The launch of the iPhone 4 has been uncharacteristically full of unscripted moments. To name a few, the first glimpse of the phone came when an Apple employee lost a prototype of the device in a bar; the Wi-Fi network crashed during Steve Jobs’ unveiling of the device; and there have been widespread complaints about the iPhone 4’s antenna, which was recently declared faulty by Consumer Reports.
Here’s a timeline of the iPhone 4’s bumpy road, from the Gizmodo leak in April to its review by Consumer Reports.
April 19: Gizmodo announces it has landed a prototype of the iPhone 4, featuring a front-facing camera, steel-band antenna and improved display. The prototype, which turns out to be the real deal, was lost in a Redwood City, Calif., bar by Apple software engineer Gray Powell, who was celebrating his 27th birthday. Gizmodo paid $5,000 for the device; the tech blog eventually returns it after Apple asks for it back on the record.
April 26: Police raid Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen’s apartment, seizing four computers and two servers. Although Gizmodo returned the device, it didn’t stop Apple from telling authorities there had been a theft. No charges have been filed in the case and the legality of the search warrant police used to enter Chen’s apartment is being questioned by Gizmodo publisher Gawker Media, which argues California Penal Code protects journalists from being forced to disclose sources.
June 7: Things are relatively quiet until Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference in June, when Steve Jobs formally unveils the iPhone 4, featuring front- and back-facing cameras, high-resolution retina display, FaceTime video chat and a steel band antenna that would later prove problematic. Jobs’ presentation goes fine until the Wi-Fi crashes because of the amount of Internet users in the auditorium, forcing him to ask the audience to go offline.
June 16: Apple and AT&T say their websites ran into errors amid a flood of pre-orders, which hit 600,000 on the first day alone. AT&T says first-day iPhone 4 pre-orders were 10 times higher than those for the iPhone 3GS in 2009. The problems came one week after the e-mail addresses and ICC IDs of 114,000 iPad customers were exposed by a security hole on AT&T’s Web application for the tablet.
June 22: AT&T says the iPhone 4 won’t be available in stores until June 29, five days after it officially goes on sale. Those who managed to pre-order the device on June 15 will get the device around June 24.
June 23: Apple says white models of the iPhone 4 won’t be available until the second half of July after the devices prove more challenging to manufacture.
June 24: The iPhone 4 goes on sale at Apple stores and appears to be a hit, with long lines greeting customers. Almost immediately, complaints begin rolling in about the device’s antenna, which loses almost all connectivity when touched at the bottom left-hand corner. The problem can be remedied with duct tape or a plastic cover like the rubber bumpers Apple is selling for the device.
June 28: Apple says it has sold more than 1.7 million iPhone 4 devices just three days after its launch, which Jobs calls “the most successful product launch in Apple’s history.”
July 1: The first lawsuit is filed over the iPhone 4 antenna. The suit alleges that AT&T and Apple knowingly distributed a device with a faulty antenna.
July 2: In a statement to its customers, Apple largely dismisses complaints about the iPhone 4 antenna, saying that “gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars.” The company instead claims the loss in connectivity is tied to inaccurate software that causes the device to overstate signal strength by two bars. Apple says it will adopt AT&T’s recommended formula for signal strength bars in a software update which also will make the first three signal strength bars taller. The company maintains that the iPhone 4’s wireless performance is the “best we have ever shipped.”
July 7: AT&T says a software problem with some of its Alcatel-Lucent network equipment is slowing uplink speeds for a fraction of its 3G HSUPA devices, including the iPhone 4. The carrier says the uplink problem affects less than two percent of AT&T’s wireless subscribers and is only triggered “under certain conditions.”
July 12: Consumer Reports says independent tests have confirmed that there is a problem with the iPhone 4 antenna and declines to recommend the device to its readers, instead referring them to the iPhone 3GS. The consumer goods rating company questions Apple’s explanation for the problem and says AT&T’s network “might not be the primary suspect” for the iPhone 4’s poor cellular reception. That same day, a federal judge rules a lawsuit against Apple and AT&T over their exclusivity agreement on the iPhone can move forward as a class action.