This is Their Response?

Apple's response to their antenna / reception issues appears to be:  the other guys started it.  via Engadget

Update: I thought this was funny

Despite the issues, Mr. Jobs called the antenna design the "most advanced" ever on a smartphone. He said the rate of dropped calls for the iPhone 4 was only slightly more than on the previous version, the iPhone 3GS.

So the "most advanced" version performs worse than the old version.  How are we using the term "advanced" here?  No horse in this race personally, as I have a Motorola Droid.

  • Greg

    Most advanced could also mean "smallest". One of the things I've heard from apple was that this antenna design allowed for more room in the phone, therefore allowing the phone to be overall smaller than it otherwise would have been with a 'standard' antenna. If they determined (through market research of course, and not the whims of some bigshot at the company) that having a smaller phone was a more important feature than better reception, then you could call it the most advanced antenna design.
    I'm not defending this, but I work with marketing guys all day long, and this would seem a totally logical call to them. And if what apple says is true (they've had complaints on fewer than 5% of sales, and only ~2% returned product; after the sales numbers they're putting up for this thing?!), then it could be hard to call them wrong. From a marketing perspective that is.
    Personally, I'd still be royally pissed if I were one of those 5%.

  • LoneSnark

    As an electrical engineer that flunked out of electromagnetics, this antenna design is not new. It isn't even clever. But, if you can keep it away from the insufferable user, this antenna will actually work better in all instances. But, if the darn user is unavoidable, then it will perform worse in all instances. It is a trade off, choose your poison. But it is quite telling that all cell phone manufacturers have known about it and opted not to use it...what does apple know about its customers that is different from all other customers? A willingness to memorize how not to hold the phone?

  • Best article I've see so far on the Antenna issue:

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3794/the-iphone-4-review/2

    Bottom line - yes, having the antennas exposed is dumb. Bridging the two with your hand causes signal degredation. But on the other hand (heh), the radio on the iPhone 4 is significantly more sensitive than previous designs and functions well at a much lower signal strength. The author also gives some good suggestions (IMHO) on how signal strength should be reported.

  • Allen

    What strikes me as interesting isn't so much that this design issue occurred but how defensive Apple has been about it. Surely Apple realizes that if they want people to pay a premium for their product, if they want to be seen as a leader, issues like this, they're going to be under the microscope.

    Maybe the corporate culture at Apple is one that isn't capable of truely facing up to their own mistakes?

  • Rick Caird

    When I heard Jobs' explanation, my first thought is that he is practicing to be a politician: as in 3.5 million jobs saved or created, even though total employment is way down.

  • D-man

    @Rick Caird: except in this case, "the politician" has delivered the goods. It's hard to argue with over $40B in the bank (think: "surplus") and an ever-increasing payroll (think "real high-paying jobs"). Compare that to the Chicago Jesus's track record.

  • D-man

    But Warren, you're letting a journalism major uncharacteristically do your math for you. Did you even listen to Jobs' presentation? (Given your anti-Apple bias, I doubt it.) Talk to any phone company, and it will tell you that it will not release its dropped call data, as it is highly sensitive, competitive information. What Jobs did reveal was a comparative number, that compared to the 3gs phone, the iPhone4 drop rate per 100 was <1 call per 100 higher.

    In my engineering book, that's called "buried in the noise." It's like the stupid press release a couple of days ago describing how this is the hottest summer since 2005, but conveniently omitting that the calculated number was 0.03 degrees F "hotter."

    But it was you, Warren, who twisted this into "worse," something you would have rightly called out had it been a global warming issue.

    News accounts — and blogger accounts — describing the iPhone4's drop rate as "worse" is more of the same: hysteria surrounding the iPhone that no other smartphone manufacturer has to endure.

    And what about the Droid reception crisis, Warren? ( http://tinyurl.com/28r6vae ). Looks to me like your beloved horse joined the race, like it or not.

    And yes, I'm just DYING to hear you respond that "it hasn't been a problem for me." Go ahead. Make my day.

