iPhone 4 - the story so far...
It's 4.30pm GMT on Friday 16 July, just minutes before Apple's short notice press conference is set to take place. If you've just arrived back in the country or this is the first you've heard about problems with the newly launched iPhone 4 mobile phone, then you might be wondering what on earth it is you've just walked in to.
If that is the case, or you just want a closer look at how one of the biggest launches of the years ended up needing some patch up talks, then this is how the Death Grip saga unfolded...
18 April The story breaks that an Apple iPhone 4G has been found in a bar in Redwood City, California. An Apple field tester has been taking the unit out for a stroll one night when it's left on a stool where he was sitting. It's picked up by a member of the public who sells it for $5,000 to Gizmodo who publish the photos and their findings of this prototype.
27 April Police raid Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home and seize possession of his computers and other information after the sale of the iPhone 4 to Gawker media is investigated as possible sale of stolen goods.
7 June One month later, the Apple iPhone 4 - as it becomes known - is presented to the public at WWDC in San Francisco in all its Retina screen, 5MP camera glory just as uncovered by Gizmodo. Steve Jobs describes it as ‘one of the most beautiful designs you've ever seen’. Registration opens at the Carphone Warehouse and launch is confirmed for 24th June. Apple also announces the availability of its own iPhone 4 cases known as bumpers - for the first time.
10 June Three UK announces that it will be getting the iPhone 4 meaning that it’s available for the first time on all five major mobile service providers in Great Britain. It also comes out that, despite multitasking becoming available for the first time, there’s only a small number of apps that will be using that feature at launch.
16 June Apple reports pre-orders for the iPhone 4 hit 600,000.
18 June One week ahead of launch, the first queue outside an Apple Store begins courtesty of Justin Wagoner at the Highland Park branch in Dallas. On the same day, a tear down reveals that the iPhone 4 runs - as many expected - on 512MB of RAM.
22 June Two days before launch and AT&T already announces it has sold out of iPhone 4 handsets until the next batch comes in.
23 June The iPhone 4 is taken apart and jailbroken a day before it’s officially out by a Silicon Valley engineer who got hold of his when the units were FedExed out early. On the same day, the first queues form outside London’s Regent Street Apple shop.
24 June The shop doors open, the phone officially arrives and street stores already find themselves fast running out of stock. As the shelves dry up, it’s reported that only 16,000 units were shipped over to the UK in the first place. O2 very neatly creates a stock watch website to let users know where they can still get a handset. All the while, technical complaints begin to roll in of yellow dots appearing on the iPhone 4 screen and of antenna problems leading to dropped calls when the handset is held along its sides. Anyone hoping for a white iPhone 4 is told the launch has been delayed till mid-July owing to a different colour proving more challenging to manufacture.
25 June The antenna issues are named the iPhone death grip. Steve Jobs personally replies to one customer’s complaints via e-mail with the words “Just avoid holding it in that way”.
28 June Firmware fix for the death grip is reported to be on its way in the shape of iOS 4.1 while Nokia has a dig at Apple with a post on its official blog talking about how to hold your Nokia phone on order to get reception. The joke, of course, is that you can hold it however you want. At the same time, Apple proudly reports that 1.7million iPhone 4 handsets have been sold in the three days since launch.
30 June The Boy Genius Report gets hold of an internal Apple memo to its high street stores instructing staff how to deal with customer complaints about poor reception. The mandate consists of explaining that the antenna is the best Apple has ever made, that all phones suffer reception issues depending upon grip, to avoid covering the bottom right of the phone as well as the black metal strip on the side with your hand and that the use of an Apple bumper will improve reception. Staff are instructed not to give out free bumpers to customers.
2 July Apple posts an official letter on its website admitting that the company indeed made a major mistake with the part of the software that calculates how many bars of signal to display on the screen in relation to the quality of signal that the antenna is receiving. Apple promises the swift launch of iOS 4.01 to fix the problem and gives customers 30 days to return their handsets if a software update still does sort it
5 July It turns out that 2010 was not the first time that Apple used software to correct reception display accuracy on the iPhone. In 2008, an update known as iPhone 2.01 was rushed out to redress the same problem on the iPhone 3G.
6 July iPhone 5 spoof pictures appear on the internet of an iPhone with a 1990s sized mobile phone aerial attached to the top.
7 July iHand spoof product turns up. Users can buy a hand to match their skin tone in Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indian (red) which will automatically clutch your iPhone 4 in the correct way as Apple intended.
12 July Apple releases cringe-worthy set of adverts to highlight the uses of FaceTime video calling but more serious damage is done the same day as US electronics blog Consumer Reports refuses to recommend the iPhone 4 on the basis that touching the lower left edge of the handset can cut calls when in areas of already weak signal. The New York Times picks up on the story along with other national papers and the news begins to peak.
14 July A Pocket-lint investigation reveals that despite the media furore, it seems that UK customers do not seem at all hampered by death grip or reception issues. UK mobile providers report a very normal rate of handset returns.
15 July We’re told that both Apple’s senior enginneer and antenna expert and Apple’s carriers warned them about the reception issues before the 24/6 launch. Apple later denies this as originally reported by Bloomberg News. iOS 4.1 rushed out to fix reception display inaccuracies on the iPhone 4. An in-depth article on AnandTech goes into the difference made by the software update. The results show that the accuracy of receptions is better reflected by the number of bars but actual antenna issues are not addressed. Finally, Apple calls a press conference for the following day where it's widely predicted that they will be tackling the criticism head on with the media.
16 July Refit is spotted at Regent Street, London, Apple Store with a large pile mystery boxes arrived and ready to be unpacked? A batch load of free bumpers? We'll all find out in just a few minutes...