28
Sep
10

Apple’s Discontinuation of Free iPhone 4 Case Raises Questions, Rumors

The free iPhone 4 bumper was a quick fix to “Antennagate.” But now that Apple is giving up on the program, what does that mean for iPhone users in the near future?

If you go back to July 16th, 2010, when Steve Jobs both praised the iPhone 4 and simultaneously admitted that it had a design flaw with its antenna, you’ll see a moddled and confusing public relations pattern with Apple and its “problem child” iPhone. From the beginning, Apple has struggled to control the message surrounding the newest iteration of its groundbreaking smartphone: as soon as the iPhone 4 prototype got out into the open, the PR and marketing arm of the world’s most ingenious technology company has had to play catch-up with the blistering criticism of the tech media ever since.

Inasmuch as the free iPhone 4 bumper programme was seen as a crude workaround unworthy of such a high performance piece of technology like the iPhone, it was indeed an “ugly but efficient” solution to the problem. However, now that Apple is abandoning its iPhone 4 case programme — after only 75 days in operation — what can be deduced from this new chapter in the iPhone 4 saga?

One immediate and viable theory is the fact that there is a bit of revisionist history being written about the true severity of the antenna problems surrounding the iPhone 4. Because of the incredibly high profile that Apple and Steve Jobs enjoys (when all is well in the world of Apple), that same level of exposure and media coverage can come crashing down on the company when news turns sour for them. This was most certainly the case once the antenna problems came to light with the iPhone 4.

However, many Apple apologists have suggested that Antennagate was little more than a counter-insurgency by the PC world and Apple haters, and as proof they offer Apple’s own internal customer service data, which suggests that only a small minority of iPhone 4 users have experienced any sort of reception or antenna issues with their new iPhone. According to Apple’s records, “Of all owners, 0.55% have called AppleCare about the issue. This turns out to be about 16,500 users calling in on the issue.” And Steve Jobs himself stated in July that the iPhone 4 “has the highest customer satisfaction rating of any iPhone, and of any smartphone.”

Of course, skeptics argue that the tech media who accepts this line from Apple is simply drinking the kool-aide given to them by Apple’s PR department, and failing to be dispassionate in their reporting of the issue. After all, Consumer Reports confirmed the iPhone 4’s hardware problem independently back in July.

But since enough reasonable doubt has been injected into the iPhone 4 antenna debate, it very well might be that the pulling of the free bumper is a kind of implicit retraction by Apple that there was ever really any widespread issue with the iPhone’s reception in the first place. For as much as the iPhone 4 sold briskly throughout the Summer, Fortune Magazine estimated that Antennagate cost the company 20% of sales. Considering that, despite all the buzz, the iPhone still is not a product leader in the smart phone niche, 20% looms as a pretty devastating loss that I’m sure they’d like to recoup.

It very well may be that Apple is trying to shake off Antennagate once and for all.

Will it work? It remains to be seen. To this point, directing the iPhone 4 narrative has proven to be elusive for Apple. In hindsight, it seems that ernestly admitting to the problem cost the company 20% in sales — now perhaps they’ll experiment with plausible deniability and see where that gets them for the remainder of fiscal year 2010.

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