We're humans, we err, says Apple's Steve Jobs

Goes on offensive against iPhone4s glitches

At Apple’s headquarters here, Jobs acknowledged that there were issues with the antenna, which wraps around the outside of the device.

But he insisted that the problems, which can result in dropped calls when the device is held a certain way, affect all smartphones — a claim that was challenged by some Apple competitors. And he accused the news media of exaggerating the scope of the issue, saying customers and reviewers were thrilled with the new phone.

“This has been blown so out of proportion that it is incredible,” he said.

Jobs said that to put the controversy behind it, Apple would give free bumpers — cases that wrap around the rim of the phone and seem to reduce the problem of dropped calls — to all iPhone 4 buyers who want them.  Those who have already bought the cases will be reimbursed, and customers who are still not satisfied can return the phones for a full refund. The cases will remain free at least until September 30, when Apple will consider whether it can offer a different solution.

Jobs offered some contrition. He said Apple was not perfect and apologised to customers affected by the antenna problem. “We are human and we make mistakes sometimes,” he said.

But he quickly went on the offensive, saying every smartphone suffers from similar problems. To bolster his case, he showed videos of smartphones, including a BlackBerry, an Android-powered phone and a Windows Mobile device, that dropped signals when they were held in certain places.

Most of all, Jobs said time and again that iPhone 4 was the best phone Apple had shipped, and that most reviewers believed it to be the best smartphone on the market. He said he had evidence to back his claims.  First, only one in about 200 buyers had called Apple to complain about antenna issues, a historically low number, he said. What’s more, he said that return rates at AT&T, the exclusive carrier of the iPhone in the United States, were 1.7 per cent, or less than a third the return rates of the iPhone 3GS.

Jobs conceded that the iPhone 4 suffered from a slight increase in dropped calls over the iPhone 3GS, but said that the increase was less than one additional drop for every 100 calls. He would not provide absolute numbers of dropped calls, but he said that he believed the increase was because fewer iPhone 4 customers were using a case, or bumper. 

“The data supports the fact that the iPhone 4 is the best smartphone in the world,” Jobs said. “And there is no ‘Antennagate.’ There is a challenge to the entire industry to improve antenna performance so that there are no weak spots.”

Jobs also rejected criticism that Apple had been slow to respond to complaints about the antenna, saying engineers had been working around the clock to diagnose the problem. “It is not like Apple has had its head in the sand,” he said. “It has been 22 days.”  On July 30, Apple will start selling the iPhone 4 in 17 more countries, including Australia, Austria, Italy, Ireland and Switzerland.

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