By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 2:39 am
It’s always nice when a survey shows a clear consensus–hey, it sure makes things easier if you’re trying to draw conclusions about the results. But the survey we conducted on the controversy over the iPhone 4’s reception and Apple’s response to it defies easy analysis.
The results to nearly every question we asked are a split decision. We heard from lots of happy iPhone 4 owners, and lots of unhappy iPhone 4 owners. People who think Apple’s handling the situation well, and people who found last Friday’s press conference profoundly unsatisfying. If you think this whole affair represents a catastrophe for Apple, you may be surprised by the percentage of respondents who say it’s no big deal. Then again, if you believe it’s a non-issue, you may be surprised by the percentage who are still bothered by it all.
Here’s a telling snapshot of the survey’s conflicted results: About two-thirds of respondents who have iPhone 4s say they’ve noticed the grip of death themselves…and about two-thirds say they have no plans to return their phones. In other words, the majority seems to be saying that the problem is real, but outweighed by everything that’s right about this phone.
Almost five hundred people participated in this survey over the past two days, eighty-two percent of who live in the US. Two-thirds have already bought iPhones–a handful of who have already returned their phones–and ninety percent either watched Apple’s Webcast of its press conference or followed liveblogs and other reports closely.
The standard disclaimers apply: The results you’re about to read represent unnormalized data from a pool of respondents whose opinions don’t necessarily map to those of iPhone owners and iPhone watchers at large. As usual, I still find what you had to say interesting…
Do Apple customers think that Steve Jobs and company are infallible? Not in this case, at least: Only nineteen percent of the respondents who watched or read about last Friday’s press conference told us they had no concerns about the iPhone 4 heading into the conference. The rest were at least somewhat concerned. Steve Jobs’ reality-distortion field was apparently operating at less than full power–just seventeen percent say that the conference was completely satisfying. Another 29 percent say they’re at least somewhat mollified. And a third found the conference completely unsatisfying.
Jobs devoted much of the event to going over the results of tests Apple had performed showing other makers’ smartphones suffering from reduced reception when the phones were gripped.Twenty-nine percent of respondents find these results compelling, and just over half think they were worthy of consideration. Which left slightly under half who aren’t buying it.
About two-thirds of respondents think Apple’s decision to dole out bumpers and cases for free is at least somewhat acceptable; a third say it doesn’t cut it.
At Friday’s press conference, Steve Jobs told a bunch of representatives of the media that the media had exaggerated the seriousness of any iPhone 4 issues. Fifty-five percent of respondents agree with Steve. Thirty-eight percent say the press wasn’t blowing things out of proportion, and the rest aren’t sure.
First the good news: 43 percent of respondents say they’ve had no significant problems with their new iPhones. Among those that have had issues, most said that they’d encountered glitches with all three widely-reported problem areas: voice reception, data reception, and the proximity sensor.
I doubt if there’s a sentient iPhone 4 owner who hasn’t conducted his or her own field tests by clutching the phone in the “grip of death” to see if doing so does indeed kill reception. About two-thirds of respondents say they’ve seen trouble first hand; a third report no problems.
Apple’s official stance is that lower left-hand corner aside, the iPhone 4’s wraparound antenna improves reception. A little over a third of respondents seem to agree, and a little over a third are unimpressed. Most of the rest say there’s no noticable difference. (These results don’t differ much if you restrict respondents to only those who were upgrading from an earlier iPhone rather than a non-Apple handset.)