iPhone 4: Hiccups, problems no match for features, popularity

CUPERTINO, CA (WCSC) - What started last Thursday with lines that ranged from a dozen to several thousand deep has turned into another record for Apple and Steve Jobs who reported Monday the company sold 1.7 million iPhone 4s in its first three days of world-wide sales.

The sales figures and first-day fervor were preceded by a record-setting 600,000 phone pre-orders the week before. The numbers so far have made the phone's release the most successful product launch in the company's history.

And that is just for the black version of the phone. Apple has a white version that has yet to be released. The company says it has targeted mid-July for the white version's release.

The report from Apple bested their previous sales record that was associated with the iPhone 3GS, the previous version of the popular phone, which reached 1 million sold in its first week.

However, the phone has not been without its problems. Demand for the phone was so great, pre-orders sold out within hours June 15, a feat that was both surprising and somewhat amazing considering the number of problems consumers had making it through the online order process. The day was marked by complaints of both Apple's and AT&T's websites being unresponsive. However, by 4 p.m. EST, all of the pre-orders had been filled and AT&T had announced the phone would not be available for regular sales until June 29.

The pre-orders and first-day sales so overwhelmed Apple and AT&T, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs issued an apology for the problems consumers were experiencing in trying to get the phone.

To make matters worse, within hours of the phone going into the hands of consumers, problems were logged across the web on social media sites, forums and tech blogs. The primary problem being reported is with the antenna, which is built into the stainless steel body. When the bottom half of the phone is covered up, users say their phones' signal drops out completely.

Previous versions of Apple's iPhone have been criticized for dropped calls and signal quality, much of it being attributed to AT&T, the only mobile carrier in the U.S. with rights to the phone.

The signal problem has been so pronounced in the opening days of the iPhone 4's life that the company issued a statement Friday suggesting users not hold the phone in a way that would cover the bottom left side of the phone or that they buy a "bumper" for the phone for $30.

However, the features of the new phone seem to far outweigh the drawbacks for the millions that have, or are trying to get, the iPhone 4.

The iPhone 4 is sleeker and more advanced than the original iPhone that came out in 2007. Like the iPhone 3GS, it comes in black or white, though it has a more angular look. Its front and back are covered with a tempered glass that is reportedly much stronger than the plastic previous versions of the phone are using.

It is about three-eighths of an inch thick; the iPhone 3GS is nearly half an inch. It can shoot high-definition video, catching up to some other smart phones. It has a gyroscope in addition to other sensors, to enable more advanced motion-sensing applications, such as games and mapping services.

The display on the iPhone remains 3.5 inches diagonally, but Jobs noted that it can show four times as many pixels - the individual colored dots that make up an image - as the previous screen. That makes for a sharper appearance.

One of the most noticeable changes is the iPhone's new camera on the front that can be used for videoconferencing, in addition to a five-megapixel camera and a flash on the back. For now, the videoconferencing function, FaceTime, works only if both parties to the call have an iPhone 4 and are connected over Wi-Fi rather than a cell phone network. Jobs indicated that FaceTime will eventually work over cellular networks, saying Apple needs to "work a little bit" with wireless providers to make it "ready for the future."

The battery on the new iPhone allows up to seven hours of talk time -- an improvement over five hours on the last model. It can handle up to six hours of Web browsing over cellular networks or 10 hours over Wi-Fi.

The phone also has twice the RAM of the iPad, making it the fastest mobile product the company has released to date.

In the wake of the phone's debut, companies are lining up to make new HD offerings for the platform. Popular online video streaming website Hulu.com announced Tuesday it would be offering a $10 per month service to stream the company's content to the iPhone, iPad and a user's TV. Netflix has updated their app to allow users to watch streaming content from the point it was paused on their TV.

And now, Bloomberg is reporting the phone will be available on the Verizon network in January, 2011. While the rumor of Apple's spread to Verizon is hardly the first, Bloomberg claims to have insider information. The largest hurdle for the merger is making the phone compatible with Verizon's network.

Jobs debuted the phone at the company's annual conference for software developers June 7, which costs $199 or $299 in the U.S. with a two-year AT&T contract, depending on the capacity. The iPhone 3GS, which debuted last year, will still be available, for $99.

Some of the mystery surrounding the phone had been punctured in April, when the tech news blog Gizmodo bought a lost iPhone prototype for $5,000 and posted pictures of the unit. Apple demanded it back, and authorities have been investigating whether a Gizmodo editor broke any laws.

Copyright 2010 WCSC. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.