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July 15, 2010

Apple iPhone 4: recall coming tomorrow?

Apple's iPhone 4 has gotten a big black eye -- most recently from Consumer Reports -- for its antenna reception issue when users hold it a certain way toward the bottom of the phone.

After a couple weeks of avoiding the issue, it appears -- appears -- that Apple may be ready to address it head on in a press conference tomorrow (Friday, July 16).

Many think the company will announce that it will give away free bumper cases to people who buy the phone.

I'm not so sure. I'm speculating -- feel free to join me in the comments below -- that they're gonna do a recall, and either fix customers' existing phones or give them a modified new one in the near future.

If it was all about new bumpers, why would Apple give the world a two-day notice of a press conference? No, I think they're preparing for something more involved. They realize their reputation as a luxury brand is at stake here, and they can't have the entire tech press and consumer electronics industry taking potshots at the iPhone, which is their franchise, flagship product at the moment.

Free bumpers don't address the underlying issue that the phone seems to have a basic, underlying hardware flaw.

(BTW, an Irish betting company says the odds are that Apple will recall the iPhone 4.)

So, what do you think will happen tomorrow at Apple's press conference? Vote below and sound off in the comments.

This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:
Posted by Gus Sentementes at 9:27 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: *NEWS*


Buzz Out Loud had an interesting idea of what they feel Apple may try. A voluntary recall putting the decision in the hands of the users similar to the xbox 360 recall for the red ring of death.

I think the rough numbers where 1.5 Billion for a full phone swap and 300 Thousand for free bumpers. I think it will be the free bumpers.

Just remember the pain from the first iphone to the 3g and now the pain from the 3gs to 4. I am supper happy I decided to wait for number 5.

I think it's great they're taking the initiative to hold a conference I'm tired of them sweeping this stuff under the carpet. As an iPhone enthusiast, I was pretty enraged at AT&T for wanting 700$ for my early upgrade to the iPhone 4. That's rediculous so I didn't buy it and am just waiting for the next version next summer. I'm SO happy I wasn't roped into this mess. Apple seriously needs to update their review process of their hardware because anymore the second version of something is the one that actually works.

Funny how the dudes commenting don't own the iPhone 4 but fall right in line with everyone else.

I'm typing this from iPhone 4 and yeah there are reception issues...I'm not gonna sit here and act like there aren't but all it takes to fix it is a bumper. Got my bumper today and went from zero to 3 bars instantly. Apple thought they were smart money makers by charging $30 for something that was supposed to be on the phone anyway! If you were to see this bumper, you'd instantly think it was supposed to be there in the first place. The bare metal looks sold the iPhone but it's like going to dinner without a tie. The bumper was supposed to be there from day 1! Apple just thought...hmm we can make an extra $30 on each phone if we make the whole phone glass and make people buy the protection that should be there anyway. Hey if our consumers are dumb enough to buy a GLASS PHONE, they are dumb enough to buy a colored bumper to protect it. It's all about the money baby!!

I think Apple will 'explain' the issues with the iPhone 4... In other words, they are going to clearly state that the antenna is better than ever, the bars were showing incorrectly, they fixed the bars via software, all phones have signal attenuation issues, and that any case will reduce the attenuation. BTW, that they sell the Bumper case! In the end, they will convince nearly everyone that it's not the phone, it's the media that is the problem. Then, as a 'one last thing', they will appear magnanimous by offering free bumper cases for iPhone 4 customers**. Everyone will swoon and think Apple is soooo great!

(**for a very limited time.)

My guess is that the purpose of the press conference will be to address the antenna issue head-on in an attempt to reign in the whirlwind of criticism that's been surrounding the iPhone 4. (See for a decent blog post supporting this guess.)

If not that, then I'd guess that it's to announce free "bumper cases" (presently $29) that Apple claims will mitigate the signal issues.

I could be wrong, but I just don't see a recall being a very likely outcome; Apple has too much pride in its reputation for putting out consistently superior hardware. (Note that I'm saying that it's their reputation, not necessarily the reality.)

To do the recall would cost them 1.5 billion which is more than what MS set aside for their extended warranty on the xbox 360. Remember...the 360 was not "officially" recalled as they created a special extended warranty program specifically for the "RROD" and then later added in E74 errors.

MS kept the units in the wild and repaired/replaced them free if a consumer got one of those problems. It will certainly be interesting to see how apple handles this.

Ultimately the free market is going to win out. If it is Apple's long-term financial interests, they will do a full recall. If their finance and strategy folks think that they can get away with something less costly than a full recall and not harm the brand in doing so, they will.

Customers will simply want a new phone though, not a repaired one. Also, no customer is going to be willing to go without a phone while the fix is made. Expect 2M refurbs to be on the market selling for $50 lower than a brand new one after this.

Or maybe the announcement is just to say that Mel Gibson is going to endorse the new iPhone. That is the rumor I read here.


Forgive my ignorance, but how exactly do product recalls work? If Apple were to recall the phones, would they give us new ones? If the antenna problem is because it's on the bottom of the phone, does that mean Apple will have to redesign the phones in order to fix this issue? How long would that probably take? Wow, what a mess!

Just as another statistic, I have the iPhone 4 and I haven't had any problems with dropped calls. The only thing I've noticed is that the bars are sometimes uneven, but they don't accurately tell me how my reception is. I've had no bars, but been able to make calls, for example.

Believe it or not, I wasn't aware of the fact that the reception issue was so widespread.

Of course, I had heard about it, but I did not know the problem was exclusive to all iPhones, and figured the problem was exclusive to just a few units.

Sure enough, I covered the antenna in the lower, left-hand corner, and I immediately lost a full bar of service. Enough to drop a call, doubtful, but that's completely beside the point.

Also, where I had bad reception with the 3GS, I have even worse reception with version 4, and had 3 dropped calls at work yesterday, which is where I get the worst reception.

Issuing free Bumpers would be nothing more than putting a bandaid over a wound, especially for those who paid premium prices to upgrade, or to those who are paying $7-$1,100 for the units on eBay.

Granted, I'd take the Bumper, but I'd certainly expect a more permanent solution in the very near future.

I just returned my 4 and never opened the box. While I love and use Apple products and have the 3G, my reception has gone down the tubes, and this is at almost any location. Places where i formerly had great to good reception have now gone to bad or worse. It may be the antenna on the 4, but overall, AT&T just can't provide the bandwidth for the number of callers.

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About Gus G. Sentementes
Gus G. Sentementes (@gussent on Twitter) has been writing for The Baltimore Sun since 2000. He's covered real estate, business, prisons, and suburban and Baltimore City crime and cops. He was one of the first reporters at The Sun to use multimedia tools and Web applications -- a video camera, an iPhone -- to cover breaking news. He hopes to cover Maryland geeks and the gadgets and Web sites they build, and learn -- and share -- something new every day.

Gus has a wife, a young daughter and two feuding cats. They live in Northeast Baltimore.
This is an archived version of the technology blog. For updated coverage, see the current baltTech location:

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