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Apple to give away free cases to iPhone 4 users (engadget.com)
98 points by ssclafani on July 16, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments



I figured they would do this. Everyone claiming they'd do a full-blown recall was nuts.

Semi-related: Nintendo is great at this stuff. When Mario Party hit for the N64, a lot of its mini-games required rotating the control stick fast. A lot of players would switch from using their thumbs to using their palms to rotate it faster.

The result? Blisters and redness on the palms of kids across the nation.

What did Nintendo do? They sent out free gloves to anyone that wanted one.


They did the same with the wii controllers when they started slipping off and breaking big-screen tvs during a furious game of tennis.

Free rubber Wii controller wrappers.

(... having hard time not calling them controller condoms as I try to describe them)


They're too thick and have too much structure to be bag like. And now every wii controller you buy has one of them attached to it.


I actually did that in Mario Party. I tore a bit of my skin and it was red and raw for weeks.


My conspiracy theory (and I don't have many) is that late in the development of the phone they discovered this feature. A meeting was called. They figured out they were looking at a recall. Then someone came up with a brilliant solution: let's make cases, sell them at first, see if someone notices the problem. If people do, we'll just give them a free case, instead of throwing out a $500 phone. Then the cases were developed very quickly.

I have no proof or evidence, just a hunch. I said this before the announcement today, and I think today may give some circumstantial evidence of this fact. Wonder if it's possible to find out when it is that they started working on these bumpers.


I seriously thought that the response would have been to offer a free service where they applied a thin clear layer of insulating material around the phone's edge. If people start believing that "iPhone 4s must be in a case" it greatly diminishes the fashion/status value of the phone.


I read the whole thing as "Here, you've forced us to give you a case but it's ridiculous and you really don't even need it."


it greatly diminishes the fashion/status value of the phone

Relative to what?

Anyway, those who care enough about fashion will remove the case and only put it on when they need a little extra reception. Or, just as likely, they will flock to the third-party vendor who sells micron-thin transparent cases. That vendor is gearing up as we speak.


Anyway, those who care enough about fashion will remove the case and only put it on when they need a little extra reception.

Or use the headset and put the phone away in your pocket, the way God intended phone calls to be made.


Hi, how are you? Doing anything fun for the weekend? Uh, hang on...

What? I'm not talking to _you_!


I've noticed there is certain body language that people use when speaking into earphone mics.

They hunch over slightly, and exaggerate the act of speaking into it... visually emphasizing that they're not just casually strolling along talking to themselves.

I know when I'm listening to comedy audio podcasts and can't help laughing, I make sure I'm holding an in-ear bud in place in my ear, or looking at the blank screen of my phone.

We're a silly lot.


I do that all the time when I listen to Wait... Wait and such. Though, I don't try to make it obvious that I'm listening to something. I just don't notice that I'm doing it until I notice people staring.


It's funny to me that when you see a lone person walking down the street or in the mall having an animated conversation with what looks like nobody, you no longer assume they are crazy.


Absolutely agree. Once I even happened to ignore a nutcase that approached me somewhat awkwardly in the street, not because I was uncomfortable but simply because I assumed she was on headset making a call.


Those of us that were on speech team lost that assumption years ago.


This is what bluetooth headsets are made for!


I doubt a thin film would eliminate the attenuation. If the problem occurs because the two antennas are electrically coupled, separating two conductive surfaces by a thin film simply forms a capacitor that will still couple the RF signals in the primary antenna to the secondary. The duct tape hack and the bumper help because they distance your finger from the conductors.



Putting an iPhone in a case is really a shame. And yet, so many do it (it seems to me mostly women but my sample size is admittedly not large). The is so expensive, people are afraid to drop it. Maybe it's because it looks delicate?

In any case, I've dropped my 3GS phone about a half dozen times, twice from 3 feet. No damage so far; maybe some scratches, but I use a matte screen protector (more easily scratched than the glass) and a custom vinyl backing (edges and corners still exposed). There's some dust now behind the screen from the impacts, but a case might not have prevented that anyways.

