I would expect Apple to recognize the problem, when they will be able to say (honestly): "Now it has been fixed".
The solution may be already there, but manufacturing is a much more inertial machine than engineering ! It will take some time.
Nokia representative, could have added: we could fix it for Apple, we have the proven skills.
Apple is succeeding at turning a small frustration into a PR disaster due to ego and obfuscation. They are used to dealing with a loyal fan base that ignores minor defects; but a communication subsystem problem in a cellphone is not a minor defect and cellphones are not marketed only to the loyal fan base. This seemingly also highlights that industrial design, PDA, apps, web access and other functions have equal or higher priority than the cellphone function in the iPhone priorities list within Apple.
I cannot imagine an engineer's opinion trumping Steve Jobs' or any other CEOs when discussing design aesthetics versus design constraints. The boss is the CEO, period. We don't know what the process is like at Apple. It is possible all voices were heard during deliberations on the iPhone and the group decided to go with the current design because it was their best option by far.
I believe Apple did what the company felt was their best move in this situation and many of the iPhone users are still happy with their equipment. The next version of the company will no doubt be better, although a different problem may arise.
Apple just won't give up on its claim that all smartphones have antenna problems. They have posted videos on YouTube supposedly showing the "death grip" problem occurring on several smartphones, including the Motorola Droid X, Nokia N97 mini and Samsung Omnia II.
Jobs, has been riding a gift wave since re-taking the helm and returning Apple to creative thinking.
He found himself not wanting to kill the cow. Ego before intellectual honesty.
I do conformal antenna design work like this, and felt a cold chill come over me when the initial discussion came out regarding the antenna design a few months back. We have yet to design a good antenna for an all metal case, that couples with one of the best RF insulators around..human flesh.
The designer had to be at his wits end..knowing he had to deliver a design with these operating/design constraints. I'm sure there were interesting discussions about reality during design conference calls in regards to the cosmetics vs effective radiator conundrum...they chose pretty over works.
You are right to say Apple is playing a dangerous game. The primary aim of owning a mobile phone is to be able to make phone calls under reasonable cellular coverage without experiencing dropped calls.
I have owned various Nokia phones over time and I feel Nokia phones have the best reception. Steve Jobs should just deal with this problem and quit being defensive. The 3 million or so iPhone 4G users can't all be wrong.
Why doesn't Apple "come clean" with this problem? In the engineering world, technical problems must be immediately acknowledged which is then followed by management announcing how they will keep customers happy (recall, refund, etc). Failure to do this can even turn a spotless company like Toyota into an apparent corporate pirate.
With respect to Apple, first they claimed "customers were holding the phone incorrectly", then they claimed "the bars algorithm had a bug", then they claimed "all phones have antenna problems" (which isn't true), now they say that only some customers are having problems.
Initially they told complaining customers "don't hold it that way", then they tried to "sell a 29 cent bumper for 29 dollars", finally they decided to give away the bumper for free. Things would have gone better for Apple if they would have been honest right from the get-go. Thankfully "Apple Acolytes" (paying members of the Apple religion) continued to purchase the product whether the phone portion worked properly or not. Now Apple needs to wonder what the sales would have been like if they came clean immediately.
So here is the "Coles Notes" version of their problem: the iPhone4 is 25% thinner than their previous product. To do this, Apple moved two internal antennas (telephony and Wi-Fi) to the left and right outer edges. When you hold the phone a certain way, the moisture in your hand will short one antenna into the other.
How did this happen? Like Nike, Apple is now a design shop so "where was the engineering and subsequent testing performed?" Did Apple assume that Foxconn engineers in China would do testing or did Foxconn assume the iphone4 would be properly tested in California? Who knows? Maybe Steve Jobs put too much pressure on the engineers in order to get the iphone4 out sooner. We probably won't know the truth for years.
This is typical of a company that moves into a new product space. Apple is still learning how to make a quality phone. When you have been making cell phones for decades, you have already been burned by these kinds of issues and your process ensures that they don't happen again. Apple is great at new designs and ideas. They have a product with great features. Now they just have to learn how to ensure the quality and robustness that the industry demands.