Every so often we hear a politician or a PR flack for a company spout off in such a way that would make a screenwriter cringe if they ever thought of including the line in a movie. When that happens, I bestow the Claude Rains Award for the hijinx. If you don't know who Claude Rains is, he was the actor who played Captain Renault in Casablanca, and uttered the now famous sequence about being shocked to find gambling in Rick's Casino, right before he was given his take of the night's winnings. Well, Apple's PR letter about the iPhone's DeathGrip woes for the new iPhone is certainly in the running for the award this year. Here's the Renault-like passage:
Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.
To fix this, we are adopting AT&T’s recently recommended formula for calculating how many bars to display for a given signal strength. The real signal strength remains the same, but the iPhone’s bars will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better indication of the reception they will get in a given area. We are also making bars 1, 2 and 3 a bit taller so they will be easier to see.
We will issue a free software update within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected formula. Since this mistake has been present since the original iPhone, this software update will also be available for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3G.
I love the "stunned" part.
Of course this comes after Apple (and Steve Jobs) have told us we are holding the phones wrong (after about a gazillion pictures of the aforementioned Mr. Jobs, other Apple employees, and actors in ads holding it the "wrong way."
The science on this is certainly up for debate as we've seen, but the PR is not. It's nothing but a big FAIL on Apple's part from the get-go, as John Gruber's post lays out clearly enough. But Apple is still racking up sales, even with scrutiny from all corners. There is more than enough evidence that the new antenna is improved, even with this flaw. But I just don't think that Captain Renault or even P.T. Barnum would try to push this much further. I mean using the word "stunned" just struck me as a wink-wink acknowledgment that we're all saps on this bus. I almost expected them to insert the sound effect of a hand smacking on a forehead.
Apple's continued gamesmanship here, whether it be to protect shareholder and/or company value or just arrogance can only go so much further. As entertaining as I find this entire episode, it does raise more questions than it answers, especially since Apple seems to be now laying the blame on AT&T to a certain degree.
The only reason I won't just go ahead and give the Claude Rains award to Apple yet, is that it is early in the year and I don't think this episode is even close to being over. And the way Apple has been handling this, I'm afraid if I do, I'll have to retract it because they may yet prove that they are themselves capable of outdoing themselves.