plank.

I suspect the lasting effect of this might be that Apple's image could fall from "they're cool dudes who can do no wrong" to "they're actually no better than HTC+Android" which, I suspect, could hit their future sales hard - there's no denying that Apple make seductive products but the minute it starts to look like form over function, what are they left with?


July 16, 2010, 11:50 pm

I just got mine yesterday-it drops to a single bar of signal albeit still 3G - this is after the Signal Strength Indicator update of 4.0.1 and on Vodafone in the Greater Belfast area.

@Gordon - is the 30 day return offer only applicable if one buys direct from Apple? Unsure whether Vodafone and the other UK netowrks will be happy with returns after the 14 day return period, though perhaps they won't mind as Apple are the ones taking the phones back??? Can anyone clarify this if they find out before I do?



July 16, 2010, 11:55 pm

OK so there is a problem and they have admitted it, good. Also it sounds like a fundamental design issue that cannot be cured by making modifications to the handset, so where do we go from here? Do Apple continue making a handset for the next 11 months that is known to have a design fault, do we get a hastily revised iPhone without the external antenna? It will be interesting to see.

Hans Gruber

July 16, 2010, 11:56 pm

Free prophylactics all round. Steve Jobs does care afterall.


July 16, 2010, 11:58 pm

If they can't make their own bumpers quick enough can we order a Vapor4?



July 16, 2010, 11:59 pm

So the hardware doesn't work correctly, by design, have a free case, don't worry about it, continue to consume. Sums this one up nicely.


July 17, 2010, 12:07 am

"Buy this beautiful device for £500, and then cover it up with a hideous rubber case!" - no thanks. Let's face it, the appearance is a major selling point, and if not you may as well just get the still very capable 3GS. Also, considering the price, it shouldn't have the signal problems that some of it's rivals supposedly do. Even if Apple's claims that those other devices have signal drops are true, it probably doesn't happen when you're holding them the way you would naturally.


July 17, 2010, 12:16 am

@SirThomas: I think so far the bumpers were only sold through the official Apple site, so tracking down the orders shouldn't be any problem.

P.S. You all know what I think so, y'know...


July 17, 2010, 12:22 am

@DevGuy - 1st sentence = nail on head


July 17, 2010, 12:26 am

Bought one yesterday - had nothing but grief. Almost every time someone hangs up on me at the end of a call my screen goes black and the phone locks up for a minute or two. Did a bit of digging and seemingly there is a big problem with the proximity sensor in the phone too... Jeezo! ps: 4.01 update didn't help eradicate the problem.



July 17, 2010, 12:31 am

More here...



July 17, 2010, 12:35 am


According to jobs there isn't an issue! He said that "smartphones have issues" and that "there is no antennagate".

He did not admit to any sort of fault. He continually referred to the issue being one all smartphones have. All phones probably do have this issue to some extent but there's a difference between reducing signal strength and dropping calls.

It made me imagine Sony rubbishing the YLOD by pointing out MS's RROD issues. It doesn't matter to your customers if other phones have issues. They've bought your product!

The sheer arrogance of the guy just astounds me.

The whole conference was just about trying to play down the issue and try to finger the opposition for having the same issues.


July 17, 2010, 12:37 am

I've gotta say... while I think the iPhone 4 design does have an issue there's FAR too much being made of it in the geek press. Some are reporting fairly, many are aiming for sensationalist headlines and, frankly, a lot of commentators have lost the plot.

As I said, there's no question that there's a design fault here but the big question is its impact in the real world. I'm currently consigned to the arse end of Wales for a few days where they've only just gotten out of the bit of string and a tin can era of communications and the iPhone 4 is amazing me on a regular basis. I grew up here, I've been coming back to visit family for at least ten years with a variety of mobile phones from basic handsets through feature phones, smart phones and now the iPhone. This device gives me a) useable 3G signal places everything else gives up the ghost and b) hangs on to calls on signal strengths that are almost non-existent while delivering audio quality on both ends of the conversation that's had the people I'm calling genuinely surprised when they find out where I'm calling from.

Can I reproduce this problem by bridging the antenna? Yep, if I bridge it I can cause it to drop signal in a poor quality area or drop a bar or two in high quality ones. But in the real world it simply doesn't have any impact on my daily use and, in truth, the phone is far better than anything else I've ever used. For those that are having issues, my sympathies, but do yourselves a favour and take it back. Try something else, try a different carrier, try a different handset, find something that works for you and stick with it. But please, let's stop pretending that this device flat out doesn't work or is unusable. It's not the case and it's making finding actual information among the garbage very very difficult indeed for those that are having problems.

Sam Wright

July 17, 2010, 1:12 am

@BOFH_UK The problem is that for >0.5% of users (thats thousands remember, going to be tens of) they DO find it impacts on their use. And thats their judgement to make. Its true, it does affect nearly all handsets, but Apple make you pay £100 premium, and tout radical redesign, but still suffer from the same major issue. Then tell them theyre "holding it wrong, dont do it". Its the sheer arrogance that strums the nerves.


July 17, 2010, 1:54 am

"Steve Jobs was in defiant mood in the brief, hastily arranged press conference to deal with the iPhone 4's alleged reception issues"...

Easy to see where Andy's loyalties lie. I think the obsolete use of the word 'alleged' (instead of 'proven' and 'well documented') says it all. ;)

Today, Apples' products lost a bit of it their shine.


July 17, 2010, 1:59 am

I'm surprised Obama isn't involved yet. Surely someone somewhere has injured a pelican with a malfunctioning iPhone 4?

I don't think we've seen the end of this. I'm sure there'll be more pressure to do something else now that an admission has come out. In the meantime... http://www.fusionofideas.co...


July 17, 2010, 2:15 am

Just because all other smartphones have issues doesn't mean its an excuse for them to have issues, especially with many smartphones costing more than £1000 over 2 years. These sort of issues didn't used to be a problem but now they are. The designers need to take a fundamental look at the design of a smartphone / anntena to eliminate the problem.

john g

July 17, 2010, 2:30 am

I've just come back from the iTunes festival. It was great, except that we had to wait until Steve Jobs had approved each song and I found that holding my beer too tightly in my left hand made three of the five bars disappear.


July 17, 2010, 2:42 am

meh - It's all been said

But I really just don't get why you would buy a phone because of its looks - and then cover it up with a hideous rubber case ....

It's a bit like buying and iPad or Macbook Air and immediately putting a case on it so it becomes huge ....

Oh ... never mind ...

( and saying that all phones have this problem ... puhlease .... don't take us for fools )


July 17, 2010, 3:13 am

It's a funny thing. I didn't really get as much pleasure seeing Steve Jobs today as I thought I might. I know, I know - the ego, the reality distortion field, the millions of dollars, the evil genius, the control freak, the constant boasting, and of course he ultimately denied the uniqueness of the iPhone antenna problem - but I feel mean relishing what was a rather sad and downbeat affair. (The Touch should be great, but it won't be too soon if I never hear about of an iPhone 4 again.)

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