Even if the iPhone’s reception isn’t clear, Apple needs to be

image The vocal minority amplifying around the blogosphere’s echo chamber is now broadcasting across morning news shows regarding the iPhone’s alleged reception problems. There are likely steps that Apple could take to improve reception, but if this were a true defect, I think the response would be so overwhelming that you wouldn’t be able to get within 100 yards of an AT&T or Apple store.

Even retaining a degree of control that most cell phone manufacturers would give their SEND buttons for,  the iPhone is a very unusual product for Apple in that it has had to rely on partners (phone carriers) for a core part of its user experience. But of course because of Apple’s high profile and tradition of owning the customer experience, many of the fingers of blame are pointing at it. So it needs to offer an acknowledgement, an explanation, another :”open letter” — something beyond a discreet missive.

The company has set a great precedent extending service for customers struggling with MobileMe. Surely  it’s not in a position to offer similar free service for those having cell phone problems. As a relative newcomer to the cellular industry banking billions on the iPhone as a Trojan horse for OS X, Apple has too much at stake with the iPhone 3G for it to stay shrouded in a cloud of questionable reliability. And phones are too important to their consumers to deal with disappointment for long.

Wireless connectivity is what it is. Not to necessarily knock AT&T’s network quality, but the iPhone has likely attracted many newcomers to 3G (certainly from AT&T’s existing subscriber base) and, in what may be the cause of even more of the griping, switchers from Verizon Wireless and Sprint that may be used to dealing with more mature 3G wireless networks. As a company that is pioneering  the way or many new broadband wireless users, Apple is getting some arrows in its back.

Back in 2003, Steve Jobs noted that downloading music illegally was bad karma, and yet the company has consistently lambasted struggles that Vista has had, many of which have been the result of driver and other issues that are the “fault” of Microsoft’s ecosystem partners — karma indeed. If this keeps up for much longer, how long will it be before a straight-laced personification of reliability stands aside a harried deadbeat as they intone, “I’m a Nokia phone.” and.”.. and I’m an iPhone 3G.”?

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