iPhone 4 Complaints Mounting: A Rocky Rollout

Only weeks after hitting the streets, iPhone 4 and iOS 4 have been peppered with serious user complaints. Apple promises to fix the software problems. But is a recall in iPhone 4's future?

Wed, July 07, 2010

CIO — Verizon mocked Apple (AAPL) and its new iPhone 4 in a New York Times (NYT) ad this week. Promoting its flagship Droid X, Verizon's ad states: "Most importantly, it comes with a double antenna design. The kind that allows you to hold the phone any way you like and use it just about anywhere to make calls."

This marketing shot, of course, took dead aim at iPhone 4's well-documented antenna reception flaws and Apple's advice to consumers to hold the iPhone differently.

However, the reception problem isn't the only issue causing new iPhone 4 owners to cry foul. On Apple's own discussion forum, more than a thousand people have commented on the iPhone 4's proximity sensor not working properly.

Then there's the new iOS 4 causing some apps to crash, and app developers scurrying to fix them, say industry watchers.

[ Look beneath the iPhone 4's sleek design and you'll find a durability risk, reception improvements that may fall flat, and a videoconferencing feature that works only for a few people, says CIO.com's Tom Kaneshige. ]

Apple's impassionate response to problems has only created angst among iPhone owners who have shelled out hundreds of dollars for an iPhone 4 and an AT&T service contract. Apple Geniuses have reportedly been instructed by Apple to tell unhappy iPhone 4 owners that bad reception performance due to gripping the phone in certain places is "a fact of life in the wireless world," according to documents leaked to Boy Genius Report.

Late last week, Apple reversed course and said the reception problem lies not in the hardware design. Rather, Apple said the problem stems from the way an algorithm calculates bars of reception, and promised to deliver a software update.

All of this has the potential to upset Apple's stellar customer service record. "The antenna problem and Apple's screwy software response has become kind of a running joke," says analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. "I'm kind of surprised at how Apple is handling the problems because they are bleeding credibility needlessly in their attempts to cover them up."

iPhone 4's Hardware Takes a Hit

On Apple's discussion board, a user claimed that the iPhone's proximity sensor wasn't properly detecting when the iPhone was held next to the face. Results? Hang ups, calls put on mute, numbers dialed accidentally. "This occurs on 90% of my calls," wrote the user. The comment spurred a horde of iPhone owners complaining about the same thing.

When the iPhone 4 debuted a couple of weeks ago, CIO.com pointed out three big cons beneath its sleek design. The first drawback: two glass surfaces make it more breakable, as opposed to one glass on previous iPhone models. Broken or scratched glass is a big reason iPhones find their way to a repair shop, says Aaron Vronko, CEO of Rapid Repair, which provides iPod and iPhone repair services.

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