It is not a good week to be in Apple’s shoes. After weeks of speculation that the iPhone 4 is having reception problems, well-known consumer protection group Consumer Reports has stepped forward with a video that purports to show the problem in a scientific manner.  The problem is that not only that the study may be flawed, but the way Apple is handling the situation.

iphone 4 Essentially Consumer Reports showed the signal drop happening on film in a very dramatic way, and other people involved in the industry are saying that the tests were flawed.  All of that aside, Apple has instead of standing up for itself turned to deleting message threads about the reports from their official forums.  They did eventually allow messages to stay up, but there were at least a couple incidents of thread deletions.

At this point, there is really no denying that there is a problem with the gap in the antenna bands when it comes into touch with human flesh.  Putting the phone in a case or using Apple rubber bumper bands, the problem doesn’t appear.  My thoughts are that at some point Apple is going to give out bumpers to users for free.  Although the items sell for $29, they probably cost Apple significantly less than a $1 each to make.

Why would they give them away?  Well, lets think back over the first three versions of the iPhone.  Was there ever a “bumper” released?  Nope.  Kinda makes you think Apple knew there was a problem doesn’t it?

And that’s where we end up at the public relations issues this is causing.  After the initial report came out, the Apple stock price took an immediate hit, and then out came the PR “experts”.

Cult of Mac talked with Professor Matthew Seeger, an expert in crisis communication, about the situation, and he told them, “Apple will be forced to do a recall of this product. It’s critically important. The brand image is the most important thing Apple has. This is potentially devastating.”

In the 1990’s I was heavily involved with the toy industry, and there was talks of “recalls” seemingly every other day.  The costs involved are potentially crushing to any company, and seeing as this is a major design element of the phone, fixing it wouldn’t be easy.  You know what would be easier?  Giving away those bumpers … where have I heard that idea before?  Oh yeah, a couple paragraphs ago.

Giving away the bumpers would show Apple cares, it would be a good PR move and it would cost the company millions less than a full recall.  Will they do it?  Who knows, but if the company doesn’t do something to assure its customers and share holders soon, this thing could spin wildly out of control on them.

Despite the numerous reports of reception issues with the iPhone 4, people continue to buy it, and will continue to do so, but the company needs to step up and own up to its responsibilities.  Will they?  Only time will tell, but even Apple has to have a breaking point when it comes to bad PR.

What say you?  Can Apple recover from this?