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The iPhone 4: Just take it back

Backspin By , Network World
July 22, 2010 05:14 PM ET
Gibbs

Network World - If something doesn't work and it hasn't hurt you somehow, what do you do? You take it back and get a refund. It's that simple.

For example, a few weeks ago I purchased a clock radio for my bedside table. I tried it out and it worked well enough but that night, I spotted a problem: The device's display was illuminated by one of those super-bright blue LEDs and with the lights off, it was like being in a bad science fiction movie.

Did I call Sony and demand a fix? No. Did I bitch endlessly to all and sundry? No. What did I do? I voted with my dollars; I returned the product. End of story. Now, give me a moment and I'll explain the relevance of this tale to the hoo-ha over the iPhone 4's antenna problems.

Antenna guru: "Get a bumper and learn the Vulcan iPhone Pinch'

In case you missed the ugly details, the iPhone 4's antenna problems stem from its design: The antenna is that wrap-around stainless steel band and the break you see in the band (it's on the left hand side if the screen is facing you) is the "feed point," the place where the radio transceiver connects to the antenna. Here's the problem: When a user's big, hairy fingers bridge this feed point the antenna stops working properly. Big surprise.

Why this problem wasn't spotted and solved during development will probably remain a mystery. The fact is an add-on insulating rubber bumper solves the problem by preventing the gap from being bridged. If you're desperate a Colbert Wrist Strong silicon bracelet will do just fine, as will dipping your hands in liquid rubber, wearing latex gloves or holding the phone with tongs.

Are these elegant solutions? No, not really. But they all solve the problem if -- and this is key -- if you want the problem solved.

Jobs' admission at a July 16 press conference that "we're not perfect" was amusing because it's hard to swallow the idea that anyone ever believed such a thing, even Jobs. But the bit that was really, well, lame was the contention that every other 4G cell phone has the same problem. The argument that Apple is no worse than other manufacturers has to be one of the dumbest marketing positions ever. The company that redefined personal computer design, the company that encouraged us to "think different", basically admitted that it hadn't built a better phone and that it thought like everyone else.

But leaving all that aside, the iPhone 4 owners have every right to be disappointed and angry because the product is, in fact, quite seriously flawed. Turns out that some are so verklempt they have started class-action lawsuits.

To all of you fulminating iPhone 4 owners: Get a grip. If this antenna problem affected you, how long was it until you figured out what the issue was? I'll bet it was within the 30-day period where you could have returned it. But no, you had to have your iPhone 4 and you were going to be a big baby about it.

Remember the tale about the clock radio I started this column with? Why didn't you take your iPhone back and demand a refund? Why didn't you vote with your dollars? It really is that simple.

Gibbs finally found a good clock radio in Ventura, Calif. Keep him awake at backspin@gibbs.com.

Read more about wireless & mobile in Network World's Wireless & Mobile section.

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