Those following the “Antennagate” saga no doubt tuned in to reports from the press conference held by Apple earlier today.
As Apple explained during the event, many other phones potentially suffer from a similar issue. Putting on my electrical engineering hat, I have to say I believe it – to an extent. A user’s hand (or ear or cheek) all impact the environment “seen” by the phone. Antenna engineers work carefully to direct signals away from such sources of interference. However, there should be no reason why the left-handed “deathgrip” scenario is unaccounted for.
The smartphone vendor announced that while its “18 PhDs and scientists” work on studying the problem further, Apple would issue free protective cases (of both the Apple-made “bumper” variety and the third-party kind) to all iPhone 4 buyers.
So, why all the negative press?
It appears that consumers and the media alike have a love-hate relationship with successful electronics firms. We love to use their products, but also love to find faults in them. (Google and Microsoft come to mind.) The antenna issue has put the first major dent in Apple’s armor since the original iPhone launched in 2007. To find a fault with a company this successful is a rare occasion, and it often makes for catchy headlines.
The iPhone still offers best-in-class usability for data services. However, the vendor will now need to fix the growing perception that its voice-call capability is sub-optimal. As Apple loses heartshare, it may not stop the die-hard fans from purchasing a device, but it may impact on-the-fence buyers. Given that Apple relies on essentially a single SKU, consumers holding off on making their buying decision can have a quick impact on volumes (without other SKUs to absorb the impact).
Unlike previous years, when Apple’s competition was lackluster, this summer brings compelling Android-powered alternatives from vendors like HTC, Samsung, and Motorola.
So far, we believe that the negative impact on marketshare has been negligible. After all, Apple has already shipped 3 million of the new handset since launch. Furthermore, according to Apple-provided stats, only 0.55% of iPhone 4 users have called to complain about the antenna problem.
However, while the figure is pretty low in percentage terms, it still comes out to about 17 thousand people. The sooner Apple can bring that number to zero (the vendor hopes that consumers will accept the free bumper solution) the sooner it can curb the loss of heartshare and the potential long-term impact on the iPhone’s otherwise gold-plated brand.
iPhone 4 Insight
Smartphone Sales by Country Forecast