The antenna problems associated with the iPhone 4 were largely overblown. Nevertheless, the ongoing media frenzy that surrounded the iPhone 4 back in the Summer of 2010 was so negative that Apple was forced to act – and it did by offering free bumper cases to all iPhone 4 users.
The reality is that customer complains regarding reception problems and the like were actually lower for the iPhone 4 than they were for the iPhone 3GS. But Apple makes a great story for scandal so the press took the story and ran with it.
In Steve Jobs’ biography, Walter Isaacson briefly describes Jobs handling of the matter, mentioning that he called longtime friend and famed marketing expert Regis McKenna for advice.
In a recent interview with AdAge, McKenna describes the advice he gave to Jobs when called in for his advice regarding antennagate.
Steve called me from Hawaii and told me he had a big problem. I knew what it was because I had been reading about it. He asked if I would meet him at Apple the next day, where he led a group discussion. I looked at the data, which was really interesting. They had more complaints and service calls on the phone before it than they did on the iPhone 4. Because of that, I did not think it was a significant problem. I thought it was a media-cycle issue and that they should address it with the data they had and be confident about the outcome rather than be apologetic. That’s what Steve did. The issue vanished within probably 10 days.
Jobs held a media event in mid-July of 2010 to address the iPhone 4 controversy and as McKenna suggested, Jobs stuck strictly to the data. Jobs, for instance, noted that .55% of users had called AppleCare about reception problems (not a large number for Apple historically) and that return rates were lower than they were for the iPhone 3GS.
Jobs also received special permission from AT&T to release the rate of dropped calls.
How many additional calls are dropped per additional 100 calls you make, and I can tell you, since we’re being transparent.. that even though we believe the antenna is superior, I must report to you that the iPhone 4 call drops more calls per 100 than the iPhone 3GS. That’s what the data says. So how many more calls per 100 does the iPhone 4 drop than the iPhone 3GS? Again, listening to antennagate, it must be dropping nearly half the calls… This is the hard data. The iPhone 4 drops less than 1 additional call per 100.
Killin’ em with data.