Considering the media firestorm we saw last year during the Antennagate fiasco, it was only a matter of time before someone got around to testing the new Verizon iPhone for a similar death grip flaw. According to SlashGear, which got some extended hands on time with the device, there is no antenna problem to speak of. While holding the phone in the GSM death grip fashion, they were unable to kill the signal, or even significantly degrade it. Other antenna points were covered with a similar lack of effect. The verdict? The antenna is fixed.
Almost immediately after the original iPhone 4 was launched, consumers started to realize that touching the gap on the side of the phone where the external antenna pieces came together caused signal to dramatically drop off. The flaw was confirmed by various publications, including Consume Reports, which still refuses to recommend the device. Matters were complicated by some users in strong service areas failing to reproduce a noticeable drop in bars, and Apple's insistence that the problem was with bar display, not the antenna.
Now that SlashGear has been unable to find a death grip on the Verizon iPhone, others will likely seek to confirm. If the new CDMA antenna is found by all to be dramatically better, it might be the closest thing we’ll ever get to Apple admitting fault. Is this going to encourage more AT&T users to jump ship to Big Red?
Apple can try to spin the media anyway it wants, but the reality is the iPhone 4 “Antennagate” is one of the biggest PR fumbles in the company’s history. It was inevitable that heads would roll over the issue, and it appears as though Mark Papermaster will be the first Apple employee voted off the island. My money was on the guy who left the prototype iPhone 4 in a bar, but hey, you win a few you lose a few right?
Papermaster was poached from IBM back in late 2008 to help oversee iPhone design and engineering, but his legal battle with IBM over a non-compete clause only settled in mid April 2009. In hindsight I’m guessing Apple would say he probably wasn’t worth all the effort, but he must have had a mighty impressive resume to justify all the legal trouble. We have no idea what role Papermaster actually played in the decision to put the antenna in the band, but clearly he is going to take the fall for it none the less. We are willing to guess Steve Job’s career was never in any jeopardy over this one.
Bob Mansfield, senior vice president of Mac hardware engineering is slated to take up the iPhone flag and it will be interesting to see where the antenna ends up under his leadership. Here’s a hint for you Bobby, pick somewhere your hand doesn’t go when you grip the phone normally.
The hits just keep on coming for Apple as of late. After finally addressing the iPhone 4 antenna issue last week, they have now announced that the white version of the phone is going to be delayed until later in 2010. Previously it was supposed to show up in the second half of July. Apple cites unexpected manufacturing issues.
There are a number of theories on just what is causing the delay. Perhaps the most conspiratorial of them is that Apple may be refining the antenna design on this model. More likely is that the glass back is not clear enough and makes the white iPhone look almost off-white. Call us crazy, but with all the things that can go wrong with a smartphone, we wouldn't have expected the color to be a big issue.
With this setback, and the recent antennagate fiasco, the iPhone's sterling image is looking a little tarnished. What do you think is holding up the phone?
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.
Microsoft's COO Kevin Turner may have let himself get a little carried away while poking fun at Apple at the Worldwide Partner Conference. In his keynote speech, the Microsoft Exec said, "It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." We're just guessing, but that's probably not a Microsoft approved analogy.
The antenna issues in the iPhone 4 have been well known since launch. In this case a Microsoft Executive just decided to imply the iPhone 4 will damage Apple like Vista damaged Microsoft. Nothing wrong with trashing a product that was your employer's flagship only a year ago, right? Turner used this interesting line of reasoning to talk up the upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform.
Windows Vista was much maligned by consumers and reviewers alike at launch thanks to hardware incompatibilities and software bugs. If we extend Turner's analogy, does that mean Apple will learn from the iPhone 4 and hurry out a release that fixes all the problems a la Windows 7?
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?