Apple chief says iPhone issues overblown

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Apple chief executive Steve Jobs said that reception problems with the new iPhone 4 have been overblown but apologized to buyers who experienced issues and offered free cases as a fix.

Jobs, speaking at a press conference for a select group of journalists at Apple headquarters, said other smartphones have antenna problems similar to those reported with the latest iPhone model.

"We're not perfect," Jobs said. "Phones aren't perfect either."

He acknowledged the iPhone 4 drops slightly more calls than the previous version of the smartphone, the iPhone 3GS, but said the issue had been "blown so out of proportion that it's incredible."

"There is no "˜Antennagate,'" he said. "We think there's a problem but we think it's affecting a small percentage of users."

Some iPhone 4 users have complained they lose reception when holding the lower left corner of the phone -- whose unusual antenna wraps completely around the device -- in what has been referred to as the "death grip."

Jobs said Apple will provide free rubber bumpers that surround the sides of the phone and refund buyers who have already purchased the cases.

Some users have said the cases, which cost 29 dollars, remedy the reception problems that have given a company priding itself on the quality of its products a rare dose of negative publicity.

Jobs, who promised a full refund to unsatisfied customers, appeared to have satisfied investors and analysts.

Apple shares were up slightly in after-hours electronic trading after losing 0.62 percent in New York on Friday to close at 249.90 dollars.

"I don't think they've had a lot of serious product issues over the years," Gartner research vice president Mike McGuire told AFP.

"From a consumer perspective, they've now told me how this is going to be dealt with. And they even said if I'm really still unhappy, I can return it... You can't ask for much more than that.

"Somebody's always going to complain that they should have done it sooner," McGuire added, "but they said "˜Hey, let's go check it out first and get some information.'"

Jobs said the iPhone 4 had received the highest customer satisfaction ever for an iPhone, describing it as "perhaps the best product we've ever made."

"People seem to like it," he said, adding that Apple has sold more than three million iPhone 4s since it hit stores three weeks ago.

Jobs showed a video of smartphones from Blackberry maker Research in Motion, Taiwan's HTC and South Korea's Samsung in a bid to demonstrate that all devices lose signal strength when gripped in a certain way.

"It's certainly not unique to the iPhone 4," he said. "Every smartphone has this issue. Smartphones have weak spots."

Jobs said only 0.55 percent of iPhone 4 buyers had called Apple hotlines to complain about antenna or reception issues and only 1.7 percent of US buyers had returned their iPhone 4 to carrier AT&T.

He issued an apology to "customers that are having problems" but said he would not apologize to investors who bought Apple stock recently and saw it drop.

Apple initially responded to signal strength criticism by telling owners of its latest generation iPhone to be mindful of how they hold the handsets.

That failed to quiet the complaints, however, and Apple was forced to address the issue after Consumer Reports, the influential product review magazine, said it could not recommend the iPhone 4 because of signal loss problems it blamed on a design flaw.

Jobs said Apple was "stunned and embarrassed" by the Consumer Reports review.

Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones since the device made its debut in 2007 and Jobs said the iPhone 4 was its best-selling model of all time.

The iPhone 4 notably features a higher resolution screen and "FaceTime," which uses a forward facing camera to enable video chat.

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