John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Grip Different: Apple, AT&T Sued Over iPhone 4 Antenna Issue

And there it is, the first iPhone 4 lawsuit–not six days after the device first went on sale (and well within the two-week return period).

Filed in federal court in Maryland Wednesday on behalf of a pair Maryland residents who purchased two iPhone 4s each, only to find they suffered significantly reduced reception and performance when handled the way any reasonable person would handle a cell phone, the class action accuses Apple (AAPL) and AT&T (T) of knowingly selling phones with a defective antenna design.

Evidently Apple’s “just avoid holding it that way” prescription didn’t go over too well with the plaintiffs.

“Plaintiffs were sold defective iPhone 4 units, which drops calls and data service when held in a manner consistent with normal wireless phone use,” the complaint reads (full text embedded below). “Plaintiffs have experienced numerous dropped calls, and as a result, Plaintiffs are left with a device that cannot be used for the normal purpose and in the normal manner in which such devices are intended to be used. Plaintiffs are unable to return the phone without incurring a substantial restocking fee. As a result of the defect in the iPhone 4, Plaintiffs have suffered monetary damages. Defendants’ design, manufacture, marketing, distribution, or sale of the defective iPhone 4 has directly and proximately caused all class members to suffer injury.”

The suit goes on to accuse Apple and AT&T of a host of misdeeds, including:

  • General negligence
  • Defect in design
  • Breach of warranty
  • Deceptive trade practices
  • Intentional misrepresentation
  • Negligent misrepresentation
  • Fraud by concealment

The evidence supporting those allegations: The various accounts of iPhone reception problems and their possible causes that have been posted to the Web in the past few days, Apple CEO Steve Jobs’s “just avoid holding it that way” email, an alleged AppleCare support script instructing technicians not to offer warranty service to customers complaining about the iPhone 4’s antenna, and some investigations of the issue by armchair antenna engineers.

In other words, a bunch of stuff posted to the Web.

That seems a soft foundation upon which to build a case like this. How can the plaintiffs be certain that the iPhone 4’s antenna issue can’t be remedied with a software update? Have they spoken with antenna engineers that guarantee it is exclusively a hardware issue? Are they aware of evidence that suggests a number of other smartphones suffer similar attenuation problems when their antennas are covered?

I put those questions to Charles Gilman, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, and here’s what he had to say:

I am not aware of other smart phones that suffer from the same problem. Certainly previous iPhones did not suffer from this problem. We have seen sufficient information to lead us to believe that Apple knew of the problem. I do not anticipate having a problem with our case. We will obtain our most valuable information through the discovery process. No expert has opined at this point as to whether this issue can be fixed with a software patch.

Fair enough. Let’s see how this one plays out, then.

ECF 1 Complaint

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus