Earlier This Week, Consumer Reports Cited Hardware Flaw In Deciding Not To Recommend Device For Purchase
Problem With Antenna Causes Reduced Signal Strength and Dropped Calls-Apple Had Explained Issue as Software Bug
In Letter To Apple CEO Jobs, Schumer Says Solutions Suggested So Far By Company Are 'Insufficient'
WASHINGTON, DC-Following a rash of complaints by users about the new iPhone, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) urged the device's maker, Apple, on Thursday to provide fresh answers about the source of the so-called "death grip" glitch that causes poor reception, and called for a fix to be identified and provided free of charge to existing customers.
At issue is a technical flaw in the new model of the popular iPhone that causes the cell phone's signal to fade when it is gripped around the device's external antenna. Earlier this week, Consumer Reports called the issue a hardware failure-disputing the company's prior claim that it was simply a software bug-and said it would not recommend the product for purchase.
In a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs sent today, Schumer pressed the company to reconcile the competing claims and identify the true cause of the glitch in a written explanation to customers. He also called Apple's proposed remedies so far-the company has variously told customers to not hold the device a certain way, or to buy a case for the device-"insufficient." He said a permanent fix should be provided at no additional charge to customers.
"The burden for consumers caused by this glitch, combined with the confusion over its cause and how it will be fixed, has the potential to undermine the many benefits of this innovative device. To address this concern, I ask that Apple provide iPhone 4 customers with a clearly written explanation of the cause of the reception problem and make a public commitment to remedy it free-of-charge. The solutions offered to date by Apple for dealing with the so-called "death grip" malfunction-such as holding the device differently, or buying a cover for it-seem to be insufficient," Schumer wrote.
The iPhone 4 sold 1.7 million devices in the first three days it went on sale last month. But while the product has been hailed for its innovation, customers have also voiced complaints about the phone's tendency to drop calls when it is gripped around its bottom rim. The gripping appears to disrupt the phone's antenna that spans the phone's outer edge.
At first, the company simply urged customers to refrain from gripping the device in the trouble spot. Later, the company said the problem was not related to the antenna at all. Instead, Apple said, the apparent drop-off in reception was actually the result of a software bug that caused the phone to display more signal-strength bars than it should have.
But Consumer Reports disputed that explanation on Monday. In a review posted on the organization's website, researchers with Consumer Reports said they would not recommend the product for purchase. The magazine said it found that the antenna was in fact the culprit behind the drop-off in the phone's reception. It said a design flaw was responsible for the glitch.
A copy of Schumer's letter appears below.
July 15, 2010
Dear Mr. Jobs,
I write to express concern regarding the reception problem with the Apple iPhone 4. While I commend Apple's innovative approach to mobile technology and appreciate its service to millions of iPhone users nationwide, I believe it is incumbent upon Apple to address this flaw in a transparent manner. According to Consumer Reports' review, released Monday on its website, the iPhone 4's signal-strength problem is a hardwire glitch triggered by gripping the device in a particular manner. This finding, according to Consumer Reports, "call[s] into question" Apple's recent claim that the problem is "largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software." Consumer Reports declined to recommend the iPhone 4 because of this hardware design flaw.
Given the discrepancy between Consumer Reports' explanation of the reception problem and the explanation provided by Apple in its July 2 letter to customers, I am concerned that the nearly two million purchasers of the iPhone 4 may not have complete information about the quality of the product they have purchased. The burden for consumers caused by this glitch, combined with the confusion over its cause and how it will be fixed, has the potential to undermine the many benefits of this innovative device. To address this concern, I ask that Apple provide iPhone 4 customers with a clearly written explanation of the cause of the reception problem and make a public commitment to remedy it free-of-charge. The solutions offered to date by Apple for dealing with the so-called "death grip" malfunction-such as holding the device differently, or buying a cover for it-seem to be insufficient. These proposed solutions would unfairly place the burden on consumers for resolving a problem they were not aware of when they purchased their phones.
I also encourage Apple to keep its promise to provide free software updates so that bars displayed accurately reflect signal strength; I further urge Apple to issue a written explanation of the formula it uses to calculate bar strength, so that consumers can once again trust the product that they have invested in.
I look forward to Apple's swift action on this matter, and once again laud Apple for its innovative efforts and service to millions of Americans.
Charles E. Schumer