Apple’s secrecy might be responsible for the new iPhone’s reception issues

A lot of people are complaining about reception issues with the iPhone 4, while a lot of other people say they have had no issues at all. I won’t take sides here to say that there are issues or not, but I will presume for the sake of argument that they do in fact exist.

How could such a serious issue such as this go undetected to the point where the phone has not only gone into production but actually sold millions of units?  Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that Apple hasn’t sold millions of the iPhone 4.  Their original sales announcement stated that they had sold over 1.7 million iPhones in the first 3 days of sales.  Well, its been four days since those numbers were drawn up and there can little doubt that they have far passed the 2 million units .

I would have to say that I can’t imagine that Apple would have really released a product which was as susceptible to interference from the user’s hand as the iPhone 4 seems to be if reports are to be believed, unless this issue was not discovered until very late in the production process.  But how could this happen?

Apple’s need for total secrecy around new products might very well lay at the heart of this question.  Let’s go back a short while in time and remember the lost/stolen iPhone incident where an Apple employee left a bar without his iPhone prototype.  At that time several posts that described the prototype made reference that it was inside a case which made it look like an iPhone 3G.

Considering Apple’s extreme need secrecy requirements it is quite possible that employees that were testing the phone were required to use the device inside such a case at all times in order to avoid having it seen in public and identified for what it was.  If that was the case then it is all together possible that when the device was field tested, by company requirement, it was always insulated from the user’s hands by the case that meant to disguise its appearance.  In this case most, if not all, of the testing of the phones in everyday usage scenarios would have been done in conditions which would have prevented the people participating in the tests from ever really noticing the problem.

Apple uses the incredible secrecy it manages to maintain around its products to great marketing effect.  Certain knowledge that a new device will be released with cool new features would probably affect sales of the current generation much more than the notion that a new model should be released around a certain time of the year.  Also, the general anticipation for seeing what a new product will look like, what will be its features and price help fuel discussion on the media and on the tech blogs resulting in a lot of free advertisement for the company.    All this has always been very positive for the company.

It is quite possible that this last round of secret development, despite prototype leakage, may have been hugely beneficial to initial iPhone 4 sales, while at the same time being intrinsically detrimental to the usage experience of a large number of users.

*Images: Apple Inc.

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