EnGenius Technologies announced at CES today a new line of 802.11n Wi-Fi router that the company claims are optimized for range and bandwidth-intensive consumer applications, such as VoIP calls, videoconferencing and media streaming. One of the features we find most interesting is something that router manufacturers seem to be moving away from: detachable—and therefore upgradeable—antennas.
Consumer Reports today said that Verizon's CDMA iPhone 4 suffers from dropped calls just like AT&T's GSM version. This discovery runs contrary to several previous reports suggesting that Apple managed to fix the iPhone 4's antenna issue by slightly altering the design, but ultimately "shares with its sibling the possibility of compromised performance in low-signal conditions when used without a bumper or case." Should you be concerned?
Apple is doing everything it can to deflect attention away from the iPhone 4's janky antenna design, like calling out other smartphone makers for supposedly being in the same boat, including Motorola and the Droid X. To be fair, Motorola (and Verizon) fired off the first marketing missile by taking out a full page spread in The New York Times earlier this month taking digs at the iPhone 4 in the small print.
Now Motorola has begun rolling out a second ad, and this time, the company is blasting Apple's iPhone 4 in large print by titling it's second spread "NO JACKET REQUIRED." The rest of it goes like this:
"At Motorola, we believe a customer shouldn't have to dress up their phone for it work properly. That's why the Droid X comes with a dual antenna design. The kind that allows you to hold the phone any way you like to make crystal clear calls without a bulky phone jacket. For us it's just one of those things that comes as a given when you've been making mobile phones for over 30 years."
Ouch. It will be interesting to see how, or even if Apple responds.
Apple took a pretty risky approach by pointing the finger at competitors in response to perceived antenna issues on the iPhone 4, and both RIM and Nokia are fighting back. According to Blackberry manufacturer Research In Motion: "Apple's attempt to draw RIM into Apple's self-made debacle is unacceptable. Apple's claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public's understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple's difficult situation." The strongly worded statement urges Apple to take responsibility for their poor design decisions, and reminds everyone they don't need a case to get the most out of a Blackberry.
Nokia wasn't specifically named by Apple at the press conference, but they still took advantage of the situation to remind everyone that antenna design is the most important design consideration they make. "In general, antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held. That's why Nokia designs our phones to ensure acceptable performance in all real life cases, for example when the phone is held in either hand. Nokia has invested thousands of man hours in studying how people hold their phones and allows for this in designs, for example by having antennas both at the top and bottom of the phone and by careful selection of materials and their use in the mechanical design." The most damning statement in Nokia's release was "we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict."
Steve Jobs may have believed that he could take the spotlight off the iPhone problems by naming a few competitors with the same issue, but all he did was draw a bullseye on his back attracting the ire of some pretty big names within the wireless industry. Gutsy move.
Apple has been mostly silent on the issue of the reported iPhone 4 antenna issues, but in a press conference today, Jobs responded. Apple didn't really apologize for the whole problem, but they admitted it was happening. To appease customers that have had a hard time with reception, Apple will be sending out free cases to all interested parties. There will be a sign up page later next week.
It didn't take long after the smartphone came out for users to notice that covering the gap between the two antennas caused a precipitous drop in signal. It seems that after Consumer Reports decided against recommending the phone, Apple decided to take action. In addition to the free cases (which will be from a number of manufacturers, as Apple can't make Bumpers fast enough), those that bought Bumper can get a refund, and keep the Bumper.
It's nice that Apple is willing to do something. We were half expecting Steve Jobs to get up on stage and tell everyone to go pound sand. But it still seems crazy to us that Apple let the desire for great design get in the way of the functionality. The result is just that too many consumers will have to cover up the great design anyway. Let us know if you think Apple blew it, or saved themselves.
By now everyone's heard about the iPhone 4's controversial antenna problem, which Steve Jobs has labeled as a "non-issue." But while this is all relatively recent news to consumers, an Apple engineer claims he warned Jobs during the early design phase of the iPhone 4 that dropped calls was going to be a strong possibility, Bloomberg reports.
This isn't just any Apple engineer either, but a senior antenna expert in Apple's ranks who, according to Bloomberg's anonymous source, foresaw the scenario now being played out.
