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Jobs Fixated on iPhone 4 Design, Ignored Antenna Concerns, Source Says

Steve Jobs was aware of the iPhone 4’s antenna woes and forged forward anyway, anonymous sources have told the Wall Street Journal. But flustered owners still won’t get a recall at tomorrow’s press event.

An eleventh-hour article in the Journal confirms an earlier report that senior engineers within Apple raised red flags about the iPhone 4’s perimeter antenna. Jobs himself, the source claims, was aware that such an antenna could be problematic, but ran with it because he was so enamored with the design.

Failed Fail-Safes

Why didn’t company testers discover the flaw when prototypes – like the one “procured” by Gizmodo and splayed open for all the Web to see – entered the wild? They all wore disguises, which, like the bumper cases Apple now recommends as a remedy to reception woes, prevented the signal issue from manifesting.

Although carriers perform their own independent testing with phones prior to adopting, Apple’s excessively long veil of secrecy apparently tripped up that process as well. The Journal’s source claims that Apple gave AT&T only a small time window and limited batch of devices to test with on its network as an added countermeasure to discovery.

No Recall for You

The result of all this Pentagon-style security is now playing out as iPhone 4 users across the country report dropped calls and poor reception with their devices. Although Apple will convene a press conference tomorrow, the Wall Street Journal claims that the recall some analysts have predicted simply won’t happen.

More optimistically for disgruntled iPhone 4 owners, noted (and historically reliable) Apple commentator John Gruber claims on his blog Daring Fireball, “I think something big, or at least biggish, is going down tomorrow.” Gruber also implies, boldly enough, that the Journal’s source was Apple itself, attempting to downplay expectations for the event.

Bumpers as Band-Aids

The potential middle ground between a murmured apology and a full-blown recall could lie with distributing free “bumper” cases as a remedy, which Apple currently sells for $30 apiece. The offer of a refund for owners who don’t find the solution or existing performance acceptable could also assuage criticism without incurring the cost of an actual recall.

Digital Trends will cover tomorrow’s Apple’s press conference, which begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. Pacific time.