By now, it should be fairly obvious that Steve Jobs is not going to announce an iPhone 4 recall tonight. Apple clearly believes this is a problem that can be fixed remotely. It’s probably right, but software alone isn’t going to do it. We need a blood sacrifice, and that sacrifice can only be made by Steve Jobs.

I’ve already seen speculation that Jobs might resign tonight. That might be ludicrous, but it shows a growing public sentiment that Steve is personally responsible for Apple’s cock-up, and the lack of public patience with Apple’s excuses is now palpable.

When he was interviewed at the D8 conference last month, Jobs repeatedly claimed that Apple’s mission is simply to make great products, so its employees can “come into work the next day.” By his own standards, the iPhone 4 is not a great product, at least from a technical point of view, and while I’ve no doubt he’ll continue to “come into work the next day” it’s time Jobs stood up and publicly took some blame.

For once in his career, this is the time Steve Jobs needs to drop the smart arse attitude, lose the arrogance, admit Apple made a mistake in its industrial design, and that he and those around him are not infallible. Quips and clever replies won’t cut it this time. We need a dose of honesty and humility, and that will cost Jobs more personally than any product recall.

Millions of devices now rest in the hands of unhappy, or at the least slightly confused customers, and it’s time the reality distortion field slipped. When Steve Jobs takes the stage tonight, we’ll be waiting for him to hold up his hands, accept that Apple dropped the ball and neatly explain how it’ll fix the problem.

I’m expecting an extended returns period, maybe up to two months, allowing those who’re unhappy with the iPhone 4 a reasonable amount of time to return it.

Alongside that, as predicted by some analysts, I’m anticipating new iPhone 4 handsets will come with a hardware fix from now on. It’s been dubbed by some as a “brute force” solution, rather than an elegant design alteration, but Jobs needs something tangible to show. It would also make sense for Apple to offer a returns programme, rather than a full recall, letting existing owners swap their handset for a modified one in due course.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Apple needs to show its faithful customers some love. This is a company built on dedication from customers and fanboys alike, and in recent months, through the terseness of Steve Jobs e-mails to its public shrugging over the iPhone 4’s problems, I’ve felt a shift in sentiment amongst even devoted Apple lovers. And no, Steve. We still haven’t forgotten that hefty price cut to the original iPhone two months after it went on sale. You never really apologised for that either.

A public apology will help this time, sure, but we’ll need a freebie or two as well. A gift from Apple’s father figure to show he still loves us, or maybe just something to show we won.

Bumper cases would go down well, as would a little iTunes store credit. It doesn’t have to cost Apple the earth, but if Steve pulls off a successful mea culpa tonight, it might just be the second time he’s turned around the company’s fortunes since returning to its helm in 1996.

  • RobHWales

    Good article. I agree with most of the points but I still cant see them actually admitting to a design flaw as from a legal perspective that exposes them to all sorts of bad news. An extended returns policy where guess what, the replacement phone is cosmetically no different but the antenna issue is fixed plus the other issues – proximity sensor etc. This would mean that people who are unhappy with their phone get a replacement that works. People who are fine with it as it is (which must be the majority but who knows how big a majority) just keep their phone. The vast majority of the buying public dont care whether it's a “brute force” solution or whatever, they just want a phone that works.

    I can see them dropping the price of the bumpers (supply has ramped up so we're getting economies of scale or some such nonsense) rather than giving them away free because that also admits that there is a hardware problem (which of course there isnt!) plus maybe they just happen to give a free bumper to anyone that returns their phone as a token sorry for the inconvenience.

    If Apple had kept to their long term policy of never commenting on an issue – and therefore not admitting or denying that there may be a problem – until they had a fix they would not be in the big hole they've got themselves in. Instead the whole set of emails and then this ridiculous reworking of the signal bars has just fed the media.

    They'll try to close the issue this afternoon – after all they want to clear the air before their quarterly results call next week where they will once again show figures that are better than any other tech company on the planet.

  • Ed McC

    I've got a bumper for my iPhone 4 and it still drops calls!! Even when connected via Bluetooth in my car and when I am not even holding the device??***!!!

    • waveglideengineer

      @Ed McC
      “Even when connected via Bluetooth in my car and when I am not even holding the device”
      Just like every other mobile phone then. The signal to noise ratio determines if you can make a call or not on a mobile, not the a mount of bars you have, you can drop a call with five bars, and have a prefect call with just one bar, it's all down to the S/N ratio.

      @RobHWales
      “I still cant see them actually admitting to a design flaw”
      If it's a base band problem then it's not a design flaw, think about it for just one minute, the FFC and what ever it is called here in Europe, and several phone companies all test the phone before the release, and you want us to believe Apple would tarnish its brand releasing this phone with a known design flaw and Googles Android snapping at its market share, yeah that's the Apple way, I don't think so.

      • RobHWales

        Interesting, so what do you think is causing the problem – just software?

  • CSCS

    Fine article, admitting a mistake would certainly be good for Steve J/Apple but that is rarely the way it looks from the inside. Legal advice, costs, caution in general usually rule in big successful companies – and the underlying confidence of their early successful years becomes in time complacency mixed with arrogance..
    Apple made it's recent name by taking real risks, innovating in new markets, doing only what it believed in, executing well, and striking a chord with a vast (cf their earlier customers) market/s. Now would be a good time for them to show real respect for those recently acquired customers for once.
    Let's see what he does tonight – it may show us whether they've peaked or whether they're still going to lead the next phase of innovation by caring for their customers' real (or imaginary) complaints and taking us all with them.
    I now have a Macbook Pro, iPad, and am waiting to buy the iPhone until I see what they do to fix it – 2 years ago I was a Windows, Blackberry user and like many other people can be again in a year or two – or more likely nowadays a Windows, Android user..

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