  • Mark

    @D-man I understand that new products tend to have issues. I think the reason this got blown out of proportion is due to apples arrogance. There is an issue, and it has been confirmed in a repeatable fashion by Consumer Reports. I am not sure whether Jobs drop call numbers are accurate, but there definitely have been a few issues with the new phone.

    Apple, instead of acknowleging this, saying it is a new phone, and we are working on the issues. So Sorry, did this instead

    1st they denied it.
    2nd they blamed something else - some irrelevant problem (The bars were being calculated incorrectly.
    3rd, They got angry
    4th Steve Jobs, instead of saying, hey here are some free case, for a workaround until we get it fixed, instead goes on a rant,how it is everyone else's fault, blames the media, competition, et al give call drop data, which I am not sure of its veracity, and than says we will give out phones. It was a very angry presentation.

    I don't have a smart phone yet. But if I do buy one, do I want to buy it from someone who will yell at me if I/they have a problem with the phone?

    Where is the customer relations team telling Steve, hey calm down, this isn't the end of Apple, your hostility and arrogance is what is really making it seem so bad and causing the media reports.

  • Mark

    Sorry posted too quick - should have proof read. Here is a slightly better version.

    @D-man I understand that new products tend to have issues. I think the reason this got blown out of proportion is due to Apple's arrogance. There is an issue, and it has been confirmed in a repeatable fashion by Consumer Reports. I am not sure whether Jobs drop call numbers are accurate, but there definitely have been a few issues with the new phone.

    Apple, instead of acknowledging this, saying it is a new phone, and we are working on the issues,so Sorry, did this:

    1st they denied it.
    2nd they blamed something else – some irrelevant problem (The bars were being calculated incorrectly.)
    3rd, They got angry
    4th Steve Jobs, instead of saying, hey here are some free case, for a workaround until we get it fixed, instead goes on a rant,how it is everyone else’s fault, blames the media, competition, et al give call drop data, which I am not sure of its veracity, and than says we will give out free phone cases. It was a very angry presentation.

    I don’t have a smart phone yet. But if I do buy one, do I want to buy it from someone who will yell at me if I/they have a problem with the phone?

    Where is the customer relations team telling Steve - hey calm down, this isn’t the end of Apple, your hostility and arrogance is what is really making it seem so bad and causing the media reports.

  • Rob

    Apple did pretty much what I expected them to do.

    They told the truth.

    The problem is that by and large, people don't understand radio.

    Cell phones ARE, first and foremost, radios. Radios require antennas. Simple common sense indicates that a larger and more exposed antenna should perform better.

    What I have not seen and I am pretty sure we will not see is actual -dbm sensitivity ratings for all these radios er.. cell phones.

    My guess (and guess it is as is most of the discussion on this subject) is that the iPhone 4 was as good or better in absolute terms than the competition with this superior antenna, BUT that allowed operation at greater extremes and folks dropped calls where they would not have had one at all before.

    The signal strength deal is important. The number of bars is entirely arbitrary. They ought to indicate your chance of a succesful call. They ought to be a linear progression of the db scale (which is non-linear, but representive of performance). Instead it is clear that the display relates to nothing real world and is instead a marketing ploy. This is not likely to change until somebody puts out a signal strength display that is tied to some measurable reality.

    In amateur radio (ham radio) the talk is about whether you have a "stingy" or "generous" signal meter, and yet these can be calibrated. There is a standard. Until such exists for cell phones, the discussion of how many bars is relatively pointless.

    The questions are these: Can you make and receive calls? Does the instrument do what you need it to do for you?

    This is what Steve Jobs was addressing with the statistics about returns and calls to AppleCare.

    Really, I had no surprises in the tack that Apple took or the solution it presented.

    My surprise continues to be how ignorant the population is about radio and radio performance. The general populace cannot seen to understand why their AM radio won't get reception while caving, that their cell phone won't work on the cruise ship to Hawaii and there is no live TeeVee on the submarine.

    If they cannot understand radio they should keep quiet about radio.

    If you don't like the station, turn the knob.
    If you don't like the phone, don't buy it or return it.

