All other issues aside, I'm not sure what more Apple could or should have done. There aren't many products that come with an unconditional guarantee any more, yet reading some of the output of various so-called tech "journalists" since yesterday's press conference, it seems that there are many who think that Apple didn't do enough and didn't "do the right thing". Short of Apple's senior management taking out swords and falling on them (at least proverbially, if not literally), I don't think anything would have made certain journalists (and I use the term very loosely) happy.
Of course, it's not exactly good for the tech press if this quietly goes away or turns out to be much ado about nothing. They're having a grand old time and raking in a lot of page hits on this whole "antennagate" thing they've created, so I guess it's understandable that they don't want to accept a reasonable response from Apple. They clearly wanted nothing less than a fall from grace… an admission that Apple didn't design or test properly. Instead, they got treated to a number of facts that didn't jive with what they wanted to hear. They were shown other phones experiencing similar phenomenon. They were shown a little about the testing procedures the phone went through and the investment Apple has made toward testing their antenna designs. They were shown, in short, why Steve doesn't think they did anything wrong.
The natural reaction to cognitive dissonance is anger, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the angry diatribes from some sectors of the tech press, especially those who aren't fans of Apple to begin with. But anybody who expected anything else out of yesterday's conference call are either intentionally stoking the fires for their own benefit or else they're morons who fail to realize there are perspectives other than their own. Perspective is an interesting thing, and it's not quite the same thing as "spin", which it is often mistaken for. Perspective is your own world view. It's a combination of a whole bunch of things that make up the way one person thinks about things: their likes, dislikes, biases, priorities, and fears. Spin, on the other hand, is when somebody intentionally tries to conflate facts, or select facts to make their position look better.
And make no mistake, we saw some spin yesterday. Some of the statistics early on were very carefully selected. The iPhone 4 dropped call rate being 1 in 100
But, even with the spin, it was pretty clear that from Steve's perspective Apple went through a very rational, valid design and testing process and achieved something pretty amazing. And I tend to agree. I wouldn't easily give up my iPhone 4 now. It's an amazing piece of technology. It really is. I love just holding the damn thing in my hand. It's such a refreshing change from all the cheap plastic consumer devices in my life. Every other device that the iPhone manages to replace in my life (my point and shoot camera was the latest casualty), the happier I am. I would quite honestly give up using cell phones before I'd let somebody replace my iPhone 4 with a junky plastic Blackberry or Nokia phone with their confusing, poorly written and terribly designed software.
Now, that's not meant to downplay the antenna issue, because for some people it is real and a hassle, I'm just stating my own perspective. Regardless of your perspective, however, the evidence seems to show that statistically speaking, most people in most places are going to have better reception with this phone. All design is about tradeoffs and all products are designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of people. Moving to an external antenna system was a conscious choice that Apple made, and it appears to have been well thought-out, researched, and tested. A conscious design decision was made that would make more room for battery and additional sensors and gadgets while making the phone more solid feeling and still thinner than any previous phone. The tradeoff, other than the obvious ones of manufacturing costs, was the increased possibility for attenuation. Now, we know, thanks to Anandtech, that this attenuation can cause a reduction of up to 24dBm of signal strength. We also know that that amount makes no measurable difference in data speed or voice reception for most users in most locations. Months ago, before the iPhone 4 came out, and without the benefit of hindsight or knowing what kind of media circus would ensue, that almost certainly would have seemed like a perfectly valid tradeoff. "Wait, if we do this, most people, most of the time will have better reception and we can make the phone smaller and have better battery life and fit a gyroscope, and the only tradeoff is that some people in some situations if they hold the phone in a certain way will have one or two less bars? Great!"
Was it the right decision? Well, with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps not if you factor in the negative publicity they've gotten. But, was the decision the kind of stupid mistake that deserves payment in blood? Absolutely not. Even suggesting it is ridiculous.
The iPhone is a consumer product. It's like off-the-rack clothing. It's not custom tailored to any one individual. It's the product of a long series of design decisions trying to make the best product for the largest section of the population. If you're an outlier - if you're one of those people for whom the issue is preventing you from using the phone, put it in a free case, or bring it back. Apple will give you your money back, AT&T will let you out of your contract. No questions asked, no restocking fee. You're then free to go find a phone that works better for you.
If you want or expect more than that, you've got pretty serious entitlement issues. If you don't want to do that because you think you can't find a better phone, then maybe you need to re-assess your own perspective.