Apple admits iPhone 4 drops more calls than predecessors, gives out free 'bumpers'

In a short-notice press conference today, Apple CEO Steve Jobs addressed the iPhone 4 reception issues that have been at the top of tech news for several weeks.

In short, users complained of a significant drop in wireless signal when they touched a certain area of the iPhone 4 chassis with as little as the tip of the finger. Videos were posted, opinions were aired, and in short, the typical furor around Apple products was whipped up in practically no time at all. But this time it was very negative.

The commotion reached its peak earlier this week when Consumer Reports gave the device a glowing review, but said it could not recommend it to buyers because of this antenna issue.

In his presentation about the antenna problems today, Jobs said it is an issue that all mobile devices experience, and showed a video of signal droppage on a Samsung Omnia II, an HTC Droid Eris, and a BlackBerry Bold 9700.

"This is life in the smartphone world. Phones aren't perfect. It's a challenge for the whole industry, Every phone has weak spots," Jobs said.

However, he followed by saying the iPhone 4 actually does drop more calls than the previous generation iPhone 3GS, which amount to somewhere in the neighborhood of less than one call per hundred.

Even though Jobs repeatedly said the issue has been "so blown out of proportion," and that he doesn't feel the need to apologize to investors over it, Jobs said Apple will begin giving out free "bumpers" to all iPhone 4 owners who purchased the device between its launch and September 30, and customers who already have one will get a refund on it. The bumper is believed to fix the signal strength issues because the material does not attenuate the wireless signal when touched.

Jobs admitted the company was aware that signal loss happened when the phone was held a certain way, but vehemently denied claims that it knowingly shipped a product with a flawed design, a conclusion that many drew because the prototype iPhone 4 that was revealed on Gizmodo was in the same bumper-style case.

"I'm not saying we didn't make a mistake," Jobs said in the Q&A following the presentation. "We didn't know that it would have these issues, we didn't know we were putting a 'bull's eye' on the phone... but this has been so overblown."

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