    Rob
    N6FLQ

  • D-man

    Bravo, Rob. You said it far better than I ever could. I cannot argue with anything you said, mainly because I'm not an RF guy! You clearly are. Your insights on radio, and antennas in particular, are very illuminating about this issue. They also mirror what I have been told by very knowledgeable RF people that I work with.

    @Mark: Okay, then I'll be hostile, just like Jobs. I can't keep this short, no matter how hard I try.

    Warren's Motorola Droid has a reception issue (my link). Has Consumer Reports tested it? Where is this analysis? Here we have a couple of people complaining that they can't receive a phone call in certain locations using the Droid, yet CR is silent about it. What numerical threshold must we pass through before the press jumps on it?

    Jobs showed video of other popular phones doing the same damned thing. Where is your outrage at THEIR drop in signal strength when you place your hands "just right"? As Rob points out, "everybody has this weakness." Just as Steve Jobs said during Friday's press conference. He is absolutely correct, too. The human hand "de-tunes" any high frequency antenna.

    There are a TON of standardized tests that must be tested and passed before you can get agency certification. Clearly, Apple passed those tests, as did all others. Is the CR test in question part of the agency tests? CR has gone out on a limb here and created its own test that has NEVER been applied to any other smart phone but the iPhone4. I would hope they perform the same probing test on all other phones in the future.

    I hear people like you saying "Apple should just fix it." Here's the honest truth: there IS no fix for it. Other than next year's model. There is only a PATCH for it, like a case, but there is no frickin' way that Apple can "fix" it via a software patch OR a retro-fit. NONE! Jobs said he'd give you one of these cases for free, too. What else you want? Free healthcare from Apple? Lifetime car washes? Mr. Jobs has every reason to be pissed. He's produced a great product, yet a few people want him to fix what ain't broke.

    If you think Apple yells, or denies, or whatever, then fine. The solution is obvious: don't buy their damned phone! What's so hard about that? Jobs went a step further: if you don't like what you just bought, for ANY reason, return it for a full refund, no questions asked. Do Motorola, RIM, or any of the other smart phone vendors have a similar policy?

    I don't understand your expectations, Mark. Step out of Apple's long queues and go buy a Windows Mobile phone. Kevin Turner, just the other day, guaranteed you won't have this antenna problems on any WM phone. There's your future smart phone! All problems fixed via MSFT's software! LOL!

    So far, there are 3 million very happy, very contented iPhone4 customers, with millions of others in the queue. (I know a some of them — they say their reception is far better than ever before. Not one has said otherwise.) 0.5% of that number means that 15,000 people are dissatisfied (Jobs said that this is the Applecare number). But is it "everybody"? Get real. Please tell me ONE SINGLE PRODUCT that ever pleased 100.0% of all its customers. Come on, just ONE! I'm all ears.

    There are 180+ million gallons of raw oil floating around the Gulf of Mexico. Your medical care is being overtaken by a communist regime. Hell, your entire LIFE is! They want to tax our energy system into oblivion. Our borders are being overrun by foreign nationals. There is record unemployment throughout the land. Taxes are rising through the roof.

    And you're upset about a bloody smart phone?

  • Max

    Did I understand this correctly? Mr. Jobs thinks the IDEA to place the antenna at the side of the iphone 4 was a good idea? I mean, how does he think people hold a phone while making a call? One finger on the screen and the other at the back?

  • Mark

    I am sorry D-man and Rob. It is demonstrably possible to short circuit the iphone 4 antenna using a relatively normal grip. This is a design flaw. Yes you can argue that in the shelves of the supermarket any phone may have dropped because of low signal, but this is not the problem. The iphone drops when people who like to hold the phone a certain way touch the antenna. It is not surprising to me that touching an antenna can change the characteristics of the antenna signal to damper or ground the signal while one is talking. Antenna design is an art, and there are very specific balances which need to be achieved to get optimum signal so if you touch a significant portion of it, your signal can degrade.

    So basically, let me reiterate, we are talking about a problem with provably relatively high signal, with a provable technique for cutting off the signal with a hand hold that is relatively common.

