Friday, July 16, 2010

iPhone 4 Press Conference

Well, the iPhone 4 press conference just ended, and I thought I'd type up my thoughts quickly before diving back into work. Overall, the end result is exactly what I thought they'd do: free cases and refunds for those who want them. Seems very like a fair response to me.

I thought Steve started the presentation sounding a little defensive, though I can understand why. By the middle of the performance, though, he really hit his stride, and by the end I'd have to say it was one of Steve's best performances to date when you factor in that he wasn't announcing a new product, but instead defending an existing one, which is never as much fun or as easy.

The main points were that yes, you can interfere with reception on the iPhone 4 by grasping it a specific way, but you can also do that on most smart phones (they demonstrated it on several models of competitor phones), and that the press was making a bigger deal out of this than customers were in search of a headline. He pointed out that both Apple and AT&T were seeing lower return rates for the iPhone 4 than for the 3GS, in fact the returns have only been a third of what they saw with the 3GS.

There were little bits of insight into life at Apple that were unusual. We don't usually hear much about their actual processes (except manufacturing processes which have been part of their PR since the unibody computers). Seeing the anechoic chamber was cool and it was interesting to hear a bit about the process they go through to test reception on the antenna designs. Hearing about the problems AT&T has with getting new cell towers approved in San Francisco was somewhat enlightening. I've been rather harsh about AT&T's signal in NYC and SF myself, but never really though about the NIMB factor. I'm not ready to become an AT&T fan boy, but I am ready to cut them a little bit of slack on that issue now.

We also heard that Apple has sold over three million iPhone 4s in roughly 3 weeks and that they're still selling every one they can make. That's impressive considering the amount of bad publicity they've gotten from this issue.

At the end of the session, Steve pulled up Bob Mansfield and Tim Cook to answer questions, and I thought that was especially well handled with some nice bits of humor, though they took off the gloves about a few reports, especially one from the NYTs about a supposed software bug contributing to the reception issue. I especially like the comment that was made when Bob Mansfield was talking about how they sometimes send engineers to a customer's house to test reception. Bob said "For the record, we notify them we're coming", and Steve chimed in with "…and we didn't bash in any doors". Just a great response, it showed a sense of humor while getting in a bit of a jab at Gizmodo (who were never once mentioned by name that I can remember - it was always "some website" when talking about things they did).

There were two other things that struck me, but I'm not sure if they are worth mentioning, they might just be be reading too much into things, but I will because it's fun to speculate about such things.

The first thing is that Steve mentioned that Apple has Verizon cells on campus in addition to AT&T cells. Now, it's not uncommon for large companies to have towers onsite to ensure their employees get good reception at work, but it seemed odd that he felt it was worth mentioning that they had Verizon cells on campus when talking about an issue that would only be affected by AT&T towers.

The other thing that struck me as odd was the fact that in one of the question responses, Steve talked about the press "going after" Google because they were successful and that he wished the they wouldn't do things like that. He talked about how great the stuff Google made was and made a weird little comment about people not appreciating innovation that's still happening inside the U.S. Again, it may not mean anything, he could have just been trying to think of a big successful U.S. tech company and that was the first one that jumped to mind, but given the state of affairs between Apple and Google lately, it seemed oddly conciliatory and defensive. Perhaps a hint that the Google/Apple competition is headed back to more civil grounds even if may never go back to the days of friendly coopetition of yore? I dunno, but maybe. We can hope.

That's all, now it's back to work. You should too, slacker.

Update: Apple has just posted a new page explaining attenuation and signal loss.


Mostly Torn said...

I thought the most interesting point from the conference was the admission that based on the current data from AT&T, the iPhone 4 is dropping MORE calls than the 3GS.

Even if the numbers of dropped calls were equal,
for a product that has an "improved" antenna design, this shows there is something wrong. You'd expect less dropped calls, not more.

Apple didn't supply the exact number, they only said it was less than one additional dropped call in 100 calls made. But compared to the 3GS, that's still a significant number, especially give the antenna is supposed to be better.

Given 3 million phones sold, that could be tens of thousand of people getting extra dropped calls vs. the 3GS.

I'm not saying the new antenna isn't better (it measurably is in most cases), but in some situations it is definitely worse.

I'm happy Apple decided to offer the free case. Hopefully this improves things.

richard-smith said...

You really are a fan of Apple. Not just somebody who uses Apple products when they are the best tool for the job. Not just somebody who has a preference for Apple designs. But an actual fan.

Apple is just an amoral corporation that exists to make money.

Steve Jobs is just an amoral businessman who exists to make money.

The sooner you understand this the less heartbreak you will eventually feel.

K. A. Barber said...

I managed to work right through today's festivities! Sounds like they are squaring away everyone who is effected. I won't stop the hate but maybe we can get on to the next thing.

K. A. Barber said...

"it won't stop the hate" was what I was trying to say.

warmi said...

"Apple is just an amoral corporation that exists to make money.

Steve Jobs is just an amoral businessman who exists to make money."

I sure hope they exist to make money since that's what a corporation or any company exists for.

Frankly, I would classify companies who don't make any money as amoral since it usual translates either into public subsidies or unemployment.

Twinz Lover said...


I love your books and the blog, in general, but you are such a fanboy!

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Carl Gundel said...

I've owned a few cell phones. I used to be a Treo user before I bought my iPhone. I owned the Treo 300, then a 600, and then a 650. All of these phones suffered poor reception under various conditions and depending on the carrier as well, so I guess that Apple must have been secretly manufacturing these phones, right? I think that Apple should retroactively provide me with bumpers for these phones. Hah.

Seriously, there is some sort of mental illness in our society. Apple makes some pretty darn nice products. Are they perfect? No, and anyone who purchases them and thinks that there will never be any problems with using them will be disappointed. So okay, people are disappointed, of course. Big deal. I don't like everything about my TV, and I don't like everything about my new digital camera, and I don't like everything about my minivan, and I don't like everything about my guitar. Let's flood the news media with apocalyptic, end of the world stories about all these products! Sheeesh. No. If you're so unhappy with your new iPhone 4 just return it and get your money back. What could be simpler?

That's what gets me about this. Crazy people, ready to stay up all night long on the sidewalk to blow $600 because they want the newest and coolest and most fashionable gadget, and then Apple drops the price a couple of months later and people whine and whine that they were ripped off until Apple treats them all like the spoiled brats they are by offering them a concession. Nuts.

Like I said. Mental illness.