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Apple Antennagate - All Smartphones drop bars...


Article by: Mike Barrett
Date: 22 Jul 2010

pocketgpsworld.comLast Friday saw a complete turnaround in the Media Farce surrounding the launch of the Apple iPhone 4. With a simple Press Conference Steve Jobs managed to turn a media witch hunt back into an Apple loving pack of lap-dogs. So how did they do this? By offering a complete recall of the "badly designed" new iPhone? By promising a Hardware Fix?

No! It was a simple press conference where Steve Jobs laid out the facts as Apple saw them, the admission "You know, we're not perfect. We know that, you know that. And phones aren't perfect either.", followed by an offer of a free bumper (protective case) for all iPhone 4 purchasers from launch up until the end of September. But what probably quietened them more than anything was the fact that Apple opened it's doors to their testing labs, a hitherto unheard of act. Previously the media have only been allowed into certain meeting rooms on the periphery of Apple's campus at Cupertino, on Friday they were allowed into the heart of the company that prizes itself on secrecy.


What was seen there was a multi-million dollar test lab dedicated to testing antennas. Click here for more details. The sight of the lab was something out of a science fiction movie, and seemed to quieten all the critics that said Apple had not done any serious testing on the new iPhone.

As soon as the issue was posted to the web on the iPhone launch day Apple had been investigating and doing comparative tests. The results of these tests were published as videos at the press conference and on the Apple web site. So what does this prove? Not a lot really! Anyone who has been in the business for some time knows that antennas are sensitive technology and that cramming lots of different radio signals into a small package introduces problems with antenna sensitivity. It does not take a genius to realise that if you cover an antenna the signal will drop off.

The Apple response to the iPhone 4 problems seems to resolve around a software issue where they "Did not calculate the number of bars correctly". This algorithm has been used in all the iPhones since day 1, it has now been fixed in a software release. The big question still left unanswered is: How is it with a $100,000,000 test lab this has not been found by the test engineers before now???

So how did this all happen?

Apple, it would appear, made a rod for their own back. Being such a successful company since the launch of the iPod it has created a whole generation of what are known as Apple Fanboys. It's very success has also generated a polarised camp of Apple Haters. Both of these groups are very tech savvy. With all the secrecy at Apple HQ it has created a big cat and mouse game with media trying to get sneak views of new Apple products before the official (and very controlled) announcements.

With the iPhone 4 Apple lost control of the media tease when one of the new prototype iPhones was lost (or stolen) in California. This ended up in the hands of Gizmodo who dissected the device prior to being forced to return it to Apple. In fact Steve made a big thing of this at the iPhone 4 announcement commenting about the gaps in the metal band and that nobody had associated the fact that this was the antennas. If I remember correctly Gizmodo were excluded from the press conference.

The full press conference can be viewed online at:



Apple press conference July 16 2010
.

One of the most interesting parts is the "Antenna Song" right at the start.

The media coverage surrounding the launch was so intense, and the launch itself was the biggest Apple launch to date that it was no surprise when any small fault would cause an outcry. This indeed happened when someone discovered that if you are left handed and hold the phone in a particular way then the bars dropped on the display. A video was created and posted on You-Tube, and surprise, surprise Apple's media antagonist in the run up to the announcement, Gizmodo, were pretty much the first media company to break the news.

From there it was inevitable that there was going to be a huge reaction to the video, it was even reported on the national news… Interestingly nobody really did any serious testing just jumped onto the bandwagon. I can't count the number of people that called me on my new iPhone 4 to tell me it didn't work!!! Oops it was working fine… I must confess I didn't understand what the fuss was about until I checked out the process to drop the bars, and sure enough mine did too if held in the (in)correct manner. I must confess at this point to being left handed and having used the phone for about 2 hours talk time before someone told me about the problem.

The most interesting thing about this was that Apple haters who have never even tried an iPhone were rubbing their hand with glee. "Hahahahaha, the iphone 4 has a glitch where the signal goes down if you don't have a case." was one of the more printable comments we got.

In the run up to the surprise press conference last week there were all sorts of wild rumours flying around from a total recall to free cases for all. Again there was a lot of media hype and speculation surrounding this event too. The outcome was that Apple were effectively forced to be seen to be doing something for the users, so free bumpers and a software update. The most surprising thing about the whole debacle is the way that Apple managed to turn the whole thing around by being a little more open than usual and proving that they do take testing seriously, and they do pump lots of investment into R&D.

It really does seem to be a storm in a teacup as the saying goes. Apple claims that their customers are reporting better performance of the phone in terms or returns and about the same number of dropped calls as previous phones. Only 0.55% of people calling the AppleCare help desk were complaining about the antenna or reception. It does seem to be a case of viral information goning crazy. The main issue is trying to find a balance, but when a company becomes so successful it generates a media storm when the CEO gets a cold and has polarised users so much it is difficult to cut out the hype and emotion and get to the bare facts.