If I had to put the 3GS in a case, I probably wouldn't have bought it in the first place. But then I prize thinness in phones over other things, since I put the phone in my pocket.

At least the iPhone 4 bumpers are less intrusive and ugly than most 3GS cases. Still a shame to cover the stainless steel edge when they finally brought stainless steel back in the iPhone design.


I'm on the same page as you. I had the original iPhone up until I just bought the iPhone 4, and I never had a case on my old one. I just always keep my phone with my wallet in my left pocket, and keys, coins, etc. in my right pocket. Without a case it's thin enough. And with sharp things in the other pocket you don't scratch the phone up.

It also helps, of course, that one's reflexes suddenly become much sharper when one is carrying an expensive piece of hardware. I've made some incredible catches of that phone over the years.

There should be a name for this phenomenon - "the hand of Jobs" or "the reflexive property (of smartphones)", perhaps?


I don't use a case for my 3GS. I always keep it in my pocket (not the one with my keys). However, I bought my wife a rubber case for hers, since she keeps it in her purse with her keys, lipstick, pens, pencils, etc.


Agreed. It feels like a hack, rather than a proper solution. I'm sure Ive isn't too happy about his gorgeous device needing to be stuffed in a $1 wrapper.


Physics is the problem? So like he walked into the headquarters going "Ok, very funny guys! Who made physics apply to our products again?".


it's called Reality Distortion Field for a reason!


I'll get a case and see if I like it. Like most people I haven't really had a problem with reception though.


The people who don't have iPhones are really upset about it, though. Perhaps Apple should send them some free stuff.


The people who have iPhones that didn't work were upset about it. Based on Steve's numbers, they got reports from over 16,000 people about it. The flack they got online was completely disproportionate, but Apple didn't help things by telling those who had real problems that they were holding it wrong, or that they should spend another $30 to get their phone to work better.

Edit: I have an iPhone and I live in Philadelphia, where the signal is awesome. We're renaming one of our subway stops AT&T station here, even. AT&T has wired our subways so that I can use my bloody iPhone underground, and it's awesome. I'm not sure why I'm getting downvoted for pointing out that the flack was disproportionate but that 16,000 people reportedly had problems with their phone. What do you disagree with, if you're going to downvote that?


Why would anyone call when they've already read Steve's "you're holding it wrong" email and the official applecare policy of no free bumpers?

Everyone was waiting for a proper response from Apple; hence the low call-in numbers.


I didn't down vote you, but a raw number like 16,000 people is meaningless. What if I said that 16,000 google searches a day give bad results.


>Steve also claims that only 0.55% of people who bought the iPhone 4 have called into AppleCare to complain about the antenna, and the phone has a 1.7% return rate at AT&T, compared to 6% with the 3GS, though he would cop to a slight increase in dropped calls over the iPhone 3GS.


In the press conference, Steve said 0.55% of AppleCare calls about the iPhone 4 were about reception or antenna issues. That's a big difference from 0.55% of iPhone 4 purchasers.


I'm not sure what your implying. I'm going to bet that the majority of iphone 4 owners haven't ever made an applecare call. This would mean that an even smaller percentage of iphone 4 users have complained about this problem.


That's what I meant.


There's lies, damn lies, and statistics. 0.55% sounds great, and not a big deal. In reality, 16,000 people get dropped calls - almost statistically insignificant. But if you're one of those 16K people, then it happens 100% of the time to you!

(It's fun to play with statistics to alter public perception)


When you deal with many millions, tens of thousands really aren't that big a deal, unless it's a really serious problem. Companies work at a different scale than you or I, and it's not reasonable to apply your own feelings about numbers to the numbers they work with.

And it doesn't happen 100% of the time for anyone, it's just very visible to some people when they try it, hence the complaints.


A phone that can't make/maintain proper calls IS a really serious problem.

