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Thursday, July 15, 2010, 07:20 am PT (10:20 am ET)

US Sen. Schumer writes letter to Apple CEO over iPhone 4 antenna

Democratic New York Senator Charles Schumer on Thursday issued an open letter to Steve Jobs regarding the iPhone 4 antenna issues, calling Apple's current solutions "insufficient" and asking the company to provide a free fix for consumers.

The U.S. senator said he wants Apple to explain in writing to consumers the true cause of poor reception with the iPhone 4 with regards to the so-called "death grip," experienced by some when covering the handset in its bottom left corner.

Schumer said Apple's solutions so far, including a forthcoming software fix that will provide a cosmetic change on how signal bars are reported, have been "insufficient." He also said the company's suggestion to buy a case to cover the handset's external metal antennas is not adequate.

"The burden for consumers caused by this glitch, combined with the confusion over its cause and how it will be fixed, has the potential to undermine the many benefits of this innovative device," he wrote. "To address this concern, I ask that Apple provide iPhone 4 customers with a clearly written explanation of the cause of the reception problem and make a public commitment to remedy it free-of-charge."

He also praised Apple for its "innovative approach to mobile technology," as well as "its service to millions of iPhone users nationwide." The letter specifically cited this week's statement from Consumer Reports regarding the iPhone 4, in which the nonprofit organization said it cannot recommend Apple's latest handset because of reception problems that are a result of the hardware design.

The letter comes a day before Apple is scheduled to hold a press conference on its Cupertino, Calif., campus. Some members of the press have been invited to Friday's event, scheduled for 10 a.m. Pacific Time, where the company is expected to address the antenna issue and provide a potential solution for users.

Schumer's letter is included in its entirety below:

July 15, 2010

Dear Mr. Jobs,

I write to express concern regarding the reception problem with the Apple iPhone 4. While I commend Apple's innovative approach to mobile technology and appreciate its service to millions of iPhone users nationwide, I believe it is incumbent upon Apple to address this flaw in a transparent manner. According to Consumer Reports' review, released Monday on its website, the iPhone 4's signal-strength problem is a hardwire glitch triggered by gripping the device in a particular manner. This finding, according to Consumer Reports, "call[s] into question” Apple’s recent claim that the problem is “largely an optical illusion caused by faulty software." Consumer Reports declined to recommend the iPhone 4 because of this hardware design flaw.

Given the discrepancy between Consumer Reports' explanation of the reception problem and the explanation provided by Apple in its July 2 letter to customers, I am concerned that the nearly two million purchasers of the iPhone 4 may not have complete information about the quality of the product they have purchased. The burden for consumers caused by this glitch, combined with the confusion over its cause and how it will be fixed, has the potential to undermine the many benefits of this innovative device. To address this concern, I ask that Apple provide iPhone 4 customers with a clearly written explanation of the cause of the reception problem and make a public commitment to remedy it free-of-charge. The solutions offered to date by Apple for dealing with the so-called “death grip” malfunction—such as holding the device differently, or buying a cover for it—seem to be insufficient. These proposed solutions would unfairly place the burden on consumers for resolving a problem they were not aware of when they purchased their phones.

I also encourage Apple to keep its promise to provide free software updates so that bars displayed accurately reflect signal strength; I further urge Apple to issue a written explanation of the formula it uses to calculate bar strength, so that consumers can once again trust the product that they have invested in.

I look forward to Apple's swift action on this matter, and once again laud Apple for its innovative efforts and service to millions of Americans.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer