iPhone faults force Apple exec to leave

ONE of Apple’s top executives has left the company in the wake of antenna problems that marred the release of the iPhone 4.

The firm refused to say whether Mark Papermaster, who was senior vice president of devices hardware, was ousted or whether he left of his own accord. However, he would have been responsible for the phone’s problematic antenna.

A statement from Apple confirmed Papermaster’s departure, and said Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Macintosh hardware engineering, would assume his responsibilities.

Apple launched the iPhone 4, its latest must-have smartphone, to much fanfare in June. But almost immediately after it went on sale customers said the phone would lose signal and even cut out if they held it in a particular way.

The firm’s response to the fault was widely criticised, after it recommended that users buy a case or hold the phone differently.

Apple boss Steve Jobs eventually had to call a press conference on 16 July to defend the iPhone 4 and promise a free case to fix the problem. Papermaster was conspicuously absent from the press conference, leading to speculation over his future.

Apple hired Papermaster in October 2008 from IBM, where he had worked for 25 years. At the time, IBM stalled his appointment, arguing that he had signed a non-compete agreement that prevented him working for rivals.

APPLE may have overtaken Microsoft as the world’s largest tech firm by market cap, but the fallout from antenna-gate has been a costly wake-up call for the golden boy of the geek world.

Steve Jobs will hope the departure of Mark Papermaster will help to draw a line under the problems with its latest launch. But the saga has highlighted a fundamental shift in the way Apple as a firm is viewed. No longer an underdog, it now has a vast, aggressive flock of vultures circling in the hope of spotting even the slightest mistake.

The impact this can have was demonstrated in no uncertain terms when a negative review from an influential US consumer magazine cut $6bn (£3.8bn) from the firm’s share price overnight.

With its famously small product range, Apple is especially exposed to attack if problems arise. Antenna-gate will pass but this is a stark warning.

Steve Dinneen