While the iPhone 4 antenna problem, which is affectionately called “Antennagate,” has been recently confirmed by Steve Jobs on June 24 2010, it has also taken on a tune of a different sort. In what can only be viewed as an attempt to get consumers to take their eyes off of Apple’s obvious and confirmed antenna problem, Mr. Jobs’ and Apple’s advertising views have gone to new heights-or lows depending on how consumers choose to look at it.
What is the Problem?
Signal obstruction, also called attenuation, is demonstrated on a newly published web page on the Apple website and it is all about this phenomenon and the other smartphones that are allegedly guilty of Apple’s antenna problem. While the web page features the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS smartphones, the focus of the written content and photos are on how other smartphones are just as guilty of signal obstruction problems as the iPhone smartphones are.
However, instead of being seen by consumers as a friendly “Intro to Mobile Phone Signals 101,” many are seeing the page as a direct hit on how other smartphones are apparently not as good as Apple, or on the other hand, how they are just as bad. This page in conjunction with another page about Apple’s “Antenna Testing Lab” just goes to show how far Apple is willing to go to make other companies look bad.
History of Apple’s “Antennagate”
While losing antenna strength is a fact of life when using mobile devices, especially mobile phones, it was brought to the attention of Apple Inc. and consumers everywhere that Apple’s iPhone 4 had a serious flaw concerning the black and metal strip that adorns the outside of the phone’s casing. The antenna did not (and still does not) work at all when the iPhone 4 is held and the user’s hand covers the left back corner of the phone and the black strip.
While there are two antennas included within the phone’s casing, apparently the one blocked by holding the iPhone in this manner is that of the cellular reception. The problem is, many people, especially those who are left-handed, hold the phone in this manner and holding it otherwise would represent a serious comfort liability.
The “Death Grip “
Mobile phones and mobile devices receive signal even when they are held in various positions and the only problem is typically seen when the phones are held in the “death grip.” This grip is seen when a phone is held tightly with the entire back and bottom of the phone covered by the user’s hand. While the death grip does knock out bars from some phones, not all are affected and results vary according to where the phones have their antennas located within them. Additionally, when users hold larger phones, such as the Droid X and HTC HD2, they are too large to effectively grip them as shown in the Apple video of the death grip on the Droid X. How did Apple manage the Droid X test?
Examples: Other Smartphones
Other smartphones, while they certainly show signal obstruction, their limits are not as extreme as the iPhone 4. Take the Motorola Droid X, for example. A recent advertisement from Motorola states that even though Droid X uses a double antenna design just as the iPhone 4 does, users can still hold it any way they please and have excellent signal strength. This is evidenced by numerous user reviews of the Motorola Droid X during real world Motorola Droid X usage caught on video. This would seem to indicate and prove that Apple has somehow skewed the results of their smartphone antenna testing.
Additionally, RIM (Research in Motion) the makers of the Blackberry Bold 9700 that is featured on the Apple Antenna Performance web page, are currently “rejecting” the claims made by Apple. RIM CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis, in a statement released on July 16 2010 state that, “…RIM has avoided designs like the one Apple used in the iPhone 4…” in favor of antenna designs that limit these problems. RIM’s numerous antenna patents and smartphone designs prove this fact. Nokia takes a similar stance, noting that while it is certainly true that many phones held in certain positions will lose signal strength, Nokia’s antenna designs are tested in a real-world situation and proven to work in either hand.
Given Apple’s stance that the problem is how users hold the phone and not the phone itself, the company is essentially saying that the blame is on the users and their individual habits. Why should users have to compromise when the product is obviously poorly made in the first place? If Apple has in fact put so much time, effort and money into the Antenna Testing Lab as stated on the Labs web page, they should have known this would be a problem and fixed it before the iPhone’s release, period. When Mr. Jobs admitted the reception issue was a problem he apparently did not anticipate how big a problem it would eventually become.
References & Resources
“Smartphone Antenna Performance,” Apple
“iPhone 4 Case Program,” Apple
“iOS 4.0.1 Software Update,” Apple
“Apple’s Antenna Design & Test Labs,” Apple
Jason Chen, “iPhone 4 Loses Reception when You Hold it by the Antenna Band?,” Gizmodo
Apple Tosses Droid X into Antennagate, Here is Our Video,” Droid Life
Joshua Topolsky, “Apple Responds to iPhone 4 Antenna Issue: You’re Holding it the Wrong Way,” Engadget