I really thought the iPhone Antennagate was over Friday. Now thanks to Apple's dumb move to antagonize all rivals, already 5 handset manufacturers have had reason to jump in and point out they don't build antennas outside the phone cases, they don't need cases to fix antenna problems and they don't have death grip problems. So Apple also said on Friday that the problems with the iPhone have been totally blown out of proportion. It certainly sounded reasonable, when Apple said only 0.55% of iPhone 4 users had called Apple to complain about the Death Grip.
So Tomi, what is the truth about these Apple claims. Lets take those numbers apart and see what they mean.
THE COMPLAINTS OF 0.55%
Apple said 0.55 % of iPhone 4 users have called to complain about the antenna problems. Across 3 million sold iPhones, that is 16,500 people who have called Apple to complain. So my first immediate screaming observation is that this is perceived as a connection problem - the network connection was dropped, a call was dropped. Who do you call to complain about it? The first point of complaint will be the mobile operator (AT&T etc)
But yeah, 16,500 people have called Apple to complain. Is that a big number or small? Remember a car maker called Toyota? They had this nasty problem earlier this year, called 'unintended acceleration' which seemed to trouble several Toyota and Lexus models. It was really big in the news, as 52 people were killed in accidents involving those vehicles. How many total complaints have there been about Toyota and Lexus venicles in America in the full duration of that problem, from January to June? According to the US highways safety board, the NHTSA - the total number of complaints about Toyota and Lexus vehicles was 1,500. Thats it. Over six months, its an average of 8 per day.
Now fast forward to July of 2010. Apple says that in 22 days, they have received 16,500 complaints about iPhone Death Grip! Thats 750 per day! This is nearly 100 times more complaints daily, than the most famous consumer product failure in recent memory! Is Apple's problem 'real' or is it 'imagined'? Is it trivially small, or is it enormous? Obviously it is one of the biggest consumer product failures in recent memory. And by a mile, the worst phone launch. These 16,500 complaints were generated in the first 22 days, where it will easily take many days for a consumer to notice the problem - then to observe it is a 'pattern' rather than a one-time random event - and then to go call AT&T first, and then after those moments to turn to Apple and call. The real problem is FAR bigger than this what Apple now kindly reports to us.
How does that compare with the industry. HTC has provided its complaints level of the smartphone Apple mentioned in its press conference, the HTC Desire/Legend/Nexus One. How many complaints? Try 0.016%. Or one complaint per 6,250 phones.
Meanwhile Apple who tries to say everybody has the same problem, also told us that 20% of iPhone 4 buyers had a case or band. These won't be able to experience the problem. How bad is Apple's problem. The 0.55% is not from 100 phones, you have to remove the 20% who have the case. So its from 80 phones. So Apple has one complaint call per 145 iPhone 4 models sold!
Is this a fair comparison? As HTC says, Apple has 35 times more complaints than HTC. And HTC's product has been on the market for 9 months, so there is plenty of time for buyers to examine the product and find out all possible problems - still only one complaint per 6,250 smartphones. If we assume HTC has sold 3 million of those devices (to keep the math the same as the iPhone, probably HTC has sold less than this number) - that would be 480 complaints in total over 9 months, or 2 complaints per day.
In just 3 weeks of use, Apple owners have already found so much of a problem, 1 in 145 will call Apple to complain. And yeah, it is 750 complaints per day!. Apple problem is nearly 400 times worse than that of HTC's smartphones.
DROPPED CALLS 1 OUT OF 100 MORE THAN 3GS
Apple said its dropped call ratio is 1 per 100 calls 'worse than 3GS' on AT&T's network. We do not have the 3GS drop call ratio on AT&T, but from the FCC Report from this May, we know AT&T's total dropped call percentage, which is 5 calls out of 100. The iPhone 3GS will be in that range, more or less around 5 calls per 100. And now we know iPhone 4 has 1 more dropped call per 100.
So we have the number on a rough level, that 3GS drops 5 calls and iPhone 4 drops 6 calls per 100. So, first of all, we know the iPhone 4 has 20% more dropped calls than 3GS. Secondly we know that the iPhone drops one out of every 16.7 calls made on average, across all AT&T customers. That is a very large number. And then we also know, when we use CTIA average call minute volumes and average call length statistics, that the average US mobile phone owner makes 6.2 calls per day. So now we know that the average iPhone 4 owner will experience a dropped call every 2.5 days or almost 3 dropped calls per week.
The problem of iPhone 4 dropped calls is VERY significant, and the typical AT&T customer will experience a dropped call with the iPhone 4 every few days on average. The problem is 20% worse than with the previous iPhone. This is very significant and will of course be noticed by many users.
For Apple to suggest the problem is trivial, and to blame the press for sensationalizing this issue - is totally uncalled for. The problem is huge, it is 100 times worse than Toyota's problems; is 400 times worse than HTC's - where Apple very unprofessionally tried to deflect their own problem - and it is so much worse than previous iPhone owners, that typical iPhone ownes experience it several times per week - and loyal Apple owners find 20% more dropped calls with the iPhone 4 than with the 3GS.
This is the truth of the iPhone complaints and dropped calls. Lets be honest about it, Steve Jobs. Don't try to hide from the facts or blame other handset makers. No other handset maker has taken this crazy design option of putting the antenna around its casing. No other handset creates a Death Grip problem in usual ways to hold a handset - like Nokia said, they test their phones on both right-handed and left-handed users, and they tend to have 2 antennas, one on the top of the phone and another on the bottom - specifically to prevent dropped calls almost whatever way you try to hold the phone. And no other phone needs an optional case to prevent dropped calls.
The problems are real. You admitted the problems are real and that you knew of them (and that you are trying to fix them). But you won't get away with attempting to claim these are trivial numbers, or that the same problem infects other smartphones. As Consumer Reports clearly reported - the Death Grip is a problem unique to Apple, that stems from its unconventional antenna design.
By the way the first serious casualty has already happened. The South Korean exclusive carrier of the iPhone - KT - which sold 1 million iPhones so far since November, has now said they will delay their iPhone 4 launch by up to 2 months, to give the device enough time to test it thoroughly.
And the bad news is coming in also from the first consumer survey. IDC interviewed Americans on Friday, and found that two thirds of existing iPhone owners will delay their iPhone 4 purchase because of this problem.
Those are the facts about the magnitude of the Death Grip problem. Antennagate could have been solved Friday. Now it has returned, and the story is getting worse by the hour.