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First-Day iPhone Buyers See Long Lines, Irksome Glitches

First-Day iPhone Buyers See Long Lines, Irksome Glitches

Forming around-the-block lines at Apple stores has become something of a summer tradition for iPhone superfans who can't wait to snap up the latest model. This year, however, some are reporting a few troubling flaws in the devices they're walking away with. Claims are surfacing of yellow blotches on screens as well as iPhones that lose reception when held along the edges.

By Erika Morphy MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
06/24/10 12:08 PM PT

With much ado, the iPhone 4 has gone on sale -- predictably, with the accompaniment of very long lines. However, as these devices fly off the shelves, problems are being reported.

One that has received a great deal of attention is the apparent loss of a wireless signal when the steel antenna band that runs around the edge of the device is touched, as it would be when someone holds the phone to his or her ear. Often the signal bars disappear, in part or entirely, and the reception noticeably drops, according to customers who have posted complaints on various blogs and message boards. Some users have whipped up and posted videos on sites like YouTube that demonstrate the problem.

Some reports have added that keeping the device in a case -- such as the Bumper that Apple sells for US$30 -- solves the problem. More expedient and cheaper solutions are being suggested on Twitter and other sites: namely, to tap the bottom of the device.

Another Screen Jaundice Outbreak?

There are also accounts of a yellow spots or bands appearing on the screen. The new screen was lauded by CEO Steve Jobs himself as one of the most significant improvements to the device. There were reports of similar problems when the latest version of the iMac desktop shipped at the beginning of the year.

A possible solution to this problem: time.

Apparently, a bonding agent called "Organofunctional Silane Z-6011" has been used on the glass, and the products are being shipped without waiting for the evaporation process to complete, according to a forum post on Apple Insider.

Compared to the those problems, the third -- the delay in the shipment of white-colored devices -- seems minor. Due to manufacturing problems, Apple said, the white devices won't be available until the second half of July. It's unclear what manufacturing problems could halt the product of white devices as opposed to black ones.

Whatever the cause the lack of white -- which has been perceived as something of a status symbol, since the option is traditionally available only in more expensive, high-memory iPhones -- is yet another disappointment to Apple devotees.

Can You Fix This?

Users who have spoken with MacNewsWorld echo similar problems as those described above but seem hopeful that they will be addressed relatively soon.

Michael Schwabe, account manager at thunder::tech, waited in line Wednesday night into Thursday morning for his device. He has noticed intermittent reception -- a fluctuating number of "bars" of availability of 3G service, he told MacNewsWorld.

He's seen the potential fixes online. What's most important, he said, is for Apple to acknowledge the issue -- or at least that a large portion of their buyers are seeing the issue -- and then to discuss or state the intended resolution.

"Where Apple has seemingly excelled is that when an issue does arise and can be fixed with a software/firmware update, they will do so and usually have that happen relatively quickly when the issue is proven," he said.

Other Problems?

Those planning on picking up an iPhone at a store may be well-served by closely inspecting the device before leaving the establishment. Rob Walch, host of Today in iPhone, is already on his second iPhone 4 -- the first malfunctioned shortly after he got it. The device stopped working with a warning that it was about to overheat. "I walked back into the store and they replaced it immediately," he told MacNewsWorld.

As for the more widely reported problems -- the lack of reception or the yellow blotches -- Walch hasn't encountered those. Considering the huge number of devices expected to move this weekend, Walch says he isn't surprised that a few malfunctioning devices are in the supply chain, though he was referring to the particular problem he encountered, not the other reports. "I have to give kudos to Apple -- they didn't make me wait or send it in. They just took me in the back and set up me all over again."

Two New Technologies

The problems with the launch are somewhat understandable up to a point, Azita Arvani of the Arvani Group told MacNewsWorld.

"iPhone 4 is introducing two brand-new technologies in a phone. Apple claims the iPhone 4 screen along with ... the retina display is the highest-resolution screen on any phone. Generally speaking, the higher the resolution on the displays, the more sensitive the displays are," she said.

The other big new technology in iPhone 4 is its antenna design, she continued. Apple thought it had done a creative job of putting antenna around the casing of the phone. "However, that means when you hold the phone in your hand, you basically ground the antenna. And that creates a fundamental reception issue," Arvani noted.

Since Apple is more of a computing device maker at heart, one can understand how these mistakes happened, she said. "But you wonder why AT&T engineers did not catch this apparent flaw. Also, it is hard to see why this was not caught during their individual and joint testing."


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