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Apple Press Conference (7/16/2010) – The Aftermath (Antennagate)

July 17, 2010 8 comments

Ok, now that I’ve thoroughly tracked the press conference in my last post, it seems the hype is just starting. There are lots of questions, and lots of opinions about the way Apple handled the situation. I think that Apple did a tremendous job getting all their facts together so quickly, and for delivering this press conference with such class and sincerity. No one accused anyone of making up stories, no one was blamed, it was put very simply and delivered with such a calm demeanor.

I was worried that Apple’s response was going to taint my perception of the company forever, and am happy to report that I was blown away by their response (in a good way!). It’s just a shame that Apple had to go to these lengths to defend the most popular Smartphone on the market. Now anyone that sells a different Smartphone without giving out a free case will just be yet another step behind Apple.

In no particular order, here are some of the things I’ve observed while participating in various forums (ie – the FoxNews chat during the live press conference, or reading various other articles on the subject).

1) Question: How do I get my case/refund from Apple?
Answer: The details are still being ironed out, but Apple has updated the description of the Bumper in the Apple Store, indicating that they are currently not for sale, but will soon contain information on how to get your free bumper/refund. Keep checking back with the Apple Store for updates.

2) Question: Does the bumper actually fix the issue?
Answer: Yes it does. Paired with the 4.0.1 software update, the phone functions exactly how it should. The software update is clearly working as it should. I get terrible service in my home, but the iPhone always reported 4/5 bars before the update (iPhone 3G and 4). Now with the update, it correctly reports poor signal strength (1 or 2 bars).

iPhone 4 Bumper (black)

3) Question: What is contained in the iOS 4.0.1 software update?
Answer: The most important fix in this update is the new algorithm that calculates signal strength. There is a secondary update that fixes a pretty serious bug for Exchange Server users. This only affects corporate users who were unable to retrieve email from their Exchange servers due to a timeout issue. Apple had previously release a hotfix that came in the form of a simple profile install.

4) Statement: The iPhone cannot be charged while the bumper is in place.
Response: Yes, I’ve noticed the same thing, although some users have indicated that the charger that comes with the iPhone 4 works fine with their bumper. I have the OEM bumper and charger, and I have to take the bumper off to charge/dock the device. I asked an Apple employee at my local Apple store, and was told that there are no chargers or docks that are compatible with the bumper.

5) Question: Why do people care so much about this iPhone issue? Get a life…
Answer: Stop reading. Compared to most breaking news stories (ie – BP oil spill), the outcome of this one doesn’t really matter. It is fun to track, and fun to analyze without the need to take any religious/political/economical stand. Anyone from technology experts, to a person who just bought their first SmartPhone can follow this story just the same. That is what I love about technology news.

And in case you missed the press conference, it is posted here on Apple’s website. Note, for some reason the link goes to a different video, but if you copy the URL you’ll get there.

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Apple Press Conference (7/16/2010)

July 15, 2010 5 comments

A very strategic press conference from Apple today.  The updates below sum it up, but basically they put superman Steve Jobs in front of the audience to state how much Apple cares about their customers.  It was sincere and heart felt.  They then demonstrated the antenna issue with other phones, and gave some impressive stats about iPhone sales/performance/return rates.  Then they announced that there will be a free bumper/case for anyone who wants one, or a refund for anyone who has purchased a bumper from Apple.

Here is the video of the press conference from apple.com

** FINAL UPDATE ** ~10:36 AM

“We love our users”.

** UPDATE ** ~10:29 AM

Software update is available

Free bumper for every iPhone 4 buyer.  If you already have one, they will refund the purchase in full.

** UPDATE ** ~10:27 AM

iPhone 4 drops more calls than the iPhone 3GS, but only < 1% per hundred.

** UPDATE ** ~ 10:25 AM

Sales over 3M units over the past 3 weeks.

** UPDATE ** ~10:23 AM

1.7% iPhone 4 users have actually returned the phone, versus 6% that returned 3GS.  No apology so far…

** UPDATE ** ~ 10:21 AM

Apple states that .055% of iPhone owners have actually called Apple to report this reception issue.

** UPDATE ** ~ 10:20 AM

Apple currently giving a demonstration on how the test phones in silicon chambers.  The purpose of this demo is to prove that Apple tests in a more technical fashion than Consumer Reports had tested.

** UPDATE ** ~ 10:10AM

Live from the press conference, Apple is currently demonstrating the antenna issue with a blackberry.  Not off to a good start…

** UPDATE **

Lots of stir lately about Apple's press conference tomorrow (7/16/2010).  What are they going to talk about?  Anything but the "death grip" would cause outrage/riot, so let's just assume that to be the case.

