Reviewers across the board agree: Apple's newest iPhone is a hit. Too bad it can't make phone calls properly.
A steel band wraps around the new iPhone 4, serving as both design element and integrated antenna. But early adopters of the phone were quick to notice what Apple, AT&T and the FCC's testers didn't: Grip the phone wrong and signal quality plunges.
The simple solution involves covering the steel band, either with black electrical tape or with a rubber case -- or a rubber "bumper" like a car's, accessories that are cropping up on sites across the Internet.
But if that's the solution to a problem acknowledged by the company, shouldn't Apple simply distribute cheap cases to consumers ?
Apple has officially acknowledged the issue, issuing a statement addressing the problem:
"Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone," Apple said. "If you ever experience this on your Phone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases."
Calls to the FCC for confirmation of the frequency of the attenuation issue weren't returned, but PCMag.com's lead mobile analyst Sascha Segan agreed in general with Apple's statement. He also agreed that Apple should pass out cases to customers, as many other cell phone manufacturers do.
"Apple should absolutely be be giving away those little plastic bumper cases with their phone," Segan said. "Everyone except for Apple agrees with this," he added.
While most cases sell for around $20, they don't cost manufacturers that much to make. And Apple could generate a massive amount of good will by handing out the cases, Segan pointed out.
Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris refused to comment on whether the company would distribute cases to iPhone users. Kerris emphasized the official statement the company had released, which suggests that users should simply avoid gripping their phones in the inappropriate way.
Avoid holding the phone in a certain way? That's hardly the answer, especially for an extremely expensive new gadget. If your Porsche didn't accelerate properly unless you wear a pair of specially designed pants, you'd be up in arms.
Until Apple's policy changes, consumers should consider the iPhone to be $19.99 higher than list price. After all, bumpers aren't included.