Hold the iPhone: A Livestrong fix for touchy new devices

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Livestrong armbandIf you’ve been dealing with the new iPhone 4’s tricky antenna reception — or just sitting back and enjoying the irony, as I have — you probably know that Apple wants users of the device to fork over $30 more to get a rubber “bumper” case that purportedly solves the problem by shielding the sensitive area on the bottom left.

But BusinessWeek reports that several websites are recommending iPhowners save their money, and support a worthy cause, by using Livestrong armbands instead.

The yellow gel bracelets, sold by cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong’s nonprofit foundation to raise funds for cancer research and support, come in $10 10-packs, and, according to techies, make an acceptable substitute for Apple’s accessory.

For my part, I believe Apple has behaved abominably in this case. CEO Steve Jobs has belittled a significant problem with his expensive product, insulting his customers — and, as they don’t appear to care, they probably deserve what they get. Apple blamed customers for the problem, telling them they were holding the phone wrong. Now the company says a software glitch is causing the devices to show too many bars representing signal strength, and that a patch is in the works.

I’m no fan of Lance Armstrong and his many questionable choices, either — and I wonder whether many people who wear those little yellow bracelets are doing so for principled reasons rather than to appear more fashionable than those who don’t. The bands were created by Nike’s ad agency and were once so popular that they were being sold by online profiteers. It’s a fad that has spawned countless imitators, littering the marketplace with items of questionable value.

But I hope that rather than buying into Apple’s $30 “fix,” iPhone users will re-evaluate their dedication to an uncaring corporation in the long run, and consider supporting a good cause to work around the signal problem in the short term, while saving a few bucks along the way.

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