Personally, I've found that touching the iPhone 4 in any way shape or form cripples the connection.  I've added a "bumper" (which by the way cannot be charged/docked without taking the bumper off first), and it seems to have corrected the problem.  In my opinion, any OEM case should be able to be docked or at least charged via USB, however seems no one at Apple has thought of that yet.  Aren't there any nerds at Apple as fed up as I am with all this?

What is Apple going to do about the antenna issue?  Are they really going to re-engineer the phone and recall millions of iPhones….will they hand out free bumpers, and then have to address the charging issue next week when people are complaining about that?  Will they push users towards an "iPhone 4S" which contains some hardware refresh with a better antenna placement?  Any other likely scenarios?  Maybe they will surprise us all and "officially" tell us that we are STILL holding the phone incorrectly.

If you read Apple's last press release on the issue, you'll see them blaming the algorithm used to determine signal strength.  They claim it has always been faulty, and actually reports better service than it should.  It is believable if you are not a tech enthusiast (or just a long time iPhone user), but to me this makes no sense.  Bottom line is, the bumper fixes the problem entirely.  Are they trying to tell me that putting a bumper on the phone fixes a broken piece of code?  It seems Apple was chasing any kind of minor glitch they could find that was not too severe to release, and use that as the culprit while they figure out what they are really going to do.

I love the iPhone, and have always defended them against the naysayers regarding minor/natural tech issues.  I just think they could have handled this much better than the timeline illustrated below, but I do commend them for owning the issue (assuming that they are going to actually address this for real tomorrow).

The people complain about antenna issues —> Steve Jobs comments that we are ALL holding it wrong —> Apple press release states faulty code in signal strength logic is to blame —> Press Conference on 7/16/10 —> (I'll update this later with the result).

What is the iPad, really…?


Let’s talk about the iPad.  From all the reviews and banter about the iPad, I already know that it sucks, and that it’s awesome.  This post is not to choose one or the other, but to let you decide for yourself where the device fits in to your world (if at all).

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad in his keynote presentation, he focused on the iPad being a 3rd category device separate from a smartphone or a laptop.  There is no debate that smartphones and laptops have become the main source of how we access information today.  Is the iPad going to completely change the way we access information?  Is it going to make it faster, easier, more efficient, or allow us to become more productive in how we access information?  Probably not, but that is my opinion.

Those who have already reviewed the iPad have mainly focused on features (or lack thereof).  From experience in my field, I know that features come later, so I am not terribly concerned about the features (ie – the lack of flash support, or the initial lack of 3G support).  What I want to know is….is a 3rd class device in order, and if so, is this it?  Can we combine an iPod Touch and an iMac and call it an emerging technology?  Sure we can…but does it provide us with any value, or is the iPad just another gadget?

Steve Jobs is brilliant, there is no question about it.  He has a clear vision of where he wants his company to be, and has done a great job getting them where they need to be.  Apple innovates, and is an unprecedented leader in the industry.  Like any new Apple product, the iPad has gotten more press than any new product probably deserves.  I think the iPad might be the true test that determines whether a product is good because it’s an Apple product, or if it’s good because…well, it’s just good!

I just want people to think, and determine for themselves whether or not the iPad is really going to be that 3rd category device that society needs, and what exactly this means.  To me, when I heard “3rd category device”, I was excited.  I was thinking…”wow, I can’t wait to see what this is.  Probably something I couldn’t even fathom, like a 4th dimension”.  Maybe I misinterpreted and had high hopes, or maybe Jobs just has a simpler definition of what exactly a “3rd category device” is.  Maybe it’s just a new marketing buzz word created by Apple, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for the time being.

Let me take you to the KeyNote presentation, where Jobs explains the 3rd category device.  He points out that we use smartphones and laptops to browse the web, email, share photos, for video, music, games, and for reading eBooks.  He does recognize that in order for the iPad to be a 3rd category device, it must do these things better.  He then sets the stage for product placement by a dig on the netbook.  He says that when you hear these things, you probably think of a netbook.  “The problem is…netbooks aren’t better at anything!”.  Well, is that true?  Maybe it is (?).  Sure, netbooks are generally PC’s, and Apple does not make them.  But let’s be honest.  From the consumers perspective, they’re great.  They’re cheap, and realistically, they do all these things.  In some cases, it’s easier to do these things on a netbook than it is from a traditional desktop.

When paying $500+ for a gadget, the consumer probably shouldn’t be told exactly what they should be using it for.  I would argue that the netbook actually gives the advanced IT user more functionality than the iPad, in a sense that you have more flexibility to customize the device to focus on exactly what it is you want it to do with it.  If a netbook comes with Windows 7 Basic and all you are looking for is a cheap interface/control for your home media server…throw a Linux distro on the netbook and call it a day.  In a realistic world, one does not buy a device for both gaming, and for reading eBooks.  Sure, it’s nice to have the functionality if you want it, but let’s not have a device that is just “ok” in all of these categories.  A jack of all trades, but a master of none.  To me, that doesn’t spark much interest.

