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Friday, July 2, 2010

Apple sued over iPhone 4 antenna problems

SAN FRANCISCO - Apple is hiring antenna engineers to work on its iPhone, the latest generation of which has triggered lawsuits from buyers upset because certain grips choke signal strength.

A posting online at said the company is looking for experienced engineers "able to design antennas suitable for wireless handheld devices with excellent radiation performance."

Apple's iPhone 4 launched a week ago with blockbuster sales and complaints by some that cupping the smartphones in a way that covers the lower left corner strangles telecom service signal strength.

The iPhone 4 has silver edging designed as part of the antenna system to improve signal strength.

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

The problem could be fixed by moving one's hand or encasing iPhones in rubber "bumper" frames that Apple sells for US$30.

"Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas," Apple said in a statement.

"This is a fact of life for every wireless phone."

Apple advised users who experience the signal problem to "avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases."

By Thursday, reports surfaced of iPhone 4 buyers unsatisfied with Apple's response filing lawsuits in the United States against the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and Macintosh computer maker.

A lawsuit filed in the state of Maryland wants Apple and exclusive US iPhone telecom service provider AT&T to pay for "unlawful and unconscionable conduct" including "fraud, negligence and deceptive trade practices."

California law firm Kershaw, Cutter and Ratinoff used a freshly redesigned website to recruit disenchanted iPhone 4 buyers for a lawsuit against Apple.

"Thousands of people are really unhappy with their new iPhones and Apple's response to the antenna issue," the law firm said in a blog post. "We told our audience we wanted to hear from them and boy did we."

The law firm said it got 1,400 emails in a single day and that 98 percent of the missives "overwhelmingly expressed discontent."

Antenna concerns did not deter the hordes that descended on Apple stores, with the firm reporting that it sold more than 1.7 million of the smartphones in the first three days on the market.

"I think these issues will sort themselves out," Gartner technology analyst Van Baker told AFP this week. "It is a very impressive phone."

Features luring people to the iPhone 4 include high-definition screens and 'FaceTime', which uses a forward facing camera to enable video chat.

The original iPhone launched in 2007 brought smartphones to the masses. Apple has sold more than 50 million of the handsets in the past three years.

But its latest version enters a crowded market full of rivals boasting bigger screens and running on Google's open-source Android operating system, which is more accessible to developers than Apple's tightly guarded system.

Sales of a white iPhone 4 model have been delayed to the second half of July because of unspecified manufacturing difficulties.

The new iPhone will be available in 18 other countries, including New Zealand, in July and 24 more in August.

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