Steve Jobs: Sorry About “Antennagate,” Here’s A Free iPhone Case

steve jobs iphone

[credit provider=”Reuters”]

Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage today at Apple’s headquarters to discuss “Antennagate,” the iPhone 4 signal issues that have become front page news over the past few weeks.Jobs basically said that all smartphones have signal problems, and that it’s an industry-wide issue, and that Apple’s iPhone 4 problems have been blown out of proportion.

While everyone is talking about this supposed issue, only 1.7% of iPhone 4s have been returned, and just 0.55% of buyers have called Apple to complain, Jobs said.

Nonetheless, Jobs apologized and said that Apple would send every iPhone 4 buyer a case who wants one.

That’s a good concession — more than we expected — and should help Apple’s image, which has been beat up a bit this week.

Jobs also announced that Apple has sold 3 million iPhone 4s since the phone went on sale less than a month ago.

Earlier: Apple CEO Steve Jobs is going on stage today to announce the company’s response to “Antennagate,” the iPhone 4 antenna issues that have attracted an absurd amount of attention over the past few weeks.

Following is LIVE coverage. We’re not in Cupertino, Calif. for the event, but instead, we’re pulling in the best information from all the journalists who are there, summarizing it in clean sentences, and offering live analysis.

Click here or refresh for the latest. (Or if you want the absolute fastest live coverage, we recommend Gdgt and Gizmodo.)

12:44 p.m. ET The event is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. We’ll be here live then.

1:00 People are in the conference room and seated. “This is definitely the smallest Apple event I’ve ever seen,” Gdgt’s Ryan Block writes.

1:01 Jazz music is playing in the theatre, AppleInsider notes.

1:04 A few Wall Street analysts are in the audience, and a rep from Consumer Reports, according to the WSJ. Consumer Reports, of course, is indirectly responsible for today’s event.

1:04 Here goes. There’s a YouTube video playing making light of the situation. “I can’t — but also totally can — believe they’re playing this video,” Gdgt’s Ryan Block writes.

1:06 Steve Jobs takes the stage. Says there’s going to be Q&A after about 15 minutes of presentation, via Gdgt.

1:07 Steve Jobs via Gdgt: “We’re not perfect. Phones aren’t perfect. We know that, you know that. But we want to make all our users happy. If you don’t know that, you don’t know Apple. We’re going to talk about how we’re going to do that.”

1:08 Apple has sold more than 3 million iPhone 4s since they went on sale just over 3 weeks ago.

1:09 Steve acknowledges the reception issues, “and this has been since dubbed antennagate,” via Gdgt. (Sorry, Steve.)

1:11 Apple is an engineering-driven company. Wants to figure out what the problem is before we fix it. Now Steve is showing off test results of other phones. The BlackBerry Bold has the same issue, according to Steve, via Gdgt. He also shows off the HTC Droid Eris dropping to zero bars from four bars.

1:13 CNBC is now showing a video of Steve’s presentation on tape delay.

1:14 “This is life in the smartphone world. Phones aren’t perfect,” via Gdgt. Steve is arguing that this is a challenge for the entire industry, just that Apple’s iPhone problem is a little more obvious. (And Apple gets a lot more attention.)

1:16 Steve now boasting about Apple’s antenna lab. Have invested over $100 million in antenna testing facilities over last 5 years, and 18 PhD scientists and engineers doing antenna design. “We knew that if you gripped it in a certain way the bars would go down a little — just like every smartphone.” Via Gdgt.

1:17 0.55% of iPhone 4 owners have called Apple about the antenna issue, via Gdgt. Ha! That’s less than 17,000 people, if you do the maths.

1:22 Now Jobs is sharing the return rate of phones. He says the iPhone 3GS’s return rate was 6%, below average. (Seems high, no?) iPhone 4 return rate is 1.7%, via Gdgt.

1:24 Steve Jobs admits that the iPhone 4 drops more calls than the iPhone 3GS. But, how many more calls per 100? Less than one call per 100. Via Gdgt. That’s nice, but how about crappy data service because of the problem?

1:27 It’s been almost half an hour, and Apple still hasn’t said anything about how they’re fixing the problem.

1:28 Steve Jobs says he has gotten over 5,000 emails from users telling him that their iPhone works fine and they can’t figure out what all the chatter is about. Wonder how he tabulated that?

1:29 Apple wants to make sure every user is happy. But only after it’s very clear that this has been blown out of proportion. Via Gdgt.

1:30 So, what’s Apple going to do about it? First, the software update, which supposedly fixed some bugs with algorithm. Then, Apple is going to give everyone a free case. Not just its own bumpers, but they’ll source some other cases, too. “You’ll pick a case, and we’ll send it off to you.” (Whoops! I was wrong about this one. But at least Apple did it in a way that’s fair to other case manufacturers, too.) You’ll be able to apply for a case on the Apple website starting late next week. And you can return your iPhone 4 for a full refund until September 30.

1:32 Apple is going to fix problem with its proximity sensor in the next update. And the white iPhone will start shipping at the end of July in limited quantities. Via Gdgt.

1:35 Jobs quote via Gdgt, “So we do all this because we love our users. And when we fall short — which we do sometimes — we try harder. We pick ourselves up, we figure out what’s wrong, and we try harder. And when we succeed, they reward us by staying our users, and that makes it all worth it.”

1:38 Now there’s a Q&A with Apple COO Tim Cook and engineering exec Bob Mansfield.

1:39 Steve, how’s your health? “I’m fine!” Was on vacation in Hawaii, but came back for this. Via Gdgt.

1:40 What will the next antenna design look like? We’re happy with this one, but maybe antenna wizards will come up with something better. Via Gdgt.

1:46 Steve Jobs craps on the Bloomberg article which said he was supposedly warned about this problem, calling it “total bullsh-t.” Bloomberg told us last night it stands by its story. Via WSJ.

1:47 Someone asks Steve for an apology. His response, paraphrased via Gdgt: To our customers who are affected by the issue, we are deeply sorry, and we are going to give you a free case or a full refund. We want investors who invest in Apple for the long haul, because they believe in us. To those investors who bought the stock and are down by $5, I have no apology. If we hit a bump in the road, it’s like having kids.

AT&T will supposedly be giving refunds on contracts if you return your phone because if this, according to Gizmodo.

1:57 Do any of the Apple execs on stage carry their phones with cases? No.

2:00 What did you learn? Good answer from Steve, via Gdgt: There are some things we know that we did learn here. One thing is how much we love our customers and how we are going to take care of them. We were stunned and upset and embarrassed by the Consumer Reports stuff, and the reason we didn’t say more is because we didn’t know enough. If we’d have done this event a week and a half ago, we wouldn’t have had half the data we have today.

2:04 Steve can’t get over how overblown this was. Asks the press for help.

2:07 “apple PR people in audience nod in agreement with Steve. gives me a kind of weird feeling…” — NYT’s John Markoff

2:11 Now Steve Jobs says NYT is making stuff up too, referring to yesterday’s article saying that a software update could totally fix the antenna problem.

Earlier: Here’s What Steve Jobs Could Announce Today