Has this hurt Apple or the sales of the iPhone 4? I dont think so. Quite the opposite in fact! Apple seem to have proved that there is a caring, and falable, side to the corporate monster, and they are selling the new iPhone 4 faster than they can make them still. The question still unanswered though is how did this get missed in 4 generations of iPhone despite a $100,000,000 test environment specifically designed to test these issues?

BTW FTA Apple: It has been a week since the antenna press conference and we still have not had details of how to claim our free bumpers.
Comments
Posted by Rowan29a on Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:23 am Reply with quote

What has been ignored largely by the media is that the iOS 4/4.01 upgrade for earlier versions of the iPhone OS broke the syncronisation link between MS Outlook Calendar and the iPhone Calendar. Bizarrely, the link for Notes and Contacts remains unaffected. If you look on the various forums this is a world-wide problem with thousands of complaints and not a peep from Apple.


Mike -
TomTom 750 Live
iPhone 5 16GB, Kavaj "Dallas" case

 
Posted by NickG on Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:25 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
It has been a week since the antenna press conference and
we still have not had details of how to claim our free bumpers.

Would you want to arrange shipping 4 million cases (of various types - they're not only offering bumpers) to 80+ countries in a week? Give em a break.. Smile

Personally, I'm having far more problems with the proximity sensor not working than I am with calls dropping.


Twitter: @nickg_uk

 
Posted by MikeB on Thu Jul 22, 2010 12:31 pm Reply with quote

NickG Wrote:
Quote:
It has been a week since the antenna press conference and
we still have not had details of how to claim our free bumpers.

Would you want to arrange shipping 4 million cases (of various types - they're not only offering bumpers) to 80+ countries in a week? Give em a break.. Smile

Personally, I'm having far more problems with the proximity sensor not working than I am with calls dropping.

I wasn't asking for my free case, just details of how and when they will be distributed. I was in an Apple store yesterday and overheard 3 customers asking about it. the Apple staff had not got a clue, not their fault they haven't been told yet either.

They must have an idea of the process and the timescales by now...


Mike Barrett
Editor, PocketGPSWorld.com

 
Posted by Covenant on Thu Jul 22, 2010 1:08 pm Reply with quote

I have to admit that I've had no problems with the proximity sensor or the signal strength (maybe I'm just plain lucky).

Pulled this off of the iPhone forums from o2 -

"Someone said on here that Apple will offer the same case's what they sell in an Apple store or in their online store!

£25 and under will be - FREE

Then

If you want one over £25 you will just pay the differance!

This to me would work has Apple already have "contracts" with these companys who are making these case's."

Obviously just rumour at the mo', but apparently people on the forums expect to see something about it from around 6pm on the Apple website.

We'll see.......


 
Posted by Duddy on Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:38 pm Reply with quote

You are lucky, a least Apple have admitted there is a fault. Us poor HTC Legend owners on Vodafone have the same problem (HTC have put the antenna at the base of the phone where left or right handed you hold it).
Have Vodaphone/ HTC admitted to a problem:-
HTC... We are not aware of any problems
Voda...Going round in circles, ducking the problem, saying their tech guys cannot reproduce the problem... The Voda forum for antenna issue http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/topic/58054-htc-legend-antenna-issue/page__pid__443158__st__330&#entry443158 is up to post 359.
It's a good SatNav, with CoPilot, 8 but rubbish as a phone.
Sorry for the rant.


Sony Xperia Z3 compact
CoPilot 10 with CamerAlert
TT One v2 (RIP 2016)
RoadHawk in-car video
Reading glasses getting thicker
Retired but want to go back to work for a rest.

 
Posted by yara on Fri Jul 23, 2010 1:38 am Reply with quote

For the first time ever, Apple consumers have said ENOUGH!!! and look at what the result was! Apple was finally forced to provide some good customer service for a change.
Edit to remove advert for download software - Mike Alder


 
Posted by GrantSymon on Fri Jul 23, 2010 4:32 am Reply with quote

I think the most interesting point about this, is that it has revealed an industry wide problem, with antennas. (As Jobs points out in his press conference).

Apple have posted a web-page about the whole thing. Most of this page is concerned with how other phones deal with the same problems. Well ... despite rather careless protestations from Nokia and RIM chiefs, the Apple posted videos show very clearly that other phones have very similar problems.

