Will Bad Press Flatten Future iPhone 4 Sales?

Techwriter10 1 Tallied Votes 457 Views Share

Apple had a great week last week when it launched the iPhone 4 to much fanfare. 1.7 million units reportedly flew out the door in the first three days alone setting sales records. People waited in long lines; reportedly longer lines than for the iPad debut or the iPhone 3G last year, but the glow was only momentary.

The initial good sales news was quickly followed by reports of supply issues, then came the antenna news--that you could get lousy reception if you didn't hold it correctly. Just the other day came rumors of a possible Verizon iPhone at the beginning of next year, which could mean some potential customers will hold off until then (assuming it's true, which isn't clear).

It got me thinking that when you look at all of these factors, could this eventually have an affect on sales after that initial burst last week?

Waiting Leaves Time For Thinking Instead of Buying

One thing Apple should absolutely be aware of is that they need to strike while the market is hot. The company worked extremely hard to rev up demand, and people got very excited coming out the Keynote address by Steve Jobs at WWDC earlier this month. The fact they sold 1.5 million units on the first day illustrates this, but what about those who didn't get one, but wanted one, and are hearing all these negatives now? Will Apple come to regret the supply issues that gave people time to think about it? What about people who bought in spite of AT&T and not because of it (see my recent post Apple should cut ties with AT&T). These folks are just sitting around and the negatives are starting to drum very loudly. If a Verizon iPhone is on the way, will millions wait for it (and what if it's not)?

Apple Critics Surface Fast

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes wrote a piece on ZDNet called iPhone 4...Apple's own Vista moment in history. in which he suggested that Apple was getting off fairly easily considering the problems it's reportedly been having with its antenna design. He suggests that Apple went completely for form over practicality and function. He writes:

"Apple needs to grasp the fact that it now not only sells a mass-market handset, but it’s selling it to a massive market, and these people aren’t necessarily Apple fanboys or zealots. These people buy a product because they believe that it is the best in its class. Preaching to people about how to hold their handsets, selling $30 strips of rubber, or spewing technical specs on the glass used is not good enough. People want a product that they can trust, and that has had the kinks worked out before going to market."

Wow, that's pretty harsh, but it's not entirely unfair either. Apple set its own standards and now it has to live with them.

It Doesn't Stop There

Engadget even reports that Apple is hiring antenna engineers adding fuel to the growing fire of doubt and begging the obvious question. Why didn't they hire one during the design phase and not post-release?

Meanwhile, Verizon is taking advantage by making fun of the antenna problem in a new full page NYT ad for the upcoming Droid X.

All of this negative news could certainly take the bloom off the iPhone rose and affect its previously untouchable cool factor. Only time will tell, however if this was just a few days of glory, followed by the great sales fall-off, or if Apple magic could overcome this and continue to sell iPhones in ridiculous numbers in spite of the parade of bad news.

DaniWebZoomer 0 Newbie Poster

The best of companies make mistakes. Apple will have what it takes to overcome this mistake. I ordered an iPhone and am still waiting for one. There is no way that I'll drift to another phone. And I feel this is the case with the majority of customers. I went to the Apple store and made calls with the iPhone models there using the same holding technique after selecting the 3G connection method. I had no problems making the calls. And I've not seen traffic fall off when visiting the stores. I think Apple will be able to weather this temporary storm.

Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

DaniWeb Zoomer:
What's interesting is that according to statistics I saw is that the majority of iPhone 4 buyers were like you, existing customers. What I wonder is how long Apple can continue to live on that upgrade path without incorporating new buyers.

I think you're right, by the way, and Apple will probably weather this storm, but it does at least plant a seed of doubt in the buying pubic and that's certainly unusual where this company is concerned.

Thanks for the comment.


GT212 3 Newbie Poster

From what I've read online, and from a few friends who also have the iPhone 4 (as well as myself), not everyone has experienced the antenna issue.

I have seen one unit with the antenna problem, and I can say with absolute confidence that it is *not* a design flaw; if it was, it would affect every iPhone 4, not just some, and would require the physical design to be changed, rather than applying a non-conductive coating or case.

If you go back to the WWDC keynote, you'll notice there are two antennas (or two physical parts that serve as multiple antennas -- http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/gadgets/apple/iPhone4/dd3v33sr_169ch3mkvf8_b.jpg); there are two "gap" regions between the antennas.

Some iPhone 4 units reportedly didn't receive non-conductive coating at the ends of the antennas, and as a result, when a conductor (moist skin) is pressed against the lower-left region "gap", there is no longer a "gap", and the two antennas are bridged and begin to produce a different frequency than originally intended; as AnAndTech tests, this "bridging" of the two antennas causes a decrease in cell signal, and an increase in Wi-Fi signal (if your Wi-Fi is on).

Some buyers have reported that "nail polish" will actually be enough of a non-conductive coating to prevent the bridging of the two antennas when your skin is pressed against the gap. Although, no one should have to go through that trouble, or experimentation, to fix such an issue; but the "nail polish" as well as other quick-fix stories (scotch tape), and the fact that only *some* units are affected, indicate that the issue is *not* the design itself, but rather an error, at some point, made during the manufacturing process of some of the units.

Additionally, I would like to note that, overall, my signal has improved, and the battery life is truly amazing; and let us not forget, both are the result of removing the antenna from the inside of the unit, and making it external (allowing for a lot more room for a larger battery). Hoping that Apple allows those customers who are affected to exchange their iPhone 4 for a new unit (with a non-conductive coating), but news thus far looks as if they won't be going down that path anytime soon. At the very least, I hope they corrected the issue in the manufacturing process, and that no more units are affected by the antenna issue.

Techwriter10 commented: Great comment. Thanks for sharing your experience. +3
Techwriter10 42 Practically a Posting Shark

Hey GT212:
Thanks for sharing your experience and the good information. Always good to get first-hand views. I saw the case today too that everyone is complaining about paying $29 for and I thought it was a really nice case actually.

So ya, your mileage may vary and it's worth keeping that in mind.

Thanks for the great comment.


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