Death Grip Strangling iPhone’s Momentum?

Inplace #2

appleDo you hear it in the wind? That haunting moan that wafts across the Internet, chilling Apple fanboys and fangirls everywhere: “iPhone 4 recall…”

Even David Letterman has joined the media pile-on around the iPhone’s issues, dedicating a riotously funny “Top 10” to the subject:

Apple has announced a last-minute press conference tomorrow at 10 a.m. PST regarding the iPhone 4. This comes in the wake of a Consumer Reports article confirming a much complained about reception issue with a spot on the phone’s lower left side — when a user touches the area, signal degrades immensely and connection can easily be lost. It’s called the “death grip.”

Considering how often AT&T drops calls anyway (especially in NYC), that’s just insult to injury.

The reception issue can be solved with the addition of a Bumper, a plastic and rubber frame that Apple sells for $29.99. Handing those out to iPhone purchasers seems a lot cheaper than a recall, but no other details have emerged about the press conference — only that Steve Jobs, who lost points with Apple users for telling them they were holding it wrong, will give the podium over to the far more popular Old Spice guy, who will conduct the press conference the Apple locker room dressed only in a towel.

But will this whole debacle discourage people from purchasing iPhones — and turn them to the Android side? According to the latest survey by ChangeWave, completed June 24, 16.4% of the 4,028 respondents are planning to buy a smartphone in the next 90 days — the highest percentage reported by ChangeWave and huge jump over March’s 10.8%. More than half of that group had their eyes on an iPhone 4, which was released between the surveys. In March, that group only made up 30%.

HTC, maker of the Droid Incredible and other Android-powered devices, also showed notable growth between surveys, bumping up to 19% from 12%. However, both Motorola and BlackBerry took serious dives — Motorola dipped from 16% to 9% and BlackBerry fell from 14% to 6%. Still, that’s better than Palm, which registered a big fat zero.

The momentum was with Apple as consumers saw all the neat-o features of the iPhone 4, but certainly the “death grip” fiasco has made many have second thoughts. HTC’s Android phones have proved a hit, with both the Droid Incredible and the EVo 4G reportedly out-of or in limited stock. Plus the Motorola Droid 2 is awaiting release — I’m curious whether ChangeWave’s numbers will dramatically shift in HTC’s and Motorala’s favor by the next quarter. However, I doubt they will topple Apple just yet.

Whatever the issues with the iPhone 4, Apple is not stalling in upping the rivalry with Google. Breaking news is that Cupertino’s finest has acquired mapping company Poly9, known for its Flash-based (oh the irony) FreeEarth globe visualizer. The company has also built APIs for the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo and MSNBC. As Apple also purchased map tech firm Placebase last July, my spider sense is tingling regarding an Apple alternative to Google Maps.

On a side note, the viral marketing for Old Spice involving the towel-clad Isiah Mustafa has been brilliant — what a way to blend consumer interaction through social media (in near real-time!), video and absurdist humor.