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Antennagate Is Alive, And It’s Helping Apple Sell More iPhones

Today I went to an Apple Store with my friends and girlfriend. I live in Viterbo, so we had to drive to Rome’s “Roma EST” Apple Store, which is a 90 minutes drive. I wanted to buy an Airport Express to use with AirPlay (and eventually came home with a KeepItClean MacBook cleaner spray, too), a friend wanted to get a 17-inch MacBook Pro. We had a great time, just like every time we go to that Apple Store. Customer experience quality is top-notch.

This is not the point, though. The last time I went to that Apple Store was in May, and the iPhone 4 wasn’t out yet. Today was the first visit after the iPhone 4 release and all the “Antennagate” media mess. Today’s visit made me realize Antennagate is still alive and kicking, but it’s actually helping Apple sell more iPhone 4s.

See, the media created a mess and never cleaned up. Especially here in Italy (where Apple conferences are barely covered in the daily news - not to mention the complete incompetence of “tech journalists”) people are still talking about the “reception issues” of the iPhone 4. Once it’s in the news, it’s in people’s minds. There’s no Steve Jobs or pundit that can erase it. People know about the issue; all my friends do. Every time someone sees my iPhone 4, the question about antenna automatically follows. I’m used to it.

What I really wasn’t used to until today was “ordinary” people’s reception (no pun intended) of the iPhone 4: I mean, I know that my friends know. But what about those other million of people out there? Spending an hour at the Apple Store in Rome (where hundreds of people drop by every hours) made my realize that everyone knows about the initial reception debate. Antennagate is alive in people’s mind, yet it doesn’t seem like they care about it. Antennagate still manages to bring up discussions, but it doesn’t get to point “tech experts” in the US predicted: people are buying iPhones. Here’s what I saw.

I stood by the employees’ desk for about half an hour casually reading through Parallels’ description but actually listening to what customers were asking. Five people were in the “iPhone 4 line”. Out of those 5, four people said this exact phrase:

So, I heard about these reception issues…

To which the Apple employee mechanically responded every single time with:

That issue never existed, it was all made up by the media. Only 0.05% of our customers filed complaints for antenna issues, and if you really want to - you get a free case until September 30th using the free iPhone 4 Case Program app. But really [friendly tone here], every phone’s signal attenuates if you cover the antenna with your hands. If you know where the antenna is and you cover it, you lose a few bars. It happens with every phone on the market.

This same exact phrase. They know what story to tell. But here comes the fun part: each customer (I repeat, each one of them) replied with…

Great. I thought so.

They all bought the iPhones they had in hand, and two asked for a dock. A customer bought an iPad as well. The fifth one was probably tech savvy and didn’t say anything. I also told my friend Parallels was a great software to install on his new MacBook and he bought it.

Seeing these 5 people buying iPhone 4s, I thought media must have done one hell of a job in spreading rumors and fake reports about the iPhone 4 issues. Clearly Antennagate still has a place in their minds, but not the one you may think of: it looked as Antennagate was something they were skeptical about and needed to destroy to go home happy with their new iPhones. From the look on their faces and the nods when the employee was talking about “other phones”, I would change the original question to:

Hey, I read somewhere on the internet about this antenna thing. Can you please confirm me this is the same bullshit all over again and the iPhone 4 is just fine?

I’m so surprised Antennagate has become a reason to buy an iPhone 4.

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