The problem with the iPhone 4, the company says, is that its formula was “totally wrong”
After more than a week of official silence, Apple responded Friday to widespread complaints about reception problems on its newest iPhone. Its answer, issued in a “Dear iPhone 4 users” letter, is surprising in several respects.
For one thing, it contains Apple’s (AAPL) first official acknowledgment that what Steve Jobs called a “non issue” is in fact a real problem:
The cause of what this “dramatic drop in bars,” the company has discovered, “is both simple and surprising.”
In short: it’s not the iPhone that is at fault, it’s the bars. And the owners who don’t know how to hold their phones.
Apple is offering a free software upgrade in a few weeks that will take away a few superfluous bars, but won’t change anything else. The signal attenuation problem will still be there. Users who have dropped calls or lost data connections by gripping the antenna will still drop calls and lose connections unless they buy Apple’s $29 Bumper or its functional equivalent.
Apparently, there will be no free Bumpers, which in any event are out of stock. In the meantime, a rubber bracelet with holes cut in it works pretty well.
The letter reminds iPhone 4 owners that if they are not fully satisfied they can return undamaged units within 30 days for a full refund. The letter does not mention any restocking fees [see correction below]. Nor does it guarantee that AT&T (T) will let them buy a new phone at the fully subsidized price.
I suppose that means the class action suits will proceed.
CORRECTION: Apple did charge a restocking fee for iPhones the first year. They do not charge it anymore. Sorry for my confusion.
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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]