Lawsuit filed over iPhone 4 antenna

Two people in Maryland accuse Apple and AT&T of knowingly selling a phone with a defective antenna.

Barely a week since the public got its hands on the iPhone 4, the first lawsuit over it has been filed.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on behalf of Kevin McCaffrey, Linda Wrinn, and others on Wednesday, the suit accuses Apple and AT&T of knowingly distributing a phone with a malfunctioning antenna. The plaintiffs are seeking class action status. The iPhone maker and its exclusive carrier partner in the U.S. are accused of a laundry list of infractions, including: general negligence, defect in design, manufacture, and assembly, breach of warranty, deceptive trade practices, intentional and negligent misrepresentation, and fraud by concealment.

The suit is latching on to the reported issue some customers are having with signal loss when the iPhone 4 is gripped in a certain way. It's been suggested the problem is tied to the iPhone 4's design , which incorporates the cellular radio into the metal band running on the outside of the phone, right where most people put their hands when holding the device. However, it's still not clear if a software update to the phone would help with the issue. Apple has maintained that it's a problem common to any phone when held in that manner and suggested that customers buy a rubber case as a solution.

The suit says: "Almost immediately after the purchase of their iPhone 4 devices, both McCaffrey and Wrinn began to experience significantly reduced reception and performance when handling the phones as demonstrated in Apple's advertisements or as a reasonable person would handle a mobile telephone while making phone calls, browsing the Internet, sending text messages, or utilizing other services provided by the iPhone 4."

As evidence of Apple's mishandling of the situation they cite the internal memo that was leaked to the Web in which AppleCare representatives were coached not to provide warranty service to customers experiencing this problem. The plaintiffs were also not cheered by the news that when a reader wrote to Steve Jobs complaining that if he held the phone in a certain way he lost the signal, Jobs responded, "Just don't hold it that way."

The suit is asking for monetary damages as compensation and that Apple and AT&T be prevented from selling similar iPhone 4's with defective antennas.

Apple on Monday said it has sold 1.7 million iPhone 4 units worldwide through the first three days of sales.

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