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.