Technology & Science

Apple pressured to fix iPhone antenna flaw

The flap over Apple's problems with the iPhone 4 antenna continues to grow, with marketing and consumer electronics experts calling on the company to take further steps to fix its reception problem.

The flap over Apple's problems with the iPhone 4 antenna continues to grow, with marketing and consumer electronics experts calling on the company to take further steps to fix its reception problem.

Apple has acknowledged that holding the device a certain way interferes with signal quality and has promised a software update. However, on Monday, the influential technology magazine and website Consumer Reports gave the device — and Apple's response to the issue — a failing grade.

The publication said it could not recommend the product until Apple came up with a permanent and free fix, a sentiment a number of industry watchers agreed with on Tuesday.

"If Apple does what Apple should do, then absolutely there should be a recall," said Ken Wong, a marketing professor at Queen's University. "Apple took a silly stance at first. They didn't really express the kind of consumer concern that you would normally expect from Apple, and for which they're best known."

In the United States, several marketing experts said a recall of the iPhone 4 in the five countries where it has launched is "inevitable." Apple did not return a request for comment.

If a recall did happen, the company could find itself short of stock for impending launches in other countries, including Canada. All three of Canada's major wireless providers — Bell, Rogers and Telus — have plans to sell the device, but that could be delayed if a recall is issued, Wong said.

Other observers said a full recall may not be necessary. Kaan Yigit, president of Solutions Research Group consumer electronics consultancy in Toronto, said Apple could simply issue a plastic cover for the iPhone 4, which would obviate the antenna issue.

"My guess is that they may offer some sort of a credit or a free bumper and consideration for a future purchase or similar," he said. "I disagree with the commentators that this is a disaster for Apple – recall or not, the brand has plenty of equity with a range of products now. Sure it's a slip-up, but it won’t really damage in a grand scale."

Wong, however, said issuing a free plastic cover would counter one of the iPhone 4's best features — its smaller size and weight. And, he added, unless Apple acts quickly and decisively to fix the issue, it could indeed suffer long-term brand damage because the company has had remarkable success in getting people to snap up its new devices early.

"You don't get that kind of acceptance if people are apprehensive about whether the original version is going to work. Apple does not want to play with that reputation," he said. "If they recover beautifully then they're the Apple everyone knows and loves. If they don't, they're just the Microsoft of old."

Despite the antenna issue, the iPhone 4 has sold briskly. Apple said it sold more than 1.7 million units in the first three days after its June 24 launch.

Iain Grant, president of the SeaBoard Group telecommunications consultancy in Montreal, said he's seen no sign of waning interest in the iPhone 4, despite the well-publicized issue.

"I do know I am still in queue for one ... and three people at lunch today all affirmed that they are all intending to move to [the new phone]."

The Consumer Reports review made Apple shareholders antsy on Tuesday, sending the company's stock sliding by four per cent on the Nasdaq.