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Apple swaps good iPhones for bad, say fanbois

Jobs says nothing — until Friday

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Updated Today's rumeur du jour concerning Apple's ongoing antennagate fiasco: Cupertino has secretly fixed the Jobsian handset's Death Grip defect, and is now quietly collecting the bad phones and replacing them with good ones.

This is the type of tinfoil-hatted twaddle that could only be inspired by the actions of a company as secretive as the one ensconced in the impenetrable fortress of One Infinite Loop, Cupertino, California.

The most outlandish aspect of this rumor is that it just might be true.

On Tuesday, Gizmodo reported that a single reader had told them that his replacement phone performed better than his original one. "While I can't say for sure that it is entirely fixed," he wrote, "there is certainly huge improvement."

What's more: "The stainless steel band on the new phone is less 'steel-y' and more matte." And: "The black [plastic] bezel isn't as black on the new one. I couldn't see the proximity sensor at all on the previous iPhone 4, now I can."

After publishing that reader's message, Gizmodo asked any other readers who had experienced a similarly successful swapperoo to drop them a note. On Wednesday, the responses arrived, and among iPhone 4 replacement receivers, the consensus appears to be that in many cases, their new phones had significant differences when compared to their old phones.

Multiple respondents reported improved reception. Others reported a now-visible proximity sensor and a more matte-finished wraparound antenna. Some, however, reported no cosmetic changes and no reception improvements.

Hmm... Has Apple fixed the iPhone 4's Death Grip by, say, insulating the antenna and updating the firmware, kept that fix a secret, and is now trading fixed phones for flawed phones in what Gizmodo has ominously termed the "iPhone 4 Silent Recall"? Hmm...

Or — as would be true if Occam's Razor were applied — is there simply a big ol' bad batch of iPhone 4s out there with faulty antenna insulation (or none at all) that is causing this whole imbroglio by being distributed alongside a big ol' good batch?

That scenario would help explain why some folks are experiencing no problems with their iPhone 4s, while others find themselves saddled with on-the-blinking, on-the-fritzing Judas Phones.

If this good-phone/bad-phone scenario is correct, it makes no difference whether that difference is caused by a hasty and intentional manufacturing fix or merely by unintentional manufacturing variables: if Apple knows which iPhone 4s are good and which are bad, it should publish the serial numbers of the affected phones, and make the swap official.

And if the scenario is correct but Apple doesn't know that it has distributed a large number of Judas Phones, well, that says something about their quality control and supplier-management practices, doesn't it?

Surely Apple's geniuses have by now collected enough malfunctioning iPhone 4s at the company's brick and mortar stores for One Infinite Loop's engineers to have made an assessment of their demonstrable defects. Apple, it must be assumed, now knows the answer to this mystery, but they — surprise! — aren't talking.

To paraphrase Tex Avery's carrot-chewing, wisecracking Lapin Agile, "Eh...what's up, Steve?" ®

Update

Late Wednesday afternoon Pacific time, Apple let it be known that it would hold a press conference on Friday morning, presumably to discuss the iPhone 4's reception difficulties and ... well ... we don't know. The Reg has requested an invitation — but we're not holding our breath.

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