PR: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Steve Jobs Hates Antennas

by Bobby McDonald on 06/28/2010

Steve JobsSteve Jobs' Response to iPhone4 Antenna Issue Alienates Some

Last week was the big one, the iPhone 4 launch! Eager customers wrapped around Crabtree, and other malls across the country, to get their hands on the new iPhone.

Almost immediately though, there were widespread reports of problems with the new phone's antenna, hidden in the metal casing around the outside of the phone.  Holding the phone "normally" (cupped in your right or left hand) caused the signal to retreat down to 1 bar or no signal at all. 

Obviously this is a major design flaw, something that should have been caught in testing. Jobs responded with an e-mail that angered many of new iPhone4 owners (excerpt below):

"Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases."

Translation? Deal with it or buy a case.  Not exactly the respose most people were looking for when they shell out more than $200 on a new iPhone.  They were not purchasing an iTouch or an iBook, this device needs to be a fully functioning phone as well. 

Product > Customer

This is just the latest case of Apple and Steve Jobs putting their products before their customers.  It's savvy in the sense that Jobs knows people will still buy the new iPhone and Apple won't have to stomach a recall, but shortsighted when looking at Apple's overall brand, its angered customer base and its competition, who are sprinting to catch up in the mobile markets.

From a public relations standpoint, Jobs could have gotten his point across without alienating his customer base.  A simple acknowledgement of the problem and a "we're working on it" would have been sufficient to avoid a majority of the bashing Jobs and Apple are taking online.  Instead, Jobs is pushing the blame, and the problem, on to his customers. 

This isn't the first time Jobs has responded poorly to criticism, and it probably won't be the last.  The real question is how long will i"Phone" customers put up with a product that does not work as advertised.

What do you think of Jobs' response?  Any iPhone users out there experiencing signal problems, and what's your fix for it (case, scotch tape, etc.)?  Let us know in the comments.

Related Links

iPhone 4 Launch Day at CrabTree Valley Mall ( - Various takes on launch day craziness at Crabtree.

Pre-Order iPhone 4 ( - Dan's description of several issues with preordering the new iPhone.

iPhone 4 Looses Reception When You Hold It From The Antenna Band (Gizmodo) - Multiple YouTube videos of the problem and several proposed solutions.


Photo Source: acaben


Matt Martell said...

I haven’t had any issues with the phone and signal quality so far, though I tend to not palm the phone and hold it only with two or three fingers in the middle on both sides.

Definitely not happy with how Jobs responded to that though, sort of the “We know you’re going to buy our product anyway” response doesn’t really do it for me.  Would have appreciated a little more tact, especially when ordering was such a huge pain to begin with and littered with a handful of problems.

Jun 28, 2010

Bobby McDonald said...

Thanks for the comment Matt. Glad you haven’t had any issues with it yet!  I agree, I wonder how many iPhones could have been sold if there were no ordering/antenna issues.

Jun 30, 2010

Dan London said...

Thanks for the link.

I think some of this has to do with people piling on APPLE. The latest flap about hackers stealing information and then running up charges w/in iTunes accounts was way overblown and actually wasn’t via the apps, but through phishing.

Do you think that the way Steve Jobs handles issues like these is a tactic by Apple to keep their persona/brand going? They try to be the anti-microsoft and having Steve come out and handles issues like this is much different than what most companies would do.

Jul 12, 2010

Bobby McDonald said...

Sure thing Dan!

I agree that there has been plenty of piling on Apple over the antenna and iTune issues.  The post above may even fit the bill smile 

A CEO responding to individual complaints and being hands-on (when possible) is generally a good thing and is infinitely better PR then the standard response from the Comm department or Legal.

That being said, Jobs has to be careful not to damage the strong brand he’s built.  It’s great to hear the CEO respond personally and directly but not so great when the overall message is, “It’s your fault”.

Jul 12, 2010