5 Fundamental Flaws of the iPhone 4 Launch

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By: Hillel Fuld

With the iPhone 4 launch behind us, I think it is safe to say that not only was it a success, it might have topped all previous product launches with what is estimated as 1.5 million iPhone 4s sold in one day. Ever since Apple announced the phone, no scratch that, ever since Gizmodo showed us the phone, everyone knew it was going to be a hit. With the new beautiful design, the additional memory, the unprecedented display, and the improved camera, the new iPhone is a force to be reckoned with.

Having said that, the iPhone 4 launch was unique in something besides its impressive numbers. With the release of every new iPhone (as well as other phones), there are always some people who complain about something, but the iPhone 4 brought on such a large number of complaints, and some of them very justified, that it actually became a serious problem for Apple both on the PR front as well as the actual product.

The following were some of the flaws with the launch of iPhone 4:

  1. Reception: While it is strange that this was not an issue mentioned in the major iPhone 4 reviews, within hours of people receiving their new iPhone 4, the Web was overflowing with complaints about dropped calls and poor reception. Now, I know what you’re thinking. With the AT&T exclusivity, why is this even news worthy? The iPhone was always known for its dropped calls and poor signal. Well, this time it’s different. The reception on the new iPhone 4 is actually better than the 3Gs primarily due to some Apple innovation of how and where they placed the antenna. Apple basically turned the side of the iPhone 4 into a full fledged antenna. Cool idea, huh? Yes, except for the fact that most people cover that part of the phone when talking, which means that the antenna is blocked causing poor reception, not to mention increased radiation.Everyone is talking about poor reception when holding the left side of the phone, but what most people do not know is that when the antenna is covered, the phone also has to work harder to communicate with the tower, thereby increasing its radiation as well. This strikes me as a very serious manufacturing flaw. The latest rumor is that Apple is releasing a software fix to this, although not really sure how such a thing can be fixed by software. As for the radiation issue, Apple recently rejected an app called tawkon, which helps users lower their exposure to mobile radiation. If I were Apple, this might be the perfect time to reconsider that rejection. Just sayin…
  2. Yellow Stain: Another major issue iPhone 4 owners are complaining about is a mysterious yellow staining of the Retina display. If we were talking about one, two, or even ten users, the claim might be dismissed as ten defective devices. However, when we are talking about hundreds or even thousands of registered complaints, it is apparently something more serious. Latest updates on this is that the stain goes away by itself after a few days, which led people to explain the weird yellow spots as having something to do with wet glue under the display. While the fact that it is not a permanent issue reassures me a little, the thought of buying a phone for hundreds of Dollars that has wet glue under the screen is something I never expected from a company like Apple. Unlike the first issue, I have not read any official responses from Apple on this problem, which leads me to my next point.
  3. Apple’s Reaction: The official response from Steve Jobs himself is telling users that they should stop holding the phone that way. Really Steve? You are now going to educate us on how to hold phones? You are really going to tell millions of people that they have been holding their phones “wrong” for years? Cmon, even for Apple, that is some serious Chutzpah. If the reception issue got me a little worried about the phone and made me seriously consider if I wanted to abandon my beloved BlackBerry, this response from Apple just pissed me off and reminded me that Apple still thinks it knows better than the consumer what the consumer wants. Bad move Apple, again!
  4. Apps: While this point is up for debate, I foresee a serious problem in the App Store as a result of the new iPhone 4. Everyone knows and talks about the fragmentation problem with the Android OS. What works on the Nexus might not work on the larger Dell Streak and what works on Android 2.1 most likely will not be supported by 1.6 devices. This was one of Apple’s winning points over Android. However, with the iPhone 3GS, the iPad, and now the enhanced iPhone 4 display, what looks decent on the 3GS will most likely appear completely pixelated on the iPhone 4 and the iPad. The good news is that as a result of the Retina display, iPhone 4 apps will look perfect in full screen on the iPad, but where does that leave the majority of apps that are still optimized for the 3GS? More importantly, where does this leave 3GS owners in a few months time when all the apps are going to be compatible with the iPhone 4 and the iPad? Will they be backward compatible or will there be a very fragmented App Store the likes of which we have seen in the Android Market? I guess only time will tell…
  5. Glass: One of the points that Jobs made very clear when introducing the new iPhone is that both the back and front of the device are made out of some enhanced kind of glass that is thirty times more durable than the plastic on the 3GS. Well turns out a glass phone might not be the best idea… One of the first videos I watched on launch day was a drop test of the iPhone 4 and let’s put it this way, it was painful to watch. While the screen did not crack on the first drop, it did shatter into many pieces after a few drops!  While I can count on one hand the number of times I have dropped my mobile phone, there are many people out there who for them, this is a regular occurrence and I expect a lot of “my iPhone 4 screen cracked” complaints over the next few months.

