This iPhone 4 signal problem is building to a critical mass and Apple will apparently address the issue at a press conference on Friday.

From the moment the first iPhone 4 owner complained that holding the phone in a certain (fairly normal) way meant reduced signal bars, through Steve Jobs’ clumsy “hold it differently” email response and now Consumer Reports’ review U-Turn, things are not looking good for Apple’s latest device.

To further ignite the issue, Cult of Mac has posted the comments of leading crisis communications expert Chris Lehane who dealt with the worst of President Clinton’s White House mishaps. Yes, he’s THAT good!

Along with other leading crisis management experts included in the post, Lehane’s message is simple: Apple needs to accept blame and deal with the issue as soon as possible.

We’ve received mixed reports on the iPhone 4′s signal issues here with some finding problems and others barely noticing an issue. That said, should the more severe complaints keep coming and major sources like Consumer Reports maintain their hard line on this design flaw, we’re likely to see a big move if not a full product recall very soon.

The Cult of Mac post also brings into question Apple’s “half-loaf” approach at calming matters by proposing a software fix, which the experts feel was rushed. The announcement was perhaps a little hasty, but we’re still waiting for the software update itself, expected later today.

It’s sad that such a seemingly minor design glitch that can easily be remedied with the use of a case has become the thorn in (quite literally) the iPhone 4′s side.

With Apple’s quarterly earnings report coming up later this month, the company needs to make a bold move in order to resolve this issue quickly and, according to Gizmodo, may already be doing so under the radar. Several users have reported that new iPhone 4s, offered by Apple as replacements in the event of accidental damage or non-signal related hardware problems, do not suffer the same signal issues as their original phone. While some have seen no improvement, a large number of testimonies point toward replacement iPhone 4s simply working better, leading to the suggestion that Apple might be quietly pushing out updated devices as replacements.

These revelations arise in the wake of rumors that Apple will be holding a press conference Friday in which it is expected to outline its stance on the problem and a potential resolution. Analysts are pegging the cost of a total iPhone 4 recall at around $1.5 billion, that’s 3.5 percent of Apple’s cash reserves.

An alternate option, suggested by Bernstein Research, would be for Apple to provide free bumper cases, that are known to fix the signal attenuation problem, at a cost to the company of $1 per unit. With Apple’s official bumper case costing $29 retail, it seems the free case route could be far more appealing to Apple than replacing an entire phone with a retail value of over $500.

Apple has refused to comment on the nature of its press conference on Friday, merely stating that it will be iPhone 4 related, but it’s a safe bet that a solution to this PR nightmare will be provided.

With any luck, come this weekend, the bad press will have died down, the world will continue to turn and iPhone 4 signal strength will rise along with Apple’s stock price.

[ via Cult of Mac ]

Posted in: Blog, Opinion, Rumors

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