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Steve Jobs apologizes to Apple customers while taking shots at the media

by Eric Benderoff

Steve Jobs held a lengthy question and answer session with reporters after he announced that iPhone 4 customers would receive a free case or a full-refund to help alleviate the phone's reception issues. During questioning, Jobs reiterated that Apple (AAPL) makes mistakes.

"We are not perfect, and we are working our asses off" to fix this problem, he said.

He also issued an apology to Apple customers.

"To our customers who are affected by the issue, we are deeply sorry, and we are going to give you a free case or a full refund," Jobs said, according to a live transcript of the press conference by gdgt.

He then addressed Apple investors: "We want investors who invest in Apple for the long haul, because they believe in us," Jobs said. "To those investors who bought the stock and are down by $5 (per share), I have no apology."

Apple's stock dropped by $5 a share on Tuesday after Consumer Reports said it would not recommend the phone due to the antenna issue. That sharp drop lead to a $5 billion loss in market cap for Apple on Tuesday. So far, investors seem to like what they are hearing from Jobs, as Apple's share price has risen by about $1.25 on Friday, to $252.70 in very active trading. (See more investor reaction and real time updates here.)

"We were stunned and upset and embarrassed by the Consumer Reports stuff, and the reason we didn’t say more is because we didn’t know enough," Jobs said. "If we’d had done this event a week and a half ago, we wouldn’t have had half the data we have today."

As the press conference neared an end, Jobs became increasingly defensive.

"I look at this and think 'wow', " he said. "Apple has been around 30 years. Haven’t we earned the credibility and trust that we’re going to take care of our users? We weren’t just innocents in this. But the reaction has been so overblown.

"I guess it’s just human nature, when you see someone get successful you just want to tear it down," he continued.

"I see it happening with Google (GOOG). Google is a great company. Look at everything they’ve created. Would you prefer we were a Korean company? Do you not like the fact that we’re an American company leading the world right here," Jobs asked.

"Of course we’re human, of course we’ll make mistakes. But sometimes I feel that in search of eyeballs for these websites, people don’t care about what they leave in their wake," Jobs said. "We’re an engineering company, we think like engineers, and we think it’s the right way to solve real, hard problems. I don’t think the fact that we love our customers is going to change at all. I don’t think we could run any faster — we’ve had cots in the labs, cars in the parking lots all night, we’ve been living here."

Jobs was also asked if he oversold expecations for the iPhone 4 when he introduced the product in June.

"I’ve thought about that a lot," he said. "We didn’t fully understand if there were problems at that point. We might have set the expectation that smartphones have weak spots… but the fact is, most smartphones seem to have the same characteristic as the iPhone 4. If you grip them in a certain way they lose signal strength dramatically, especially in a low signal strength area. And one of the things we’ve learned is that as a leader in the smartphone world now, we need to educate. So what we needed was data. And now we’ve got some and we’re sharing it now."

Jobs said that Apple will look at new antenna designs. But also said he believes that the antenna problem is not a real problem.

"I don’t know what our next antenna design will be," Jobs said. "Maybe our wizards in the antenna lab will come up with something better. But looking at the data, we don’t think we have a problem."

Jobs then addressed reports that he knew about the faulty antenna design before releasing the phone. Both Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal have reported stories quoting anonymous sources.

"I assume you’re referring to the Bloomberg article?," he responded. "Yeah, it’s a crock. What’s portrayed in that article never came across my consciousness, and I talked to Reuben [presumably an Apple employee] and he agrees it’s total (BS)."

He also took a stab at the New York Times, after being asked about a report Friday that an additional software fix may be forthcoming.

"We just spent the last hour going through how the iPhone 4 drops only 1 more call per hundred than the 3GS," Jobs said. "Go talk to the Times, because you guys talk to yourselves a lot, and they’re just making this stuff up."

Addressing his health, which lead to a hiatus last year from his role as Apple CEO, Jobs said he was "fine. I was on vacation in Hawaii, but this was important enough to come back for. I’m fine."