The iPhone 4 is Apple’s most successful product launch in the company’s history, selling 1.7 million units in the opening weekend. However, once consumers got their new phones in hand (literally), a number of issues cropped up, the most notable of which is the widespread problem dubbed the “iPhone 4 death grip” among Internet bloggers. The term refers to a particular way of holding the device that leads to signal loss and dropped calls. It’s not difficult to duplicate the problem either – just hold the device in your hand, with skin pressed against the metal bezel.
Now, the California law firm Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff (KCR) is exploring the possibility of a class-action lawsuit over these reception issues. The firm has posted a message on its website reading, “If you recently purchased the new iPhone and have experienced poor reception quality, dropped calls and weak signals, we would like to hear from you.”
KCR, a firm known for class-action suits, made a name for itself last year when it sued Facebook and Zynga, the latter being makers of popular online games like Mafia Wars and Farmville. At issue were unauthorized charges against users resulting from misleading ads.
KCR Says “Call Us!”
Given enough consumer interest, the firm may pursue legal action against the Cupertino-based company, often praised for its products’ innovative design and ease-of-use.
The reception issues mar what would have otherwise been a high point for Apple what with the iPhone 4’s best-seller status and high consumer demand – demand so great it led to inventory shortages, prompting Apple to apologize in a recent press release.
The iPhone 4’s operating system also represents a huge leap for the company, introducing much-sought-after features like multi-tasking, folders and even video chat. But these features have moved to the back-burner as the focus has now turned to one of the phone’s most basic functions – the ability to make phone calls.
Why Weren’t These Issues Caught?
What’s odd about the reception issues is that they weren’t caught by Apple’s anointed group of preferred early reviewers. In its typical secretive fashion, Apple only distributed test units to select journalists, a group which included The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg, David Pogue of the New York Times, Xeni Jardin of Boing Boing, Edward Baig of USA Today and Josh Topolsky of Engadget. None of the reviewers, though, caught what appears to be a major failure of the device – the ability to maintain a consistent signal.
Only Mossberg came close to discovering the issue, noting, “In my tests, the new phone handled [calls] sometimes better and, unfortunately, sometimes worse than its predecessor.” It could be that when he held the phone “properly” the signal strength was, as Apple says, improved. But when he held the phone in the signal-draining position, calls were dropped.
Or perhaps the reviewers were forced to keep the iPhone under cover as they took the unit out for testing in the wild. Because using a case or Apple’s own iPhone 4 rubber bumpers alleviates the signal drops, reviewers – including those inside Apple itself – may have never encountered the issues themselves when testing the phone outside the lab.
While the lawyers gear up for a possible suit, consumers await any response from Apple, Inc. that isn’t a variation of “stop holding it that way,” the somewhat unbelievable, but very real response from Apple PR. There are also rumors of a software patch for the issue arriving this week, but nothing has been released as of yet.