Apple's iPhone Issue All About Duct Tape

By Scott McGrew
|  Thursday, Jul 15, 2010  |  Updated 10:24 AM PDT
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Apple's iPhone Issue All About Duct Tape

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Here, Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrates the wrong way to hold the iPhone 4.

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Apple tells reporters it will make an announcement Friday morning, but has not said what the content of that announcement will be.  The obvious speculation is that the Cupertino-based company will address growing criticism its iPhone 4 drops calls when the user holds the phone in a certain way.

While the signal loss problem is not new -- an Apple engineer reportedly warned Jobs that the antenna placement could drop calls early in the design process of the iPhone 4 -- it came to a head this week when Consumer Reports created a video suggesting users place a piece of duct tape on the lower left side of the phone to prevent fingers from coming in contact with the antenna.  The organization also said it "could not recommend" its readers buy the phone.

Congress is even getting involved. New York Senator Charles Schumer also asked Apple to provide a free fix for customers.

While the criticism against the iPhone is valid, the duct tape jab was an unusual move for Consumer Reports, which has built its reputation on sober analysis of everyday products.     

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch says he's disappointed by the "stunt."

"People who subscribe to Consumer Reports don’t want to read about using duct tape to fix their stuff. They aren’t early adopters and they do want to be given a clear buy rating. They don’t need breathless up to the minute updates on what sticky non-conductive material will be best suited to make a broken phone work."

 While first adopters and Apple fans are likely to buy anything Apple makes, regular mom and pop buyers are more likely to consult Consumer Reports.  Add to that the fact that the Droid X goes on sale today, and Apple has its biggest challenge to convert everyday regular phone users so far.

What will Apple say?  The company will no doubt reiterate that all phones have signal trouble when the user touches the antenna.  It will certainly remind people its own tests found much of the problem was in the software and the way in which it displayed the "bars" indicating signal strength. 

What Apple should do is be as straightforward as possible.  "We don't see this as a major problem, but we realize consumers are concerned and we are ready to address that" might be a good starting point.  Though Steve Jobs is no doubt reluctant to mess with the elegance of the phone's form factor, I predict the company will offer a money-back guarantee on new iPhone sales and a rubber bumper in the form of a $50 iTunes gift card.  If you can't keep your finger off the gap, you can buy a bumper with the money.  If you already have a bumper or don't feel you need one, you can buy yourself some songs.

Below is a very funny bit that has more than 4 million clicks on YouTube.   It pokes fun at Apple loyalists.  Warning, there is graphic language, but it comes with a guaranteed chuckle.

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