US senator demands Apple "public commitment" to fixing iPhone 4

We've heard from engineers, co-founders and Apple themselves; all we needed was a US senator to step into the iPhone 4 furore, and Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer has done just that.  In an open letter penned to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and spotted by AppleInsider, Schumer sandwiches some criticism in-between waxing lyrical over the Cupertino company's "innovative approach"; the senator believes that "the burden for consumers caused by this glitch, combined with the confusion over its cause and how it will be fixed, has the potential to undermine the many benefits of this innovative device" and that Apple should "make a public commitment" to fixing the issue free of charge.

Schumer seems to have been spurred on in no small part by the Consumer Reports testing of the iPhone 4, which led the reviewers to withhold their coveted "Recommended" award despite the Apple handset scoring the highest of the smartphones they've tested.  That conclusion, Schumer suggests, doesn't sit well with Apple's own explanation, and he wants something more explanatory including exactly what's happening with the signal meter in iOS4.1.

Apple, meanwhile, are ramping up for their hurriedly called iPhone 4 press conference tomorrow morning, which will kick off at 10am PT and which SlashGear will be liveblogging at

July 15, 2010

Dear Mr. Jobs,

I write to express concern regarding the reception problem with the Apple iPhone 4. While I commend Apple's innovative approach to mobile technology and appreciate its service to millions of iPhone users nationwide, I believe it is incumbent upon Apple to address this flaw in a transparent manner. According to Consumer Reports' review, released Monday on its website, the iPhone 4's signal-strength problem is a hardwire glitch triggered by gripping the device in a particular manner. This finding, according to Consumer Reports, "call[s] into question" Apple's recent claim that the problem is "largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software." Consumer Reports declined to recommend the iPhone 4 because of this hardware design flaw.

Given the discrepancy between Consumer Reports' explanation of the reception problem and the explanation provided by Apple in its July 2 letter to customers, I am concerned that the nearly two million purchasers of the iPhone 4 may not have complete information about the quality of the product they have purchased. The burden for consumers caused by this glitch, combined with the confusion over its cause and how it will be fixed, has the potential to undermine the many benefits of this innovative device. To address this concern, I ask that Apple provide iPhone 4 customers with a clearly written explanation of the cause of the reception problem and make a public commitment to remedy it free-of-charge. The solutions offered to date by Apple for dealing with the so-called "death grip" malfunction—such as holding the device differently, or buying a cover for it—seem to be insufficient. These proposed solutions would unfairly place the burden on consumers for resolving a problem they were not aware of when they purchased their phones.

I also encourage Apple to keep its promise to provide free software updates so that bars displayed accurately reflect signal strength; I further urge Apple to issue a written explanation of the formula it uses to calculate bar strength, so that consumers can once again trust the product that they have invested in.

I look forward to Apple's swift action on this matter, and once again laud Apple for its innovative efforts and service to millions of Americans.


Charles E. Schumer