Lying to your customers about perception (5 bars always, making the first two bigger) IS a serious problem.

When the Uberphone that was supposed to be mega-awesome has a repeatable hardware issue this IS a serious problem(even if the issue itself is minor, which it's not).


Nah, if you read the ars technica report on it, the perception explanation does turn out to be reasonable due to the way the "reception bars" graph works. Besides that, it explains that despite the fact that the phone suffers greater attenuation than most others, it still actually performs well due to higher sensitivity.

See here: http://www.anandtech.com/show/3794/the-iphone-4-review/2


I think we’d all love a .55% unemployment rate (99% decrease) and be frightened if the homicide rate shot up to .55% (1000% increase).

The most useful statistic Apple provided was the comparison between iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS. Dropped calls are about even. As expected.


I wonder if Apple is repeating history and for the sole sake of focusing on profits over market share. There was a huge pent up demand for iPhone on other US carriers that Apple never and has not filled. Such has opened the door for the success and continued success of Android. I see so many people using Android phones now and so many people bashing iPhone. These same people had Apple fulfilled their demand most of them would not be on the Android bandwagon, which currently the Droid X is getting a ton of buzz and promoted as a just as good alternative to iPhone.

For me I prefer the iPhone, but it's not as cool as it use to be. This further hurts it's luster and cool factor!


The US is not the entire world - the iPhone is available for just about every major carrier around the world. In the US, they have AT&T, which has somewhere around 40-45% share of the market. The decision to not make an iPhone compatible with the rest of the US networks is a blip compared to the global market. Which means that the rise of Android has nearly nothing to do with the non-availability of the iPhone on Verizon, and nearly everything to do with the fact that Android is a strong competitor to the iPhone on capability/price.

Still, they'll pry my iPhone 4G out of my cold, dead hands... Android - fuh! :)


Now that is all cleared up, does anyone know if any stores in NYC have the phone in stock?


No. There is currently a 2 to 3 week backlog at all NYC apple stores.


I think Steve has handled this really well (I'm not a massive fan, but happy to acknowledge some smooth PR work going on when I see it).

Taking the line that other phones have the same issue was clever, but in reality it's actually only phones with metal cases that suffer this problem. The plastic cases on other phones (or the "bumper" outer-case in this solution) insulate the user from the circuitry, of course.

What's interesting is that most other top phones (EVO, Nexus One, etc) don't have metal in the cases = no problems. Perhaps Apple needs to realize metal isn't a great material to make un-grounded, wireless, hand-held products from?


What's interesting is that most other top phones (EVO, Nexus One, etc) don't have metal in the cases = no problems.

Except the Nexus One does have this problem (to the tune of 17 dB of signal loss, according to Anandtech).


Holding naturally, Anandtech measured the iPhone 4 losing 19.8 dB vs the Nexus One 10.7 dB. Keep in mind that dB is logarithmic, so the iPhone 4 performs ~10x worse than the Nexus One in that test.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/3794/the-iphone-4-review/2


The reason that signal strength is measured in dB in the first place is because it corresponds linearly to actual performance based on distance. It is originally derived from the measurement of a signal needed to sustain an audible sound across X miles of telephone wire. Therefore, it's a bit disingenuous to base performance on the linear strength of the signal.


Except that mobile phones are wireless and are subject to inverse square law as far as signal is concerned.

Signal theory traditionally operates with log scale because it simplifies math greatly and makes graphs manageable. If you say have noise floor at -30dB, expressing it on a linear graph is not very convenient.


The Nexus One is a poor example.

It suffered it's own 3G related issues and also suffers similar signal degradation as the iPhone 4: http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/android/thread?tid=0c0...

There was a little bit of buzz surrounding it, but never got quite the same exposure as the iPhone's problems. I'm pretty sure it's 3G problems made the gadget blogs though.