Back to the keynote presentation….What does Jobs mean when he says the iPad is “better” at all these things it is designed for?  Does he mean that the iPad can do more things…or does he mean that it will be easier to do these things with a new touch interface?  Browsing the web, email, photo sharing, video, music, gaming, eBooks….Do we really struggle with any of these things to a point where we need a new category of devices to replace the existing functionality of our existing devices?  I just don’t think so.  Not yet anyway.  There are so many applications for the PC and Mac that give us the flexibility we need to perform the tasks we want, how we want.

I have an iPhone, and I love it (moslty).  My only gripe is that I spend so much time trying to get it to perform basic functions that my PC or Mac can do with the built in OS.  Things like remote desktop, network troubleshooting, checking sports scores, email, writing music, or shopping.  To be honest, it’s not great at any of those things.  I have to rely on the development community to provide me with most of the functionality I want, and it’s a shame.  Shouldn’t the vendor be providing at least 50% of the functionality you are looking for in a new device, and not delegating that responsibility to the user community?  How many of you guys have spent the $.99 – $9.99 on an iPhone app, and deleted it immediately after finding that it’s not what you were hoping?  Is that what you want to get used to with the iPad?

For some people out there, it’s a great investment.  It’s not terribly expensive, and it provides some exciting functionality that you’ve been begging for since you recognized the limitations of your iPhone.  I just can’t see myself submitting to a device like this to the point where when it breaks, I just buy another one, knowing that it will cost more to repair than it will do just buy a new one.

Did I mention that I don’t have an iPad?  I wanted one before I wrote this post, and now I want one even more.  I need to know the answer to all these questions, and to me, it’s worth the $500 bucks to find out first hand.  The only other thing I struggle with is where I will use it.  My favorite iPhone App is “RedLaser”.  I love pulling my iPhone out at a store before making a purchase, to see if I can get that item cheaper across the street.  I can’t see pulling my iPad out of my pocket to do the same thing, nor do I see myself pulling out my iPad for buying tickets on Stubhub over doing it with my laptop.

I think the limitations of the iPhone have already been recognized from an application perspective.  There are so many applications out there that do almost enough to satisfy your need, but not quite.  For those of you iPhone users who are not familiar with the ShapeWriter app, it is an application that lets you “draw” out the text in a “connect the dots” fashion, rather than pressing each key on the iPhone’s touch screen keyboard.  The Shapewriter app is an awesome technology for texting, but it does not integrate with the iPhones native messaging interface.  To send a text using this app, you need to launch the app, write your text, and press a button that opens your contacts, and it opens the iPhones native text app, which pre-fills your selected contact with a blank message.  You then have to select the message box, and click “Paste”, at which point the text is finally ready for sending.  To me, this is just enough work to be able to show off your cool app, but never actually use it.  The same applies to other 3rd party text apps, like “Dragon Dictation”, which lets you speak your text, but then have to do some manual entry to send it anyway.  It kind of defeats the main purpose of the app, although the effort is there and will likely only be enhanced.

I would love to hear some examples of where you guys are using your iPads, and what you are using them for.  The iPhone satisfies a mobility requirement that the desktop or even laptop/netbook do not.  For example, the iPhone has apps like Red Laser (mentioned above), and Shazam (an app for quickly identifying that song playing on the sound system at the mall that you want to download when you get home).  The iPad however…?  I’d love hear where it fits in to satisfy a need that an iPhone, desktop, laptop or netbook would not.

Surely, there is a need for the iPad.  I just don’t think we’re 100% there yet.  I want to predict that the iPad will not be the next “technology flop” that kids are researching 2 – 5 years from now for a homework assignment, but I just don’t know.

What I do want to know is…what happened to Microsoft Surface?  10 seconds of research answers the question.  They’re $12,500 – $15,000, and cost thousands of dollars per year to maintain.  For those not familiar with the Microsoft Surface, you’ve probably seen it being used on the news, on CNN, SNL, etc….  It has a big touch screen that lets you manipulate objects as if they were sitting in front of you on a table.  It looked too good to be true when it came out, and ended up being the case given the price is out of reach for the average/reasonable consumer.  It has been a few years since it emerged, but I haven’t seen anything like it since.  The Surface has the ability to identify objects that you place down on it.  For example, you can put your cell phone down on the surface, and it pulls up your contacts.  Put your digital camera down, and up come your pictures.  And that’s not even the half of it.  Check it out if you have some time, and let me know what you think is closer to that “3rd category device” (price aside).

That’s all for now.  I really look forward to hearing what you have to say about my first post.  Feel free to ask questions, or suggest any technology related topics for new posts, and I’ll be glad to provide my input.