In conclusion, I will say that Apple created a beautiful device with the iPhone 4 and there is no doubt it will become a huge success and affect the standards of future smartphones. However, both the device and the actual launch were not without flaws, and in my opinion, the worst part is how it was all handled by Apple.

Would love to hear your thoughts on the above issues in the comments.

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Hillel Fuld is a global speaker, entrepreneur, journalist, vlogger, and leading startup advisor. He brings over a decade of marketing experience with leading Israeli and Silicon Valley startups, and currently collaborates with many global brands in an official marketing capacity including Google, Oracle, Microsoft, Huawei, and others.      Hillel covers the dynamic local tech scene for many leading publications including Entrepreneur magazine, Inc, TechCrunch, Mashable, The Next Web, Business Insider, The Huffington Post, Venturebeat, and others. Additionally, Hillel mentors startups across Israel in different accelerators including The Google Launchpad, the Microsoft Ventures accelerator, Techstars, The Junction, and more.    Hillel has been named Israel’s top marketer, 7th top tech blogger worldwide, has been featured on CNBC, Inc, and was dubbed by Forbes as “The Man Transforming Startup Nation into Scale-up Nation”.       Hillel has hundreds of thousands of followers across the social web and can be found on Twitter at @Hilzfuld. You can learn more about him on his website: www.hilzfuld.com


13 thoughts on “5 Fundamental Flaws of the iPhone 4 Launch

  1. Just a couple of comments:

    1. I don’t think there’s any additional exposure to radiation because of the design. (ps. disclaimer: I don’t understand why holding the antenna wouldn’t actually increase the reception—though i did predict these specific antenna problems before the iphone4 launched)

    2. I think iPhoneOS4 is a step up for iphone apps, bringing them, as you said, in line with the iPad. (moving forward there will be less discrepancy) but re: iPhone 3gs, devs provide a number of versions of graphics, so they will look good on 3gs/ iphone4/ and iPad; so if developers do it right, the experience on 3gs should not degrade — dependent on developers (or perhaps apple enforcing (or rewarding) good developer practices.)

  2. I read in the hebrew paper today something about apple charging $30 to fix the reception/antenna problem. What bastards!!

  3. The $30 was for an Apple Bumper case, which helps the reception, I guess, by separating the hand from the antenna.

    If the reception is a serious issue, Apple should probably package these in with the phones.

    As for the placement of the antenna, I heard the FCC has more to do with that than Apple does.

  4. Apple will not be charging $30 to fix the antenna problem. It would be a free software update. If Apple told people they needed $30 iPhone 4 bumpers, Apple would give them away at no cost. There are far too many Android bloggers posting FUD about the iPhone 4.

  5. My understanding is that the retina display has x4 the number of pixels specifically so it may display existing iPhone apps properly (make 4 pixels -> 1 pixel).

  6. San Fransisco has enacted a law that forces manufacturers to disclose the levels of radiation a phone emits. The iphone tests different with and without a bumper. Brain tumors are not a joke.

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