Lies, damn lies, and Apple’s antenna-gate

Apple’s iPhone 4 is still relatively new; and I when I pulled it out of my pocket at a social occasion last weekend someone said, “isn’t that the new iPhone?” and another, “isn’t that the one with the aerial fault?”

Another person then showed his iPhone 4, with shattered screen. His had been dropped, an expensive slip of the wrist.

So there we have it, the two worst features of Apple’s new phone – fragility, and a dodgy antenna – exposed to all.

I have first hand-evidence then that the antenna issue is well-known. But how much will it affect sales? I received an email today from Opinium Research. According to their survey of 2000 UK adults, 26% are less likely to get an iPhone 4 because of this widely reported fault.

Pretty bad for Apple then – a quarter of their market gone. Well, no. This is an example of “ask a silly question”. If you ask someone, “does the antenna issue make you more or less likely to buy an iPhone 4,” what do you expect them to say? In fact, 13% of them said it was a non-issue, while 57% said it was irrelevant because they are not in the market for an iPhone 4 anyway.

The right question would be: “Have you changed your mind about getting an iPhone 4 because of the reported fault with the antenna?” I expect many fewer would tick the yes box.

Useless survey then. In my view the phone is fine, the antenna issue is minor, and Apple’s free case offer will sort it for most people.

Going back to my social occasion, by the end of the party Apple had at least one more would-be customer, despite the antenna and despite the fragility; and given that the phone is still out of stock everywhere I don’t think the company need worry too much – though its reaction to this wave of bad publicity has been interesting to watch.

Incidentally, I also had a briefing on Windows Phone 7 today – more on that later.