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Apple gets to core of iPhone antenna problem

July 16, 2010

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In an event that may have been as hotly anticipated as the announcement of the iPhone 4 itself, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took to the stage today to address concerns over the alleged “Antennagate” problem with the device.

During a last-minute press conference for “select” media outlets, Jobs announced that Apple will give away free cases to iPhone 4 owners and continue its no-questions-asked return policy through Sept. 30. But what Jobs also announced at the Cupertino event surprised many.

“One of the first things we learned [is that] it’s certainly not unique to the iPhone,” he said, according to a live-blog post from’s Ryan Block. After showing slides of competing smartphone models from HTC and RIM that suffer a similar phenomenon, Jobs added: “This is life in the smartphone world. Phones aren’t perfect.”

A history of the problem
When Apple released its latest iteration of industry-leading iPhone on June 24, reviewers raved about its innovative external antenna, built into the sides of the gadget to make more room for the battery.

However, rumor of reception problems, caused by a so-called “death grip” of the device’s aluminum siding, solidified when Consumer Reports published a report on July 12 stating that “we can’t recommend the iPhone 4.”

Since that time, both nay-sayers and Mac-advocates have offered their prophecies as to what Apple would — or should — do.

A ZDnet blog post labeled Apple’s PR strategy as “bizarre” when the company started censoring negative comments about the antenna issues.

A call on public relations
Regardless of the cause, Jobs’ presentation today highlighted PR’s role in the crisis.

“It's fun to have a story, but it's not fun on the other side,” he said, just before announcing Apple’s gift-giving remedy to the problem. “We think this has been so blown out of proportion.”

But some reporters in the audience were flustered when Jobs and his cohorts seemed to dodge around questions concerning hardware flaws. And when Jobs rhetorically asked if the press had learned to trust Apple after 34 years, The New York Times’ science writer John Markoff tweeted: “[A]pple PR people in audience nod in agreement with Steve. [G]ives me a kind of weird feeling.”

The Apple CEO also admitted that the company could have “a wall of PR people to insulate” itself, but the company believes that “when our users have a problem, we have a problem.”

A matter of opinion
Throughout the event, Jobs positioned Apple as an industry leader in engineering and an icon in customer service. He apologized multiple times to customers who felt let down, and said that making them happy is what drives Apple. But he also said he’s frustrated with the media.

“I guess it’s just human nature,” Jobs said. “When you see someone get successful you just want to tear it down.”

To watch the entire press conference, follow this link to Apple's website.

Philip Volmar
Philip Volmar is a graduate of Brigham Young University's award-winning PR program. He specializes in digital public relations and integrated marketing.
Email: pvolmar at


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