Apple and Toyota

Screen shot 2010-07-15 at 10.43.40 AM

I've had an iPhone 4 for about three weeks now, and so far I've found better reception and fewer calls dropped when compared to my previous 3GS iPhone. I do have one area of poor reception at home where calls dropped about half the time on my old phone, but it hasn't happened once with the new one.

I've seen a youtube video or two of people that can produce a drop in their reception by touching the lower left of their phone, but I can't reproduce it. I've heard news of class action suits, official responses from Apple, and even an upcoming news conference at Apple tomorrow.

The whole thing reminds me of what Toyota has went through in the past year over their Prius. Right from the start, the story sounded fishy to me, that cars were suddenly accelerating uncontrollably. As Toyota officials got hauled in front of congress I wondered if there really was a technical issue with the cars or if it was more about American lawmakers scoring points with constituents by knocking down a foreign-owned #1 car company (remember Gung Ho?).

Early on, someone noticed that a majority of affected Prius owners tended towards very old, where driver error becomes increasingly common and I was surprised to find it didn't really gain much traction in the whole story of the Prius recall. In the end, driver error was the culprit in all but one case.

I'd argue that after decades of the Ford Taurus being the #1 car sold in America shifting to the Toyota Camry, there was a lot of pent-up resentment with Toyota's success. The Prius is certainly a success in its own right, showing that American consumers wanted better economy so badly they were willing to sit on six-month long waiting lists to get their new Prius, and they were willing to pay $25-30,000 for a sparsely appointed economy car that without hybrid technology probably could have sold for $15k.

Same goes for Apple. The iPhone has taken over the mobile market, eating up profits from other makers over the last few years. Apple has been steadily gaining market share in the laptop market as well, and the same decades-old lingering annoyances with all things Apple (pretention, absurdly high costs, "cooler than thou" factor) feels like it's resurfaced with the iPhone 4. The moment the opportunity to strike against Apple presented itself, people pounced.

I'd say there are likely a small number of iPhone 4 handsets in certain areas of low reception affected by how they are held in such a way that the phone can drop calls. Maybe it's 1%?Maybe it's 5%? It's the best phone I've ever owned and likely the best phone made to date, but headlines declaring "Product Maker releases good product" don't sell pageviews as well as "iPhone 4 antenna FAIL!!!"