What should Apple do about the iPhone 4?
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What should Apple do about the iPhone 4?

First off, let me note that I don't have an iPhone 4 -- and won't until I Verizon (or Spring or T-Mobile) carries it. The AT&T reception is just terrible where I live. Still, despite all the hoopla over the antenna/reception issue, I'd love to have one.

That's not to say that Apple doesn't have a major problem on its hands with the iPhone 4, though it's more of a PR problem than a technical issue. And if I were a betting man, I'd place money on the Apple NOT having a recall of its latest smartphone line.

Sure, "Consumer Reports" has said it can't recommend the iPhone 4 due to antenna/reception problems -- if there are indeed problems. And I'm personally skeptical that there are major technical problems with the iPhone 4.

I know four people who have bought an iPhone 4; none of them are having any issues. Well, at least no more than they did with their iPhone 3Gs or 3Gses (thanks, AT&T). Changewave Research says there's still an incredible amount of demand for iPhones and that customer satisfaction with Apple and the iPhone is very, very high. Kaufman Brothers analyst Shaw Wu notes that Apple still can't build iPhone 4s fast enough to meet demand.

What's more, Bob Egan, a technology blogger and global head of research/chief analyst at the TowerGroup, says the “Consumer Reports” on the antenna/reception problems of the iPhone 4 -- which left the publication unable to recommend the smartphone -- is flawed and “can barely be counted as scientific.”

That said, the whole situation has left Apple with egg on its face, whether that's fair or not. And things aren't always fair in the court of public opinion. Then there's the stock price. By Tuesday morning the stock had fallen $15.42 (6.3%) from Monday's high on the iPhone brouhaha.

What's more, Apple hasn't handled the problem well. The whole "don't hold it that way" suggestion is smug and condescending at best.

In fact, the whole scenario -- including trying to censor its own support columns -- has left Apple coming off as extremely arrogant. Now Apple has pretty much always been a bit arrogant, but that attitude seems to be growing along with its runaway success. Some arrogance is fine -- necessary, even, to achieve what Apple has achieved. But too much arrogance can lead to serious problems such as negatively impacting consumers' perceptions of Apple as the coolest company around and maker of high quality products.

So, heck, Apple, just give away that US$29 accessory bumper with the iPhone 4 (it reportedly takes care of the poor reception issue). And offer a free one to those who have already purchased one.

Heck, take it further: offer a full refund to those who have purchased an iPhone 4 and found it unusable. My prediction: less than 5% of those who have bought one will return it. But the good will you generate will be worth more in the long run than any temporary financial setback.

-- Dennis Sellers

 

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