"Last year, Ruben Caballero, a senior engineer and antenna expert, informed Apple's management the device's design may cause recpetion problems, said the person, who is not authorized to speak on Apple's behalf and asked not to be identified," Bloomberg reports.
Bloomberg goes on to say that a carrier partner also raised concerns about the antenna before its June 24 release. By all indications, this is something that could and should have been avoided, but then again, we'd be left without entertaining quips, both from Jobs himself (telling users they're holding the phone wrong), and from Microsoft, who likened the iPhone 4 to Vista.
"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that," Microsoft's COO Kevin Turner said during his keynote speech at the Worldiwde Partner Conference.
Consumer Reports may have jumped the gun just a tiny bit when they talked up the iPhone 4 in their initial rundown. Now after finishing their usual round of testing, Consumer Reports has decided to officially not recommend the iPhone 4. The reason? That magical external antenna hates being touched.
Consumer Reports used a radio frequency isolation chamber to test the new iPhone, like they do all phones. They can accurately measure the real signal impact when the gap between the two antennas it touched. They report that the iPhone 4 is dropping in excess of 20 dBm, which they say is enough to drop a call.
Indeed, many consumers could have told you that after they purchased one, but now we're hearing it from the holiest of holy in consumer product testing. Consumer reports also notes that covering the antenna with non-conductive material (like tape or a case) will alleviate the signal loss issues. We're going to go out on a limb here, and just start referring to this whole fiasco as antennagate. Anyone have an iPhone? What are your experiences with the antenna?
You know those reception issues iPhone 4 users have been complaining about? Of course you do, it's been the subject of plenty of media attention, including here. But what you didn't know is that it has nothing to do with the antenna at all, but how the iPhone 4 calculates its bars, Apple says.
"To start with, gripping almost any mobile phone in certain ways will reduce its reception by 1 or more bars," Apple wrote in an open letter. "This is true of iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, as well as many Droid, Nokia and RIM phones. But some users have reported that iPhone 4 can drop 4 or 5 bars when tightly held in a way which covers the black strip in the lower left corner of the metal band. This is a far bigger drop than normal, and as a result some have accused the iPhone 4 of having a faulty antenna design.
"We have discovered the cause of this dramatic drop in bars, and it is both simple and surprising."
Hit the jump to find out what Apple says the culprit is, and how it can be fixed.
Steve Jobs might not want to acknowledge any design defects in the iPhone 4, who as far as we know still maintains that the reception issues some users are reporting amounts to a "non issue," but several new job listings may tell a different story. Spreading like wildfire across the Internet, the Cupertino company is looking to hire three "Antenna Engineers," two "iPhone OTA Wireless Systems Engineers", and three "RF Systems Validation Engineers" for the iPhone.
Candidates hoping to score a position as an antenna engineer will have to " Define and implement antenna system architecture to optimize the radiation performance for wireless portable devices. The candidate should be able to design antennas suitable for wireless handheld devices with excellent radiation performance, including TRP, TIS, SAR, and EMC. Work closely with other RF and antenna design engineers, mechanical and industrial designers, and EMC engineers to integrate the antenna design in our products. The candidate will be expected to performance radiation performance measurements, create test plans, execute them, publish test reports, provide feedback to the other design engineers, and lead some of the manufacturing of antenna."
All three Antenna Engineer listings were posted on the same day that widespread reports began to surface of the left-handed reception issues. That could be a coincidence, or maybe it isn't such a "non issue" after all.
The internet has greatly accelerated the pace at which news is broken and consumed. The competition is so fierce that a media outlet, howsoever big, is only as good as the last big news it broke. While there was probably never a better time for consuming news, the competition does have its downsides. For instance, media outlets can leave themselves open to sophomoric bloopers in their unrelenting quest for the next big story.
It is something that the DailyMail, Britain's second biggest newspaper, is now well aware of. Yesterday, its website featured a news story titled “Apple Boss Steve Jobs Reveals iPhone 4 May be Recalled.” The article claimed that the iPhone 4 may be recalled owing to many technical issues associated with it. However, the DailyMail had to recall the article instead, after it became clear that it was inspired by a parody Twitter account (ceoSteveJobs).
“We may have to recall the new iPhone. This, I did not expect,” the fake Steve Jobs tweeted on Saturday. To make it an even bigger embarassement for the DailyMail, the impersonator's bio clearly states that it is “a parody account.”