With so much already written on the iPhone 4 antenna topic, I want to keep my contribution to the absolute minimum (“if that,” as Chili Palmer might say). Here’s my attempt at brevity:
• The iPhone 4 antenna issue is not going away. As such, Apple should do more than do nothing. Actually, by deleting threads in their Discussions that refer to the Consumer Reports rating of the iPhone, Apple is doing worse than nothing. If Apple believes Consumer Reports is wrong, they should say so. Silence is definitely not golden right now — especially if a fix is still weeks or even months away.
• If Apple’s promised software fix does not truly and totally resolve the issue, Apple should already be working on what else they intend to do.
• Especially if Apple comes out with a redesigned iPhone 4.1, one that eliminates the antenna problem, they will have to deal with satisfying all the people that own an iPhone 4.0.
• I suspect giving a $30 credit for the purchase an iPhone Bumper would be sufficient. It won’t satisfy everyone. Some will complain they still have defective hardware. Or that they don’t want a case. But it will be sufficient.
• All that said, I believe this matter is way overblown. I can exactly duplicate the signal strength shifts described in many of the reports (such as this one). Even so, at a practical level, my iPhone 4 remains connected to the Internet about as well as my iPhone 3GS. I’ve had only the slightest increase in dropped calls — and I can’t even say for sure this is due to the antenna problem. From reports I have read, my experience seems pretty typical.
Unfortunately, as in politics, public perception matters here more than reality.
• I’ve actually had more trouble getting the compass on my iPhone 4 to work. I’ve been plagued with interference messages and incorrect readings. But that’s another story.
• A year from now, people will have trouble remembering what all the antenna fuss was about. Instead, we’ll be lining up for the iPhone 5.
The much larger problem Apple will likely face is competition from Google’s Android phones. I fear that Google may turn out to play the role of Microsoft in the 1990’s. By all accounts, the Droid is not yet on a par with the iPhone (see David Pogue’s review). But its market share continues to grow. And I keep reading blogs from iPhone owners (usually claiming to be fed up with Apple’s “control” policies) switching to a Droid.
The iPhone 4 will surely win the current round in this fight. But, as with Microsoft and Windows, the Droid will improve in the rounds yet to come. The Droid doesn’t have to win every round. It only needs to deliver a knockout in the last round. Eventually, as the Android app library grows and its interface is refined, its more open platform and availability on carriers beyond AT&T will combine to make the Droid a serious threat to the iPhone. Even if it isn’t “better” than the iPhone by some objective measure, the Droid may still be “good enough.” This should and will remain a concern to Apple long after the antenna mess has faded from the scene.
Apple still has the time and resources to finish on top. But it may have to change some of its cherished policies (such as regards its App Store restrictions) to do so. Whether or not it is willing to do this remains to be seen.
Update: July 17: Apple did do something. They held a press conference on July 16. And, in line with my suggestions (although I am certain they got the idea without my help), they announced a plan to give free Bumpers to all iPhone owners.