These other manufacturers were seemingly rubbing hands with glee when this whole thing started and couldn't contain themselves ... Nokia even posting to it's own blog, that their phones don't need to be held in any special way to work. But companies which are not used to the sort of media coverage that Apple enjoys, can really look stupid when they start to leap in. Within hours, there were tons of messages from Nokia users, showing the same issue with their phones ... and best of all ... pointing to Nokia's own User Manuals and documents which explain 'how to hold your phone for best reception'. Brilliant. Smile

I don't expect any of these companies will be suing Apple for posting these videos, despite their protestations, because it's clear that all products suffer from very similar problems.

For my part, whilst waiting for my (lost in the post ... French post) iPhone 4 to finally arrive, I have discovered to my delight, that holding my iPhone 3G in the same sort of way that Apple suggest holding the iPhone 4, I get much better reception. No dropped bars. Smile Smile Meanwhile it seems that thieves in the French post office are unconcerned about the antenna issues and quite rightly consider the iPhone 4 to be well worth nicking.


 
Posted by MikeB on Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:47 am Reply with quote

yara Wrote:
For the first time ever, Apple consumers have said ENOUGH!!! and look at what the result was! Apple was finally forced to provide some good customer service for a change.

I am not entirely sure that I follow your statement here. Have you ever compared the customer service that Apple offer compared to any other computer company?

When was the last time you had a problem with your Dell and you were able to walk into a Dell store that day and have someone who knew exactly what they were doing look at it and repair it on the spot?

Or did you not realise that is what they do in the Apple stores.


Mike Barrett
Editor, PocketGPSWorld.com

 
Posted by Lacy on Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:39 am Reply with quote

.....or perhaps contact Apple about a faulty motherboard on a 4 year old computer and, because you have been a loyal customer for 15 years and could supply the serial numbers of a host of Apple kit you own and have been a member of .mac (now mobile me) since day one, have it replaced free of charge?..........What other tech company values loyalty to that degree?

No problems with my iPhone 4....but then I bought it with a bumper on day 1.

There's a reason why people love Apple.......Those Apple haters just need to go buy some Apple stuff and enjoy the experience for themselves....


 
Posted by MaFt on Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:19 am Reply with quote

Duddy Wrote:
You are lucky, a least Apple have admitted there is a fault. Us poor HTC Legend owners on Vodafone have the same problem (HTC have put the antenna at the base of the phone where left or right handed you hold it).
Have Vodaphone/ HTC admitted to a problem:-
HTC... We are not aware of any problems
Voda...Going round in circles, ducking the problem, saying their tech guys cannot reproduce the problem... The Voda forum for antenna issue http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/topic/58054-htc-legend-antenna-issue/page__pid__443158__st__330&#entry443158 is up to post 359.
It's a good SatNav, with CoPilot, 8 but rubbish as a phone.
Sorry for the rant.


ah, but that's not a fault at apple so all the 'haters' quietly ignore that one...

i didn't realise there was an issue with the legend. maybe if you make a youtube video showing the bars dropping then it will make it onto the new... or perhaps it won't...!

couldn't you just request a replacement handset from vodafone, leave it a couple of weeks, request replacement again etc a few times and, eventually, they will just offer you a different handset?

MaFt


MaFt®

 
Posted by cyberhusky on Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:47 am Reply with quote

I don't understand all this antenna hysteria…

Up until now all mobile phones I used did loose signals bars!
Phones made by Siemens, my fist one to Nokia, Motorola, Ericsson, Sony-Ericsson to iPhone 1st, Second and from next week on 4th generation!

Here in Luxembourg there are more mobile phones than fixed stations. Statistically every inhabitant does have 3-4 mobile phones!
Each of the 3 carriers do cover over 98% of the country despite very different landscape shapes with lot of hills and narrow valleys.


It is normal that one looses signals, especially as the human skin functions as a very good resistor.

Every mobile phone has it's week points.
Today the mobile devices must have the inside built antennas fixed either below or on top of the phone, but the farthermost point from the brain!

If people would read the instructions booklet of their mobile phones, they all state somewhere that depending on how one touches the phone signal may attenuate

Even my Wifi signal changes depending on how I hold my iPhone.

Even when in bed (my Wifi station is directly below the sleeping room) the WiFi signal changes from full to 1 bar, only when rotating the iPhone in ma hand.

I suppose the metallic springs in my mattress act as a Faraday cage attenuating the WiFi signal.

If this antenna "problem" (which is NO problem at all) would have happened to another manufacturer, nobody would have cried.
(BTW it happens all the time with any mobile phone)
But as it is Apple, the second biggest tech company out there with a lot of cash and as people are used to have Apple products that just work out of the box, without installing/buying extra stuff, people are disappointed.

Just see the US Consumer Report: the say the iPhone 4 is the best Smartphone yet, but also say don't buy one! So what? If I know I should not touch the iPhone 4 on the marked Spot I won't do it! Point!
I don't touch my SE P1i where the antenna is, because it will loose signal too.

I for sure will buy the iPhone 4.


 
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