While Jobs did admit this fact in his press conference, he mangled the stats to make the iPhone 4's dropped call increase look minor. "The iPhone 4 drops less than one additional call per 100 than the 3GS," he said. As Jobs sees it, that's not a big rise in dropped calls. Yet that's not an obvious conclusion. Last year, an AT&T spokesman told me that AT&T's average iPhone dropped-call rate is 1 percent—in other words, the old iPhone dropped one call out of 100. If the iPhone 4 drops nearly one additional call out of 100, that could be close to a 2 percent dropped-call rate—or double the dropped-call rate of the old iPhone. That sounds a lot more serious, doesn't it?
Jobs also ignored the possibility that people are adjusting their behavior to avoid dropped calls on the iPhone 4. After all, Jobs himself allegedly counseled a customer who's getting poor reception to "avoid holding it in that way." As my own dropped call rate rose after switching to the iPhone 4 (from the 3GS), I found myself constantly on edge about how I held the phone, and have lately taken to keeping it in my pocket while I use hands-free earbuds. Sure, that's helped my dropped-call problem, but it's far from an ideal solution.
So, why is the iPhone 4 having this dropped-call problem? Jobs said he had his own "pet theory": It's not a design problem, but an accessory problem. When the 3GS came out, there were lots of third-party cases available for it. But there aren't enough cases for the new iPhone. "Only 20 percent leave the store with a case," Jobs said. So there are more dropped calls on the new iPhone because fewer of them are in cases. That's the closest Jobs came all day to admitting that there is a design flaw in the iPhone; if you need a case to reduce dropped calls, then the product, by itself, must be flawed.
Don't get me wrong. I'm happy Apple is giving iPhone users a free case. I'm hoping the freebie will reduce my dropped calls, and if that's the case, I won't be returning my iPhone.
I just wish Jobs could have handled this mini-crisis in a classier way. His data clearly show that the new iPhone is dropping more calls than the old one. He could have admitted a problem, offered a fix, and said, "We're sorry for any trouble we caused you." Instead, he sounded wounded and paranoid, as if we were all being ungrateful for not recognizing Apple's contributions to the world. "We love our users so much we've built 300 Apple retail stores for them," he claimed at one point. Wow, thanks, Steve—all this time, I thought you built those stores just to sell stuff! He said that a Bloomberg Business Week report that he'd been warned about potential antenna problems was "total bullshit." At another point, he asked a questioner, bizarrely, "What would you prefer, that we're a Korean company? Do you not like the fact that we're an American company leading the world right here?"
What I'd prefer, since Jobs is asking, is a company that doesn't pee on my leg and tell me it's the "most revolutionary rain storm ever!" A free case is all well and good. Just lose the attitude, Steve. You screwed up. We know it. You know it. Just admit it.