iPhone’s flaw is less about antenna, more about PR
The iPhone’s flaw is less about its antenna, and more about public relations. Steve Jobs’ newest handset seems to have a minor glitch with its antenna band. No big deal. The bigger problem is Apple’s tendency toward secrecy and denial — which has turned a potentially routine product glitch into a full-blown investor concern wiping out $5 billion of value.
Apple’s response to users who complained about the antenna — a metal band that wraps around the phone — has been poor. It first suggested users hold the handset differently. Apple then blamed a software glitch which showed the phone was getting better reception than was actually the case.
All of this may be true, but Apple failed to address the central claims of dropped calls. Given Apple’s evasion, Consumer Reports, the respected independent product review firm, said its tests called into question the manufacturer’s explanation. It therefore can’t recommend its readers buy the device.
That seems extreme. The phone is far better than the handset it replaces. Everything from the screen, to its software, to how fast it draws up web pages is improved. And signal reception is on par with, or even better, than rival phones — provided you put a case on the phone to prevent sweaty fingers from touching the exposed antenna.
Apple could, of course, simply tell customers: “If you experience problems with reception, please use this free plastic bumper.” For a company that prides itself on sleek design and flawless technology this would be a come-down, but one that its customers — and probably shareholders — would respect it for. The stock fell more than $5 a share Tuesday.
Trouble is Apple has never done humble or open particularly well. When Steve Jobs became sick, the company first said he had a virus, then a hormone imbalance. He went on medical leave and received a liver transplant before shareholders were informed.
Having a cutting edge phone that every once in a while drops calls when held in a certain wonky manner is, thankfully, a miniscule issue in comparison. But Apple could have minimized investor concerns by handling both in a more forthright manner.