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iPhone 4 antenna hardware fix anticipated as some orders are delayed


As some customers have had their iPhone 4 orders delayed, a new rumor suggests that Apple will offer a free "brute force" internal hardware fix to existing customers in order to improve the device's antenna.

Analyst Ashok Kumar with Rodman & Renshaw spoke with AppleInsider on Thursday and revealed that overseas suppliers have indicated to him that Apple has decided on a hardware fix for the iPhone 4. He said sources have told him that the "mechanical fix" is the equivalent of placing a rubber stopgap on the inside of the phone, leaving the outside of the device untouched.

"From a cosmetic purpose, it's going to be completely transparent," Kumar said. "But from an engineering perspective, it's going to be more of a brute force than an elegant addition."

The goal, he said, aims to offer a quick fix to address concerns for customers. Kumar said it doesn't make sense for Apple to recall all iPhone 4 handsets and rebuild them from scratch with a "clean slate" design.

But Kumar said he expects the iPhone 4 antenna to be redesigned and fixed internally with a more "elegant" engineering solution when the Verizon iPhone 4 launches in the near future. He said it would also make sense for Apple to eventually apply the same internal fix for the current UMTS iPhone as well, once demand has been met.

"They're going to have a much more elegant design instead of putting a mechanical contraption inside," he said.

Kumar also said that AT&T has seen its fill timeline for new iPhone 4 orders stretched out to 8 weeks, suggesting delays in the manufacturing process as Apple settles on its approach. Recently, AT&T was waiting just 7 to 10 days for iPhone 4 orders.

In addition, AppleInsider has received word that some people have been notified that their iPhone 4 orders have been delayed. Some received e-mails direct from Apple citing an "unexpected delay." There has not been any indication that the delay notifications are widespread yet.

Kumar said he believes Apple decided to hold a press conference on Friday because the company's quarterly earnings report is next Tuesday. Addressing the antenna issue before then could save the company the burden of being bombarded by analysts about the issue next week, when the company's executives conduct their quarterly conference call.

Kumar was criticized last year after he noted that iPhone sales in China were "disappointing" before the device was even on sale. Also, in January of this year, he said he was told that the iPad would be available on the Verizon network through a subsidy — a prediction that proved false. However, last fall, Kumar also correctly stated that Google would release its own custom-built handset, which came true when the Nexus One was announced.

Last year, Kumar told AppleInsider that a CDMA-only iPhone with a chipset from Qualcomm will be released for the Verizon network in the U.S. in 2010. He said a new dual-mode chip from Qualcomm will not be available in time for a summer 2010 launch for the new iPhone.