Rivals hit back at Apple after iPhone claims

Two of Asia’s biggest technology groups on Monday hit back at Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, who claimed on Friday that the connectivity problems with the iPhone 4 were common to other smartphones.

Mr Jobs struck a defiant tone on Friday when he grudgingly apologised for the antennae problems on the latest iPhone, which can lead to dropped calls.

He said Apple had been singled out for criticism because of its success and showed video that highlighted similar problems on a BlackBerry by Research in Motion, a Samsung Windows phone and a HTC Android phone.

However, HTC and Samsung, both significant smartphone manufacturers, on Monday rebuked Mr Jobs, echoing comments made by RIM at the weekend.

“Apple should look to its own problems”, Hui-Meng Cheng, HTC chief financial officer, told reporters. “The reception problems are certainly not common among smartphones.”

Meanwhile, Samsung said reception problems with its phone cited by Mr Jobs at a press conference “have not happened so far, and there is no room for such problems to happen in the future”.

Industry experts said that the videos shown by Apple on Friday were less than scientific tests and that user complaints were more common with Apple.

“It’s hard for people to replicate that,” Canalys analyst Chris Jones said of the demonstrations.

Apple has, for the first time, placed an antenna on the outside edge of the phone, making it more likely to be touched.

Other manufacturers generally keep the antenna inside with other components, even though that means their phones are bigger.

“Apple’s attempt to draw RIM into Apple’s self-made debacle is unacceptable”, RIM said at the weekend, noting that its customers do not need cases for their BlackBerrys to function, a reference to the remedy to the problem suggested by Apple.

“Apple’s claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public’s understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple’s difficult situation.”

Mr Jobs on Friday said that Apple would give free bumpers and other insulating cases to iPhone 4 customers at least until the end of September, when it promised to revisit the issue.

Analysts who predicted on Friday that Apple’s response would cool the matter have grown more concerned with the backlash since, saying that the aggressive defence could prolong the debate.

“He was not nearly as conciliatory as we had expected,” Sanford Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi wrote to clients Monday, adding that such “hubris” risks “alienating customers [and shareholders] over time”.

Apple’s shares fell 2.6 per cent in New York to $243.31.

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