Week in review: Apple's handheld headache

Apple to give away cases to deal with its touchy iPhone trouble, while FCC's indecency rules get slammed by court. Also: Juggling passwords.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
Expertise I have more than 30 years' experience in journalism in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Steven Musil
3 min read

Apple's biggest product launch ever is turning into its biggest headache.

In response to complaints about declining call quality with the iPhone 4, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that it would give bumpers or some other type of case to every owner who requests one. Jobs announced the move during a press conference in which he again sought to illustrate that the antenna issues were common with other smartphones as well.

Apple plans to give away bumpers to iPhone 4 owners who request them.
Apple plans to give away bumpers or at least some kind of case to iPhone 4 owners who request them. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

The bumper issue is a touchy one for Apple; it had previously instructed its AppleCare employees not to offer free bumpers to owners who complained about reception.

Perhaps Apple's wake-up call came when Consumer Reports announced that it can't recommend the iPhone 4 due to problems with its reception. According to a story posted on Consumer Reports' Web site, it was forced to withhold its recommendation after its engineers found that when you touch the gap in the antenna on the phone's lower left side, "the signal can significantly degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you're in an area with a weak signal."

Though Consumer Reports' latest findings are significant, it is not alone in reaching them. Indeed, during testing, CNET and other outlets have discovered that the iPhone 4 call quality degrades when you touch the gap on the left side.

Some predicted the purpose of the press conference was to announce a recall of the iPhone to fix the problem. While a recall could be damaging to Apple's reputation, it would also be a costly endeavor. One analyst estimated that while "a full product recall of the iPhone 4 (is) highly unlikely," it would cost Apple $1.5 billion, or 3.5 percent of its total cash on hand.
•  Report: Jobs was told of iPhone 4 antenna problem
•  What we know about iPhone 4's antenna (FAQ)
•  Time for an iPhone 4 recall?
•  Spinmeisters sound off on Apple's communications breakdown
•  iOS 4.1 update released to developers
•  iPhone owners report iOS 4.0.1 installation errors
•  iPhone 4 signal bar software fix now out

More headlines

Man claims to own 84 percent of Facebook

New York man claims in a lawsuit that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg entered into contract with him to design and develop the site in 2003.
•  Outlook gets social with Facebook
•  Pentagon, State Department OK social-network use

•  Facebook to promote new U.K. safety app

eBay served with $3.8 billion patent suit

The plaintiff in the suit, XPRT Ventures, claims that eBay filched trade secrets from XPRT patent applications that it then worked into PayPal technology.
•  Finjan sues McAfee, Symantec over patents

Court: FCC 'indecency' rule doesn't make tech sense

The Internet, YouTube, and Twitter have changed the way Americans consume media--and mean that the FCC's restrictions on seven dirty words should no longer be constitutional, a federal appeals court says.

End of gay teen Web site sparks privacy concerns

The bankruptcy of XY.com's founder, who says creditors could obtain a million profiles largely of gay teens, has led the FTC to intervene.

RIAA: Lime Wire hid cash to avoid paying damages

Founder of file-sharing software maker Lime Wire transferred company's funds into a trust controlled by his family. Big music labels say the money belongs to them.

Google's earnings lighter than expected

Revenue was up 24 percent for Google during its second quarter but the company missed analysts' expectations for earnings per share by 7 cents.
•  Intel posts $2.9 billion profit, cites strong demand

China confirms it OK'd Google license renewal

Beijing says that Google's China Web site operator pledges to ensure that it exposes Chinese Web surfers to "no law-breaking content."
•  China's Green Dam may be ready to collapse
•  Report: China shuts down dozens of blogs

Mozilla disables password-stealing Firefox add-on

Mozilla Sniffer is downloaded about 1,800 times before being disabled and blocked for stealing passwords.
•  What to do with passwords once you create them

U.K. layers climate shift on Google Earth

Interactive layer developed by British government lets users view side effects of worldwide temperature increase.

Also of note
•  Reports: Ellison fails in bid for NBA's Warriors
•  Report: U.S. finds driver error in some Toyota cases
•  Alleged Russian spy worked for Microsoft