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“It’s like finding a dream home but then finding a leak in the basement,” Gikas said.

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst for Gartner Inc., said she believes Jobs‘ early e-mail was an atypical public-relations blunder on Apple’s part.

“Reception is pretty crucial. You can’t tell people, ‘You can’t hold the phone that way,’” Milanesi said.

A year or two ago, his comments might have prompted jokes, she said. But now, Apple is the world’s largest technology company by market capitalization, and Jobs‘ remarks are being perceived as arrogant. But while that could turn off new customers, Milanesi thinks most people won’t recall this flap when it comes time to buy an iPhone 4 _ more likely, they’ll be agonizing over whether to buy the white or black model.

Brian Marshall, a Gleacher & Co. analyst who is typically very positive about Apple, was horrified when Apple said it had used a bad formula for calculating signal strength.

“That, to me, is atrocious,” Marshall said. “It’s so un-Apple-like. It shows a lack of attention to detail. Apple is a company that doesn’t mess things up.”

But neither Marshall nor Milanesi see the matter hurting Apple in the long run, even though its shares slipped about 2 percent to close Tuesday at $251.80.

Marshall said the most likely scenario is that Apple does nothing beyond the software update it promised. Offering free cases or issuing a recall would amount to Apple admitting a problem.

“I don’t believe for a second that they’re shipping what they view as a faulty product,” Marshall said.

Even if Apple does go beyond a software update, it’s not likely to hurt the company.

“We think $100 million here and there for a bumper or maybe a recall is a drop in the bucket for Apple,” Standard & Poor’s equity analyst Clyde Montevirgen said. “Sure, it might affect the company on a headline level, but from a financial standpoint we really don’t see much of an impact.”

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Schectman reported from New York. AP Online Video Producer Luke Sheridan contributed to this report.