Tag Archives | Consumer Issues

Why Walmart’s Netflix Settlement is Worthless (Twice Over)

If you received an email recently telling you that you would be receiving a Walmart gift card or cash equivalent as part of the corporation’s settlement in a class action lawsuit alleging that Walmart and Netflix illegally worked together to fix DVD rental or purchase prices, then I’m afraid there’s some bad news: It probably won’t amount to enough to rent a DVD (or buy a coffee, for that matter), and there’s no more where it came from.

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PCWorld Yanks iPhone 4 From Top Spot in Smartphone Chart

At Apple’s iPhone 4 press conference on Friday morning, Steve Jobs included PCWorld’s ranking of the handset as the top smartphone in his list of iPhone 4 achievements. But Jobs’ presentation and the measures Apple is taking to respond to the antenna controversy didn’t leave my former coworkers at PCW confident that its original recommendation had been validated.

Actually, they found the latest developments so lackluster that they bumped the iPhone 4 off the chart entirely. Its rating is now “pending,” and HTC’s EVO 4G is the #1 phone. (The iPhone 3GS remains on the chart, in the #8 slot.)

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Consumer Reports Responds

Consumer Reports on Apple’s iPhone 4 press conference–sounds like Steve Jobs didn’t convince them that the iPhone 4 has no unique issues:

Consumers deserve answers and fairness.  Providing free bumpers and cases is a good first step toward Apple identifying and finding a solution for the signal-loss problem of the iPhone 4.


Steve Jobs: There Is No iPhone Antennagate

(Photo borrowed from Engadget’s live coverage.)

So much for the theory that Apple was going to announce a miracle cure for iPhone 4 reception issues this morning. At the press conference on Apple’s campus, Steve Jobs offered several measures to make current and prospective iPhone 4 owners comfortable with their purchase–but he defended the iPhone 4 against charges that it has unique problems with reception, and didn’t say that Apple could or would eliminate the possibility that holding the iPhone 4 by the lower left-hand corner would hurt its performance.

Jobs showed the results of Apple’s tests of other smartphones–the BlackBerry 9700, the Droid Eris, and the Samsung Omnia II–indicating that their signal strength also drops when they’re held.

He then quoted stats that suggest most users aren’t encountering crippling new reception issues. Only .55 percent of iPhone 4 buyers have called AppleCare with antenna- or reception-related problems; just 1.7 percent of people who bought iPhone 4s from AT&T have returned them (with the iPhone 3GS, it was six percent). According to AT&T, the iPhone 4 drops calls more frequently than the iPhone 3GS–but only by one additional dropped call per 100 calls.

Jobs shared a pet theory: Because the iPhone 4 has a new shape that requires new cases, only twenty percent of buyers leave the Apple Store with a case, versus eighty percent of iPhone 3GS buyers who did. Since it’s using the iPhone 4 without a case that reveals the reception issue, it may just be that more iPhone 4 owners have been exposed to troublesome reception scenarios.

And then he explained how Apple would respond to the iPhone 4 issue:

  • He recommended that all iPhone 4 users upgrade to iOS 4.0.1, which provides a more accurate depiction of signal strength;
  • Apple will provide a free iPhone 4 case–Apple’s bumper or another model, since there aren’t enough bumpers to go around–to everyone who has bought a phone or will buy one between now and September 30th;
  • Customers who are still unhappy can bring their iPhone 4 back within thirty days for a full refund, with no restocking fee;
  • Apple is looking into the issues that have been reported with the iPhone 4’s proximity sensor, and hopes to fix them in the next software update;
  • By the end of this month, the white iPhone 4 will be shipping and the iPhone 4 will be available in another seventeen countries.

During the Q&A that followed–which is still going on as I write this–Jobs said that Apple doesn’t have a better antenna design (maybe the next iPhone will have one, he said) and that a Bloomberg story which said an Apple engineer had warned him about the iPhone 4 antenna was “bullshit.”

Throughout, Jobs talked about how hard Apple works to make its customers happy, and how much it loves those customers. He said that Apple isn’t perfect, and didn’t deny that the iPhone 4’s antenna design can cause problems.

So does this end controversy over the iPhone 4? No, I don’t think that anyone, including Jobs, believes that. But it may put the final verdict in the hands of iPhone 4 owners rather than the media or Apple. If millions of people buy the iPhone 4 and don’t encounter any unique reception difficulties, they’ll tell their friends and the phone’s rep will quickly heal. And if those millions of people do find the phone unreliable, they’ll tell their friends that, too.

(Me, I’ve found that my iPhone 4 seems to have good-to-very-good reception in most instances–except when I entered a zone of weak AT&T signal and found that how I held the phone made a huge difference.)

More thoughts to come, but here’s one aspect of all this that cries out for further exploration. In today’s press conference, Jobs showed other phones suffering from reception issues that looked a lot like those that the iPhone 4 can encounter. But when Consumer Reports decided not to recommend the phone, it did so based on tests of the iPhone 4 and other phones which indicated that the 4 has problems that other phones don’t. The “other phones” involved were different, so the conclusions weren’t inconsistent. But I’d like to see CR or another third party with the resources and know-how perform further testing of this sort.

So if you followed the press conference this morning, what’s your take on Apple’s response? Do you think the company is done addressing this?


Okay, What's Apple Going to Do This Morning?

I think of you guys as being at least as good at making Apple predictions as most of the people who get paid big bucks to do so. But when I asked you to figure out what Apple plans to discuss at its iPhone 4 press conference this morning, you didn’t come to a consensus. For all the possibilities I provided, the overwhelming majority of you said that they wouldn’t happen. Either most of you are wrong, or something really surprising will happen in Cupertino in about an hour.

Me, I’m still not sure what the news will be. But here’s an interesting possibility: Some of the latest scuttlebutt says that it might be possible for Apple to fix the reception issue through software alone.


The iPhone 4's Crippling/Non-Crippling Problem/Non-Problem

Engadget’s Nilay Patel surveyed Engadget contributors and some other folks (including me) about the iPhone 4 and whether they’ve encountered the grip of death issue. The bottom line is…there is no bottom line! Some people have detected no problem whatsoever and some (like me) have seen it in certain circumstances. Nobody finds it a gotcha so enormous as to render the phone useless.

Even if Nilay’s story doesn’t clear things up, it’s good reading.


The iPhone 4 Grip of Death: I'm a Believer

It took three weeks of real-world use before I figured it out. But I’m finally convinced that the iPhone 4’s antenna problem is real, that it’s affecting my phone in certain situations, and that there’s no scenario in which Apple is done responding to this issue.

I spent yesterday at the MobileBeat 2010 conference at San Francisco’s Palace hotel. The hotel is in the South of Market neighborhood, where making phone calls on an iPhone over AT&T can be an iffy proposition in the best of circumstances. And over the course of the day, I ducked out of the conference several times to make important calls.

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