App Industry Roundup: No joke, the iPhone 4 antenna is a problem for Apple

Jun 25, 2010
Finance

The antenna built into the casing of the iPhone 4 is leading to reception issues and statements from Apple on how to hold the iPhone. Also in today’s App Industry Roundup, initial iPhone 4 sales were great while RIM continues to slide. Reception woes It’s the morning after. How do you feel? Well, I’ll admit to […]

The antenna built into the casing of the iPhone 4 is leading to reception issues and statements from Apple on how to hold the iPhone. Also in today’s App Industry Roundup, initial iPhone 4 sales were great while RIM continues to slide.

Reception woes

It’s the morning after. How do you feel?

Well, I’ll admit to a little remorse. In Thursday’s edition of the App Industry Roundup, I poked fun at the early reports of reception issues with the had-to-be first owners of the iPhone 4. I even tried to make a joke. (Hint: put the top of the phone next to your ear, with the bottom pointing toward your mouth.)

Sigh. Turns out this reception issue isn’t a joke. If you hold the iPhone 4 and cover the antenna with your hand — the antenna is built into the metallic band that wraps the phone — the number of ‘bars’ you see decreases. The issue made the cover of the New York Times business section, Good Morning America’s Becky Worley got a whole segment on the problem, and bloggers from all corners of the globe have weighed in on the issue: Apple says you’re holding the phone the wrong way!

Indeed, Apple spokesman Steve Dowling was credited with this odd response: “Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone.” Um, I don’t think so since this is really the first time most people heard of the issue. What remains unanswered, however, is if holding the phone the wrong way leads to dropped calls — or dropped iPhones.

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Thankfully, there appears to be an easy fix and it will make Apple’s third party partners extremely happy. Dowling suggested iPhone 4 owners put a case on the phone. If a PR release hasn’t been issued already from a case maker touting this extra benefit, I’d be shocked.

Lets call it a silver lining. (Better joke?)

Will bad reception hurt business?

Unless this antenna fiasco turns into some sort of Napoleon Blunder, Apple should be just fine in regards to sales of its new iPhone. Analyst Gene Munster reports that 77 percent all iPhone 4 sales so far were to repeat buyers.

“Apple has in three years built brand loyalty in the phone market that compels users to upgrade to the latest version and wait in line for one to six hours to pick up their iPhone,” Munster wrote.

Clearly, that’s an impressive number. The report goes on to show that Apple loyalists are likely to buy quite a few other goods from the company, as Munster’s team talked to 608 iPhone 4 buyers in San Francisco, Minneapolis and New York. Of those, 28 percent own an iPad and of the 72 percent that didn’t own an iPad, 39 percent said they would buy an iPad within the next 12 months.

Another analyst, Yair Reiner of Oppenheimer estimates that first-day sales of the iPhone 4 may have reached 1.5 million units. That figure includes pre-sales that started last week.

Ya think Steve Jobs is on to something? Just imagine if the white iPhone 4 were also available for launch.

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RIM’s woes continue

Meanwhile, BlackBerry maker Research in Motion continues to slip. Even though it still has the greatest share of smartphones sold in the U.S., sales continue to disappoint. First quarter sales, released Thursday, missed analysts expectations and the company said it will be buying back shares to shore up its share price. (RIM shares are trading around $55 while Apple is at $267.)

A new RIM smartphone is expected to hit this fall and include a slide-out keyboard and a touch-screen. It better be better than the Storm.

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Eric Benderoff

Eric Benderoff is the principal of BendableMedia.com, an editorial services firm, and a founding member of the Appolicious content strategy team. His personal technology column for the Chicago Tribune has appeared in newspapers and websites nationwide. He is a regular guest on Chicago's WGN Radio and is a frequent commentator about consumer technology on national TV news programs.

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