Report: Jobs was told of iPhone 4 antenna problem

Apple's chief executive and a phone service provider were both made aware of reception problems caused by the iPhone 4 antenna, Bloomberg reports.

Knowledge of problems with the iPhone 4 antenna went to the highest level at Apple: Chief Executive Steve Jobs, according to a Bloomberg report Thursday.

An Apple senior antenna engineer, Ruben Caballero, raised concerns in planning meetings that the iPhone 4's external antenna could cause reception problems, according to the report, and told Jobs his concern in 2009.

In addition, a phone carrier provider revealed the antenna problem, according to another person in the report.

Apple has grappled with the antenna issue almost since the day iPhone 4 was in customers' hands in June. Some iPhone 4 owners reported that when the device is gripped in a certain way--usually if the lower left part of the phone is covered--the phone's signal weakens or disappears.

Apple at first said that it was a problem common to any phone and suggested customers hold the phone in a different manner or purchase a rubber case for it. That didn't seem to satisfy customers, and several days later Apple said the cause was actually related to software--the phone was incorrectly displaying the number of signal bars, and had been since 2007--and could be fixed with a forthcoming update.

Most recently, Consumer Reports refused to recommend the iPhone 4 due to the antenna issues, which are experienced by some iPhone 4 owners, but not all.

On Wednesday Apple released the promised software update, wrapped into iOS 4.1, to developers only . Initial testing showed that while the signal bars were indeed appearing more clearly, the update does not fix the antenna interference issue.

Apple has remained silent on the issue over the last two weeks, but on Wednesday evening began inviting some members of the media to a press conference regarding the iPhone 4 on Friday morning.

Update 2:45 p.m. PDT: Apple has denied Bloomberg's story that Jobs knew of the antenna problems before the device's launch. In a statement to The Wall Street Journal Thursday afternoon, an Apple spokesman said, "We challenge Bloomberg BusinessWeek to produce anything beyond rumors to back this up. It's simply not true."

The Journal's own sources, however, confirm that Apple engineers knew there could be problems with the iPhone 4's antenna design "as early as a year ago," but that but Jobs overruled them because he liked the design.

At WWDC in June, when he introduced the iPhone 4, Jobs specifically called out the iPhone 4's unique antenna design, saying that it would improve the device's reception.

Steve Jobs discusses the iPhone 4 antenna design.
Steve Jobs discusses the iPhone 4 antenna design at WWDC in June. Apple/Screenshot by Scott Ard/CNET

CNET's Erica Ogg contributed to this story.

 

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