I must apologize in advance. I really do not mean to become an Apple basher. I own and love numerous Apple products. I’ve always felt like Apple was composed of artists who happen to make gadgets, and their attention to detail and user experience is second to none in the tech industry. But this latest fiasco with the iPhone4 is just too much to stomach.
I’m sure most of you are aware of the issues that seemed to have plagued the iPhone4 and the “antennae of death”, but for those of you just waking up from a coma, here’s the short version:
Apple releases super nifty new iPhone in June. iPhone4 has cool new features like front facing webcam, camera flash, HD video capture and editing, and a revolutionary new feature where they used the sides of the phone’s body as the antennae. In theory, this would make the phone more receptive to AT&T’s crappy network and hopefully drop fewer calls. Users rejoice. Users stand in line to buy new iPhone. Users take iPhone home and realize that if your skin touches the lower left corner of the outside antennae, it kills your reception and your connectivity bars drop like BP’s stock. Users revolt.
And that’s when the tap-dancing begins.
So, Apple’s first response is from Steve Jobs who replies to a user’s email about the issue. His response?
Just avoid holding that way.
Awesome. Reminds me of that joke where the guy goes to the doctor and says “Doc, my arm hurts when I do this…”
Next Up: From Apple PR…
Gripping any mobile phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.
OK- slightly less condescending, but “avoid gripping the lower left corner”? Seriously? How else do you grip a phone with your left hand?
and then, Apple says this:
Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.
Ah! So, there’s really nothing wrong with the iPhone, except for the fact that it makes you think you have better reception than you actually do. Brilliant! Now the attention gets put back on AT&T, because their network stinks and the iPhone just has been tricking you into thinking it’s better than it really is. So, just get used to seeing less bars in more places, then you won’t be as disappointed when your bars drop off totally.
Then, Consumer Reports reviews the phone. It finds the same issues with connection problems and black-balls with iPhone4 with the dreaded “not recommended” label. Apple pays no mind when tech pundits and reviewers yell “foul”, but when Consumer Reports pulls you over their knee and spanks you in public… well, that’s not awesome.
Finally, the last straw. The Federal government got involved. New York Senator Charles Schumer sends an open letter to Steve Jobs telling him to come clean with what’s going on, fix it, and give everyone a free case which seems to fix the issue.
Then the real dancing began. Apple held a full on press conference on Friday to fill everyone in on what they found. Basically, Steve still said there’s nothing defective about their phone- ALL phones can be utterly killed by holding them wrong. In fact, they threw several other phone vendors under the bus by showing videos of bars dropping when being gripped “wrong”. However, they said they were going to give out free bumpers to everyone who wanted one, just because they are nice guys. Oh, and if you bought a bumper already, they’ll give you your money back…. as long as you bought their case and not some other case.
Here’s my issue with this:
1. Yes, if you smother the primary antennae output area of a phone with your hand, you can get it to drop reception. In fact, I can drop a few bars if I do that on my EVO. But with the iPhone, you can get the phone to disconnect if you just touch the forbidden area with the tip of your finger. Placing a small rubber bumper between the forbidden area and your skin fixes this problem. This phenomenon is unique to the iPhone, so trying to point fingers at other phones that demonstrate some attenuation issues that are not even nearly as bad as the one the iPhone4 has seems a bit childish.
2. OK, so let’s just assume that Apple’s reasoning about the “forbidden spot of death” is accurate and it affects every phone on the market (which it doesn’t) then why on earth would you put that killer spot in an area that is almost certain to come into contact with skin?
3. Their offer of a free bumper only extends until September 30th. What happens after that? Will Apple actually have a hardware fix in place by then, or will every new iPhone4 user just need to factor in the price of a $30 bumper at the time of purchase?
Dance-on twinkle toes.