The EVO has the problem too. I have to go somewhere with a lower signal like a parking garage, but I can do it by covering the antenna just like the EVO manual says not to do (page 169):

http://www.scribd.com/doc/32516924/Sprint-HTC-EVO-User-Manua...


Great move in acknowledging the problems and in providing free cases. This is good news for Apple and for its customers (I haven't had any reception issues and think it is better than my 3G iPhone, but I plan to get the case)

OTH this is very bad news for accessory companies that manufacture cases for the iPhone. They're going to have huge unsold inventory (unless Apple buys from them and they're able to sell to Apple with reasonable margins)


If I understood correctly, they will offer a selection of 3rd-party cases, due to their inability to keep up with the demand for bumpers.


This is absolutely brilliant marketing by Apple. First, they increase the perceived value of the case by selling it for $30(even though it costs them about $1), and then decide to give it away for free.

The result is that if you don't have reception problems, you are happy to get a free gift. If you do have reception problems, you get a passable fix or an option to return the phone. Looks like a win win.


Except the loss being your beautiful phone (and the iPhone 4 really is a beautiful piece of phone) is now hidden inside a case. The fashion conscious who are having reception problems won't be happy.

And if you argue these phones need cases to protect them, my 3 year old first gen iPhone that never had a case and still looks great disagrees with that sentiment.


Both my 1st and 2nd gen iphone suffered a broken screen. Maybe if you've a preternatural grasp on your phone and never ever drop it, sure. But I've had my phone drop from a variety of heights, skate across the train platform, fly down stairs, and more. No case = new phone every few months.


At least now without a case, you'll have a reason to upgrade to the inevitable Rev B, then!


I'm really upset that my own "pundit prediction" of a left-handed iPhone 4 was patently false.


Interestingly, they're going to give it to everyone who buys an iPhone 4 before 9/30. Does that mean there's a product refresh in the works? Might not be a bad idea to wait another 2 months, I guess.


Or maybe they'll be shipping a case with each iPhone starting 9/30.


"Left handed death-grip"? Ah those damn left-handed idiots, always screwing stuff up for everybody else. ;)


I don't understand why people keep suggesting this hits primarily lefties.

I'm right-handed and I pretty much always hold my phone in my left as that leaves my dominant hand for doing anything useful: navigating apps, mousing, one-hand typing, fumbling through pockets, opening doors, etc. Why tie up my dominant hand just to hold something?


Because it allows them to both point fingers somewhere else (damn you lefties, you complicated things) and downplay the issue- i.e. pretend that because it only affects 7% of the population, it doesn't matter.

I am left handed btw.


Exactly. It's revealing of how much actual thought vs. frothy rage there has been around this problem.


Bingo. I in fact asked my left-handed father yesterday when we had lunch to show me how he holds his phone and it's in his right hand.


Why don't they just start anodizing that shit going forward?


I thought only softer metals like aluminum could be anodized. Not sure you can do that to stainless steel.


Oh I didn't realize it was steel. For some reason I was thinking it actually was aluminum.


anodization of steel will cover it with a fine layer of rust :)


wait, Apple themselves called the whole thing Antennagate? WTF were they thinking?

There are indeed amateurs working at their PR department. Good luck with getting rid of that instant meme!


I think after years of the press labeling every tempest in a teapot "Teapotgate", it's a pretty good PR move.


It's kind of clever actually. Right now the best phrase we have to describe it is "iPhone 4 antenna problem" -- "Antennagate" implies there is no (real) problem or it's at least open to debate. Maybe even a slight conspiratorial tone along the lines of Hillary Clinton's vast right wing conspiracy after FBI-Gate, Travel-Gate, Monica-Gate, etc


New iphone hype on the way. Turning HN filter on.


There's already a thread discussing the press conference http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1521752, can we avoid having the full front page loaded with the same press conference news


No, because other issues were raised and discussed in the press conference. This is just about issuing free cases.

Let 1000 flowers bloom and all that...


Ah, reverse psychology. Nice one.


There never can be enough Apple related news-stories on HN's front-page!




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