Emilie Weideman and her father, Marc Weideman try their new iPhones in June in Palo Alto, Calif. Many of the new phones' owners are complaining of a glitch that drops calls.
Emilie Weideman and her father, Marc Weideman try their new iPhones in June in Palo Alto, Calif. Many of the new phones' owners are complaining of a glitch that drops calls. Paul Sakuma/AP
Apple Inc. will hold a press conference on Friday to discuss the latest iPhone model amid complaints about its antenna and Consumer Reports magazine's refusal to endorse it until the problems get fixed.
Apple would not provide details on the nature of the event at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., other than to say it will involve the iPhone 4.
On Monday, Consumer Reports said careful testing has confirmed user reports that holding the phone over a particular spot drastically reduces the signal strength it receives. Covering the spot with duct tape or a case alleviates the problem.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs had bragged about the antenna, which wraps around the phone's rim, when he unveiled the phone last month.
"This is part of some brilliant engineering which actually uses the stainless steel band as part of the antenna system," he said at the time.
Apple hasn't commented on Consumer Reports' finding yet. Company watchers are speculating that the company may give iPhone buyers its "Bumper" case, which normally costs $29.
The phone went on sale three weeks ago and outsold previous iPhone launches in its first three days, with 1.7 million units sold. Complaints about the signal strength soon followed.
In an early response, Apple acknowledged that holding the phone in a certain way impeded the wireless signal somewhat, but said this happens with many other phones. It said the real reason for the apparent big drop in signal strength was that the company has been using an incorrect formula to convert signal strength into the bars displayed on the screen.
Consumer Reports said it tested other phones and found none to have significant loss of signal strength when held.
This kind of mess is new for Apple, which has been on a roll. The company's valuation recently surpassed Microsoft's. And, initially, the iPhone 4 sold faster than any other iPhone in history. The success is in part due to what Allan Mayer, one of Hollywood's top public relations manager, says is usually one of the best public relations departments he's seen.
"They're very disciplined. They speak with one voice and the voice tends to be that of Steve Jobs," he says.
Jobs might hold Friday's highly unusual last-minute press conference.
Jeff Holmes, CEO of the PR firm 3 Marketeers, says he hopes Apple learned something from automaker Toyota, which spent a long time denying it had problems with its brakes. Holmes says he thinks Apple can redeem itself if it owns up to the problem.
They must "literally say, 'Look, we're going to stop production of this momentarily. We're going to find a solution right now. In the meantime, here is a quick fix."
One of those fixes could be offering the $30 iPhone rim covers, which apparently stop the problem, for free.
While complaints about the iPhone 4 have been driving headlines, not everyone has had such problems. Some people say they can't replicate the so-called "death grip" — and have even seen reception improve in San Francisco and other big cities where previous iPhones stuttered.
NPR's Laura Sydell contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press