SAN FRANCISCO -- We're not perfect, phones aren't perfect. But we want to make all our users happy." And with that uncharacteristically humble introduction, Steve Jobs offered what passed for Apple's apology to iPhone 4 users who have encountered reception troubles and said they would receive free protective bumpers for their units.
Jobs told reporters Friday, "We love our users. We try hard to surprise and delight them. We work our asses off and have a fun time doing it," he said during a press briefing Friday morning at the company's corporate headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. He later added: "When people are criticizing us, we take it really personally...maybe we should have a wall of PR people protecting us from that, but we don't."
That fit with the general tenor of a presentation in which Jobs downplayed the extent of the problem, which he said "has been "blown way out of proportion."
Jobs told reporters that the percentage of users who have called Apple about antenna or reception issues was "0.55%"
"Historically for us, this is not a large number," Jobs declared as he ran through the highlights of an episode he referred to as "Antennagate."
Despite the controversy over the iPhone 4's reception troubles, Jobs reported that Apple had sold over 3,000,000 units in the last week. What's more, he added that iPhone 4 return rates were 1.7% compared to the earlier 3GS version, where the return rate was 6%.
However, Jobs did allow that iPhone 4 calls drop more frequently than calls made on the iPhone 3GS. He didn't give out specific numbers but said that the rate was less than one additional call per additional 100 calls (compared to iPhone 3GS).
"When our engineers look at this data, it's hard not to admit there's a problem," he said.
Jobs said that the reception troubles users have complained about were not unique to the iPhone. To drive home that point, Jobs offered a demo of how range is affected with various smartphones, saying that other devices such as the BlackBerry, the Samsung Omnia 2 and the HTC Droid. "The same thing is happening there too," he said, adding that such was "life in the smartphone world," where "every phone has weak spots."
"We went to a lot of trouble to show people where you can touch the antenna," he said. "You might as well put a red flag there."
"We didn't think it would be a big problem because every phone has this issue," Jobs continued. Apple had been "working our butts off for the past 22 days to find out the real problem and the real solutions," Jobs said
Most tech stocks were sold off during a day when the Dow and Nasdaq got creamed. But shares of Apple rallied after the press conference as investors apparently were relieved that Apple would not be paying for a full recall. One analyst had earlier put the cost of a full recall of iPhone 4s at around $1.5 billion. The company's shares ultimately succumbed to the selling that washed over Wall Street, finishing off $1.55.
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