    The other phones Jobs demoed, will also have less signal if the antenna is blocked but they are internal antennas, located in spots where you are unlikely to put you hand, like the very top of the phone so it is unlikely the reception will be blocked, and impossible to change the dynamics of the antenna, by touching it. So it was really a phony comparison. Even the link you provided D-man was of some other, relatively minor problem.

    The real issue is this. Apple is displaying terrible arrogance in the handling of this issue. Blaming customers, and the press, and basically yelling at us. Did either of you actually watch Jobs performance? It was terrible, and would not persuade me to buy another product ever from Apple. If the Apple fan boys like to get beaten up by their master, fine with me, but for the other 75% of the population, it is very poor display.

  • Spruance

    "Advanced" could mean: "Yesterday we stood at the abyss. Now we are a step further!"

  • perlhaqr

    "It's not stupid! It's advanced!"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx9dzdI9xGM

  • Rob

    Short is a the wrong word for it, detune would be more like it. Most people have reasonable resistance in their skin - except for my buddy Steve who could get shocked from feet away it seems, but that is another story.

    My point was that if you put an antenna in a cell phone, it will be a compromise. The question is where is the value. Smaller and buried inside the instrument antennas cannot be "shorted" (detuned!!), but they cannot work as well either. The question I was posing is simple.

    Lousy antenna inside or better (still not good, but then most people don't see antenna structures as sky sculpture - I don't understand that, I mean really they are quite lovely... ahem... where was I? Oh yeah, better) outside the instrument.

    Yes it is possible to impact the performance by touching it. but as Apple showed it is possible to screw up the signal on many (if not all) handsets.

    I own a number of handheld radios. They are convenient and portable AND, they don't work nearly as well as a mobile, which in turn doesn't work nearly as well as a fixed station.

    Yes, the handhelds limit out at about 7 watts (how much battery weight do you want to carry), the mobiles max out at abou 50 watts and fixed stations can reach to 1500 watts. So this is the reason they work as they do, power right? Wrong. The reason the radios work better is the antenna systems associated with them. My handheld has a roughly 7 inch long external antenna. The same dualband capabilitly on my vehicle is about 36 inches. The fixed single band (no compromise) antenna is about 7 feet long.

    The fixed station uses a maximum of ten watts and out does the car at full power.

    The antenna REALLY matters. There is a reason that those "rubber duck" antennas on handhelds are called flexible dummy loads - they stink as antennas. BUT, they fit in the application. A handheld radio with a three foot or (heavens no) a seven foot antenna would be completely impractical. The antenna would keep knocking into my hat with the radio on my hip.

    Cell phones, thankfully, are higher frequency which means shorter antennas.

    Human beings are mostly water. Remember what I said about TeeVee on Submarines? RF and water are not the best of friends. There are some (very low) frequencies which work, but the celluar frequencies are not in that range (the antennas are miles long....).

    Yes, the iPhone 4 antenna can be detuned, but here is a news flash, so can all the others - just not as much. The case will reduce, but not eliminate the detuning. As soon as you put a human near any radio, the performance of that radio is affected. Ever mess with "rabbit ears" on a TeeVee? Sometimes they work better when you are holding on to one or both ears - perhaps standing on one foot.

    Perhaps this will show the connection:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cd4jvtAr8JM
    The theremin operates by "detuning" an oscillator.
    This shows the human element interaction.

    Now, a cell phone is not a theremin and I am not arguing that. I am pointing out the interaction.

    The iPhone 4 (and I don't have an iPhone at all - hams are notorious cheapskates) will work as well as or as poorly as the entire system of which it is a part.

    Short? No. Detune? Yes. And detuning happens when I open the door of my car to the three antennas on the car. The three antennas screw with each other. Which brings to mind eyeglasses and the possible interaction with cell phone antennas... but no.

    As I said above radios are spooky for the majority of the population. Relax and use your phones. If you want to maximize their performance, realize that you are a major component thereof.

    So, don't detune the darned thing! B-)

    Or don't much bother with the little things, they largely annoy me. And they don't have attractive antennas anyway...

    Pls pardon typos and spelling..

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