Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three weeks, you know that Apple’s latest iPhone has a couple of major issues. It’s not bad, but it isn’t reaching it’s full potential, and Apple is not being responsive.
My iPhone, as well as one that a friend own both are vulnerable to the so called “Death Grip”. If you hold the phone in the most common and natural way, the signal degrades and finally disappears over about a minute. Both of the phones I’ve seen it happen in person with are “launch day” phones, which means they were among the first phones released. Apple claims that only .55% of users have reported this problem. I personally didn’t report it because I knew so many others were and that it was a known issue. .55% doesn’t sound like a big number, but when you apply it to the two million (2,000,000) estimated iPhone 4s sold since it comes to 110,000. Apple has claimed that only a small portion of it’s calls in the last 22 days have been about the “death grip”. When you calculate the 110,000 people who actually complained over the 22 days, it comes to 5,000 calls per day about the “death grip”. Now those numbers don’t sound so small do they? Apple held a press conference on July 16th to address this issue. Their official reply was “all cell phones have this problem”. They also claimed to have discovered that there was a problem with the number of bars that was being displayed, and that it was showing 5 bars when it really should have only shown 3. They also claimed that this phone only drops 1 more call out of every 100 than the last model iPhone. My own personal experience with an iPhone 3GS and now an iPhone 4 does not match what Apple is claiming is occurring. Newer iPhone 4s released after launch day do not appear to have this problem, or have it as badly as the first iPhone 4s. Others claim that Apple knew of this issue, since they released an Apple brand case along with the phone. This was the first time Apple released a branded case, and had it available at launch time. It should be noted that this case is the bare minimum type of case that would prevent the “death grip” of occurring, because it covers just the edge. It’s been estimated that it costs Apple about $1 to produce each case, which they call the “bumper case”. They charge $29.99 for one of their $1 cases. When I stopped by the Apple Store at Southpoint Mall today, they actually told me that “I wasn’t holding the phone in the most comfortable way” and that’s why I was seeing the “death grip”. Once I told Bryan that I know what’s most comfortable, that the way he said to hold it with four fingers placed in particular positions (with my pinky sticking out) felt like I was going to drop the phone, he responded with a snappy “You just want to argue!” At that point, I realized that it wasn’t just Steve Jobs who was blaming the users for “holding it wrong”, but apparently it had become the company motto. Bryan suggested I buy a bumper case, and that Apple would refund it to me in a few weeks. I asked to see the bumper cases, and he replied “We don’t have ANY cases for the iPhoen 4 in stock!” I sarcastically thanked him at that point and left.
The iPhone contains a proximity sensor near the ear piece. It’s job is to detect when the phone is up to your ear, and turn the screen off to extend the battery life between charges. On the iPhone 4, it’s either too sensitive or not sensitive enough. The screen randomly turns on and off when it’s up to my ear. It’s not unusual for me to dial digits, hit the speaker phone button , mute button, or “End” button while on a call. Last weekend, I even accidentally dialed 911 while I was in the middle of a call with my brother. I had to quickly explain to the dispatcher that it was an accident. Apple wouldn’t even acknowledge this issue until their press conference on July 16th. Their official reply is “sit tight, an update will be released in the future”.
Quite a few of my applications on my iPhone crash at various times. I may start up the Safari web browser, only to have it immediately close down. After three or four tries, or trying again later, the application will probably open. Why is this occurring, and I the only one seeing this issue? The iPhone 4 has twice as much memory as the last model. Are they not handling the increased memory very well, which causes this problem? I don’t know, and I can only speculate on this problem.
The iPhone 3 has a glass front and back. Unlike most cell phones that have a plastic display that’s scratched, the iPhone 4 is made almost entirely of scratch resistant “helicopter” glass. Unfortunately, this seems to make it very fragile. There have been reports of people dropping their phones from as little as 12 inches and having it shatter. Apple used glass that’s been hardened to prevent scratches. This means that it’s also more prone to shatter. The principle is the same as a skyscraper. They are made to bend and sway (in very small amounts) in the wind which keeps them from failing structurally. Harder isn’t always better or stronger.
Years ago, I performed hardware testing for a global computer hardware/system manufacturer. One of our requirements of testing was that we had to replicate exactly the production environment that we would be telling customers we supported. This may sound trivial, but very innocent changes in test plans and real world usage can really impact a product’s performance. Apple tested the iPhone 4 with a case on it. They used a case that disguised the iPhone 4 as it’s previous model. Apple should come out and admit this is the reason the problem wasn’t caught, and stop “blame storming”. Everyone makes mistakes, but people look down upon those that can’t admit to them, or try to elevate themselves by bashing everyone else.
The iPhone 4 isn’t all bad. The battery life is easily 3 to 4 times what I could get out of a single charge on my iPhone 3GS. It’s also much faster at launching programs, when they decide to run without crashing.