SAN FRANCISCO - Apple chief executive Steve Jobs has apologised to buyers of the new iPhone who experienced reception problems and offered free cases that help fix the issue.
Dow Jones newswire quoted Jobs, speaking at a press conference for invited journalists at Apple headquarters, as acknowledging that the iPhone 4 drops more calls than previous models but said the issue had been overblown.
Some iPhone 4 users have complained that they lose reception when covering the lower left corner of the phone, whose unusual antenna wraps completely around the device.
Jobs said Apple will provide free rubber bumpers to iPhone 4 owners that some have said help remedy the problem and refund buyers who already purchased the cases which fit around the phone. The cases cost around US$30.
Jobs played down the seriousness of the issue saying other smartphones experience antenna problems and the iPhone 4's had been blown "so out of proportion, it's incredible."
He said the iPhone 4 had received the highest customer satisfaction ever for an iPhone but admitted "we're not perfect."
"To customers that are having problems, I apologise to them," Jobs said, adding that he would not apologise to investors who bought Apple stock and are "down five dollars."
Jobs said Apple had sold more than three million iPhone 4s since the device was launched three weeks ago and that only 0.55 per cent of buyers had called Apple support about the reception issues.
Jobs said only 1.7 per cent of US buyers had returned their iPhone 4 to US carrier AT&T, less than a third of the return rate for the previous model, the iPhone 3GS.
Jobs also repeated an explanation made previously that Apple had "screwed up" with an algorithm that shows the signal strength on the phone.
Apple initially responded to signal strength complaints by telling owners of its latest generation iPhone to be mindful of how they hold the handsets.
That failed to quell the negative publicity, however, and Consumer Reports, the influential product review magazine, said last week it could not recommend the iPhone 4 because of signal loss problems it blamed on a design flaw.
"We were stunned and embarassed" by the Consumer Reports review, Jobs said.
Apple earlier this month said it had used erroneous formulas to calculate signal strength for the iPhone 4 and promised to issue a free software patch to resolve the issue that has already triggered lawsuits.
Apple has sold more than 50 million iPhones since the device made its debut in 2007 and Jobs said Friday that the iPhone 4 was its best-selling model ever.
Apple shares were trading slightly higher following Jobs' announcement and were up 0.27 per cent in New York at US$252.13.
The iPhone 4 notably features a higher resolution screen and "FaceTime," which uses a forward facing camera to enable video chat.