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In general, Apple products work so well—and the company has such a devoted customer base—that it’s easy to forget that even Apple has had its missteps. It’s been eight years since Antennagate, when the launch of the revolutionary iPhone 4 was marred by a big problem: dropped calls. Turns out that the phone’s innovative antenna, which was partially exposed on the bottom of the phone, was particularly sensitive to the human touch. When held at just the wrong spot on the lower left corner, the iPhone 4 suddenly lost cellular bars.

iPhone 4’s death grip

Tech bloggers and reporters began writing about iPhone 4’s “death grip” issue, and initially, Apple wasn’t having it. The company denied there was an issue. Finally, after 22 days of media uproar, Steve Jobs held one of his famous press conferences to fire back. (Watch the press conference along with a catchy Antennagate intro song.)


Jobs compared the iPhone 4 with other phones, pointing out that his device wasn’t the only phone with “attenuation” issues. He shared data about how few support calls Apple had received about antenna problems. He explained that Apple was reconfiguring the algorithm used to determine how many “bars” of cellular strength iPhone users saw on their screens. And, oh yeah, he offered every iPhone 4 user a free bumper case to solve the non-problem.

Apple spent $175 million giving away free bumper cases. In 2012, the company settled a class action lawsuit alleging that Apple was “misrepresenting and concealing material information in the marketing, advertising, sale, and servicing of its iPhone 4—particularly as it relates to the quality of the mobile phone antenna and reception and related software.” Affected users could submit claims for $15 settlement checks or—you guessed it—a bumper case.

Photo:  Roman Tiraspolsky / Shutterstock.

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Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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